EPA Proposing Stricter Air Standards for Refineries

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to update toxic air-pollution standards for petroleum refineries “to protect neighborhoods located near refineries.” The agency’s “common-sense” proposal would further reduce flaring and other processes and includes new monitoring requirements. EPA comments that exposure to toxic air pollutants such as benzene can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues.

The proposal would, for the first time, require monitoring of air concentrations of benzene around the fence-line perimeter of refineries to assure that emissions are controlled and make the results public. The proposal would also require 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.

When implemented, EPA estimates toxic air emissions, including benzene, toluene, and xylene, would be reduced by 5600 tons a year. Volatile organic compound emissions would be cut by about 52,000 tons a year. EPA maintains that its proposed “cost-effective” steps “will have no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products at the approximately 150 petroleum refineries around the country.”

“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.”