Briefs refineries

Published on February 20th, 2014 | by Zamná Ávila

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Fenceline Communities Win Relief in Oil Refinery Suit

Washington, D.C. —  A federal judge approved a consent decree, Feb. 7, requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to review and, if necessary, update the standards controlling hazardous air pollution from oil refineries.

The review should result in more protective standards, limiting the amount of hazardous air pollutants that refineries release into the air throughout the United States. EPA’s proposed action is due by May 15, 2014.  Final action is due by April 17, 2015.

About 150 oil refineries in 32 states self reported that they release at least 20,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants into communities each year, a toxic soup of poisonous chemicals like benzene, cyanide, and formaldehyde. These chemicals can cause cancer, breathing problems and smog.

Those emissions are vastly underreported by the industry, as shown by a new analysis of refinery emissions released on Feb. 6 by the Environmental Integrity Project and recent studies at Marathon, Shell, and British Petroleum facilities in Texas.  EPA’s rulemaking will finally have to address the emissions actually going into the air from flares, tanks, and other components at refineries and the health impacts those emissions create.

The consent decree resulted from a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of affected community groups in Texas, California and Louisiana. The groups charged that the EPA violated requirements in the Clean Air Act that the agency review its standards for the emissions of hazardous pollutants eight years after they were initially set. For part of the covered rules, it has been more than 16 years since the agency conducted such a review.

During its review, the EPA will be required to consider the best methods available for controlling emissions of hazardous air pollutants from the nation’s oil refineries and ensure that it sets standards that protect public health from the many dangers they pose.

The affected communities living in close proximity to refineries are disproportionately African-American, Latino and low-income with higher percentages of children.

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