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EPA proposes changes to refinery emission rules

If adopted, the rule would mark the first change to the industry’s emission standards in nearly two decades.
By EMILY SCHMALL, Associated Press Published: May 16, 2014

— Texas environmental advocates are applauding a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce oil refinery pollution by forcing operators to adopt new technology that better monitors and controls emissions.

If adopted, the rule would mark the first change to the industry’s emission standards in nearly two decades.

The EPA’s 870-page proposal is part of a consent decree that resolved a lawsuit filed by nonprofit environmental attorneys with Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of people directly affected by emissions from refineries in Louisiana, Texas and California.

The changes would compel operators to monitor benzene emissions along their fence lines, upgrade storage tank emission controls, ensure waste gases are properly destroyed and adopt new emission standards for delayed coking units. Operators would also have to make the results of monitoring publicly available.

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers President Charles T. Drevna said in a statement Thursday that the risk of air contamination “does not justify” new EPA controls.

However, Adrian Shelley, the executive director of Air Alliance Houston said that operators’ self-reported emissions are “vastly undercounted,” and that more sophisticated controls will not only spare communities from exposure to toxins but will also reduce production costs by more quickly notifying operators of leaks.

The founder of Community In-Power Development Association in Port Arthur, Hilton Kelley, said the fence line monitoring would be “critical” to helping people protect themselves from health risks in one of the most polluted cities in Texas.

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