Saturday, May 17, 2014

EPA Moves to Crack Down on Toxic Emissions from Oil Refineries

Total Petrochemicals’ refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. (Credit: AP Photo / David J. Phillip) Click to enlarge.
The Environmental Protection Agency released new draft rules to crack down on air pollution from oil refineries Thursday, after a lawsuit charged the agency with using grossly outdated methods for measuring emissions.

The country’s 150 oil refineries often sit at the tail end of the oil shipping chain, and are where crude oil is processed into gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum-based products.  That act of refinement produces its own air pollution, including toxic gases like benzene, toluene, and xylene, as well as volatile organic compounds — all of which have been linked to respiratory illness, cancer, and other health effects. Neighborhoods near the refineries bear the brunt of those emissions, and those neighborhoods tend to be poor and nonwhite.

A lawsuit filed by various environmental groups such as Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project — on behalf of families who live near refineries in Texas, California and Louisiana — argued that EPA’s methods for estimating emissions from refineries are inadequate and decades-old.

The 870-page draft of new rules is part of the agency’s agreement to resolve the suit. EPA estimates the changes should cut toxic gas emissions from refineries by another 5,600 tons a year, and volatile organic compounds by 52,000 tons a year.

EPA Moves to Crack Down on Toxic Emissions from Oil Refineries

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