Quantcast

EPA Proposes New Rules to Curb Air Pollution From Oil Industry

Energy

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal aiming to curb air pollution and toxic chemical emissions discharged by oil refineries, according to an agency press release. If the regulations are adopted, the move would mark the first change to the oil industry's emission standards in almost two decades.

Kids play next to the Valero oil refinery in Manchester, TX. Photo credit: Earthjustice

The changes were brought about in part from a 2012 lawsuit filed by environmental attorneys with Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project accusing the EPA of evading its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act by neglecting to review and update toxic air emissions standards by more than a decade. 

“The common-sense steps we are proposing will protect the health of families who live near refineries and will provide them with important information about the quality of the air they breathe,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a statement. “This proposal will help us accomplish our goal of making a visible difference in the health and the environment of communities across the country.” 

Benzene and other toxic chemicals emitted by the oil industry can cause respiratory problems, such as asthma, and can increase the risk of developing cancer. The lawsuit pointed out that mainly low-income and minority people live within the vicinity of these refineries, and are therefore at disproportionate risk of air-quality-related illnesses.

“The companies that own these refineries must be required to use more efficient technology to control toxins and monitor what they emit instead of passing the costs on to us through the high health costs our communities are bearing because of their pollution,” said Juan Parras, of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

The EPA estimates that once the proposed updates are fully implemented, toxic air emissions—including benzene, toluene and xylene—would be reduced by 5,600 tons per year. Volatile organic compound emissions would be cut by approximately 52,000 tons per year and 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

According to Earthjustice, the proposed updates include much needed improvements such as:

  • Fenceline monitoring and a fenceline standard for the carcinogen benzene which would require refineries to measure toxic air pollution as it goes into the local community’s air.
  • Improved monitoring and combustion efficiency operating requirements for flaring which is too often used routinely and, because it involves the burning of waste gas, it creates pollution communities must breathe.
  • Tighter control requirements on emissions from various parts of refineries like delayed coker units and storage tanks.
  • Removal of the unlawful loophole in the existing standards, so that refineries can no longer get away with violations that occur during startup, shutdown and malfunction periods.

“EPA’s proposed requirement for fenceline monitoring is greatly needed and will help identify toxic emissions from leaks and other sources that are not directly monitored,” said Sparsh Khandeshi, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “This monitoring will help target further reductions and provide valuable information about exposure levels to downwind communities.”

The EPA will take public comments on the proposals for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The agency also plans to hold two public hearings, near Houston and Los Angeles, and will finalize the standards by April 2015.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

64 Groups From Across the U.S. Demand Federal Limits on Air Pollution From Fracking Wells

New Report Documents Chemical Disasters and Environmental Injustice in the U.S.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

--------

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

The Carolina parakeet went extinct in 1918. James St. John / CC BY 2.0

The Carolina parakeet, the only parrot species native to the U.S., went extinct in 1918 when the last bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo. Now, a little more than 100 years later, researchers have determined that humans were entirely to blame.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An elephant in Botswana. Mario Micklisch / CC BY 2.0

Two hunters who shot and killed a research elephant in Botswana and then destroyed its collar to hide the evidence have been banned from further hunting in the country.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brianna Elliott, RD

Vitamin C is a very important nutrient that's abundant in many fruits and vegetables.

Read More Show Less
BLM drill seeders work to restore native grasses after wildfire on the Bowden Hills Wilderness Study Area in southeast Oregon, Dec. 14, 2018. Marcus Johnson / BLM / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

In 2017 the Thomas fire raged through 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, California, leaving in its wake a blackened expanse of land, burned vegetation, and more than 1,000 destroyed buildings.

Read More Show Less