New EPA rules would reduce air pollution from oil refineries

The EPA is proposing rules for refineries to monitor and minimize toxic air emissions. It would affect the five refineries in Utah. Photo courtesy Jesse Marquez, Coalition for a Safe Environment.

SALT LAKE CITY – People living near any of Utah’s five oil refineries 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 with Earthjustice says the EPA is taking a step in the right direction.

“The first step to 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 pollution out at oil refineries,” Cheuse says.

The EPA is asking for public comment this summer, with final rules expected to be place next spring. The newly proposed standards come after Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of groups in California, Texas and Louisiana.

The proposed rules would require companies to monitor toxic air pollution on-site as it is emitted. Cheuse thinks it 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 proposals are posted at <a href=”http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/petref.html” target=”parent”>www.epa.gov</a>

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