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New EPA Rules Would Reduce Air Pollution from Oil Refineries

PHOTO: The EPA is proposing rules for oil refineries to monitor and minimize toxic air emissions. Photo courtesy Jesse Marquez, Coalition for a Safe Environment.
PHOTO: The EPA is proposing rules for oil refineries to monitor and minimize toxic air emissions. Photo courtesy Jesse Marquez, Coalition for a Safe Environment.
May 27, 2014

PHOENIX, Ariz. - People living in the Southwest and other parts of the country could breathe a little easier if new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards are put in place. They would require oil companies to clean up the toxic pollution their refineries release into the atmosphere. Some of the pollutants, particularly benzene, are believed to cause cancer.

Attorney Emma Cheuse, Earthjustice, says the EPA is taking a step in the right direction.

"The first step toward being able to protect our communities' health is to at least know what's going into the air from all different kinds of sources that can leak and put out pollution at oil refineries," Cheuse says.

The EPA is asking for public comment this summer, with final rules expected to be in place next spring. Arizona has no refineries at present, but one is planned in a remote location east of Yuma that would produce ultra-clean burning fuels. That project has been long delayed by numerous regulatory hurdles.

The proposed rules would require companies to monitor toxic air pollution on-site as it is emitted. As Cheuse points out, that is 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, common-sense step," she says.

The proposal calls for improved monitoring and combustion efficiency requirements when waste gas is burned. It says flaring is a key source of air pollution in the refining process.

The proposed standards are listed at www.epa.gov.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ