EPA Proposes to Update Emissions Standards for Refineries

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal earlier this month to update toxic air pollution standards for petroleum refineries.  The purpose is to protect neighborhoods located near these refineries from dangerous air pollutants.

“This proposal will help us accomplish our goal of making a visible difference in the health and the environment of communities across the country,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “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”.

The proposal would reduce pollution from flaring and other processes that create toxic air pollutants, like benzene.  These pollutants can cause respiratory problems and other health issues, and can increase the risk of cancer development.  Included in the proposal is a first time requirement of monitoring air concentrations of benzene around the property lines of refineries.  This would be required to assure that emissions are controlled and to provide the public with information on emission levels.  Additionally, the proposal also requires “upgraded emission controls for storage tanks including controls for smaller tanks; performance requirements for flares to ensure that waste gases are properly destroyed; and emissions standards for delayed coking units which are currently a significant unregulated source of toxic air emissions at refineries”.

The EPA estimates that toxic air emissions such as benzene, toluene, and xylene, would be reduced by 5,600 tons per year.  Additionally, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) would be reduced by 52,000 tons per year.

The EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.  Two public hearings will be held in Houston and Los Angeles and the final standards are set to be published in April 2015.

For more detailed information on this proposal, click here.

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