GALENA PARK, Texas (AP) — Environmental advocates and residents living near oil refineries asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday to force petroleum companies to adopt stricter emissions standards and publicly release emissions data to help reduce communities' exposure to a cancer-causing chemical.
By midafternoon, about 60 people had addressed the federal agency during a hearing on the EPA's proposal to compel refineries — for the first time — to monitor and report emissions of benzene to nearby communities.
"I really didn't know the extent of the dangers of being exposed to all these fumes. Finding out what you're really breathing, it's scary. Still, better to know than be kept in the dark," said Maricela Serna, a Galena Park city commissioner.
The new rule also would compel refiners to purchase and place monitors to track emissions of the carcinogen into those communities, upgrade storage tank and emission controls on coker units, where crude oil is pumped at the beginning of the refining process, and reduce flaring.
Residents from Texas, California, Louisiana and Michigan attended the hearing in suburban Houston. It was the second and final public hearing resulting from a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of U.S. communities near oil refineries. The suit, filed against the EPA, argued that the federal agency was more than a decade late in reviewing and updating toxic air standards for refineries.
Theresa Landrum traveled to Texas from Detroit to testify about the "toxic soup" she said she and her neighbors are exposed to from living alongside a refinery. A cancer survivor, Landrum said she lost her mother, father and brother to cancer she believes was caused by refinery emissions.
"The fenceline monitoring will help us determine what is coming out of those stacks," she said.
Adan Vazquez said that in winter, "snow flurries look like ash" because of a refinery near the Houston Ship Channel less than a mile from his Pasadena, Texas, home.
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