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New EPA Rules Would Reduce Air Pollution from Oil Refineries

PHOTO: Oil flares like this one are a common sight at refineries. The EPA is proposing rules for refineries to monitor and minimize toxic air emissions. Photo courtesy Jesse Marquez, Coalition for a Safe Environment.
PHOTO: Oil flares like this one are a common sight at refineries. The EPA is proposing rules for refineries to monitor and minimize toxic air emissions. Photo courtesy Jesse Marquez, Coalition for a Safe Environment.
May 22, 2014

CHICAGO – People living close to oil refineries could breathe a little easier if new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards are put in place.

The new standards would require oil companies to clean up pollutants emitted by refineries.

Some of those pollutants – particularly benzene – are linked to cancer.

Attorney Emma Cheuse with the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, says the plan for so-called fence line monitoring around refinery sites would be a real win for communities.

"It's really common sense that we should know what's going into the air,” she points out. “You have kids flying kites, playing basketball, people sitting on their front porches, across the street, down the street from refineries."

There are four oil refineries in Illinois, located in Lemont, Joliet, Robinson and Wood River in Roxana.

Wood River is the largest, capable of producing 306,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

BP'S oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, just south of downtown Chicago, has had a number of environmental problems, including a small spill this year into Lake Michigan.

Brian Urbaszewski, director of Environmental Health with Respiratory Health Association of Chicago, says this national rule includes protections that were included in a legal settlement involving the Whiting facility just a few years ago.

"Things like the fence line monitoring for the community, more complete incineration of some of these toxic fumes, and so it's good to see that people all over the country are going to get the benefits of some of those strategies," he says.

The new proposal comes after Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of groups in California, Texas and Louisiana.

Cheuse maintains the new rules are especially important for protecting children's health.

"As Americans, none of us want our kids to have to face extra cancer risk just because we happen to live near an industrial plant, and EPA is taking a really important, commonsense step," she says.

The EPA is asking for public comment this summer, with final rules expected to be place next spring.



Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL