Refinery emissions ‘low risk’ to health and environment – US EPA

Research carried out by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the risks from air toxics emitted from petroleum refineries found that "the risks to human health and the environment are low enough to warrant no further controls".

In a statement, The EPA says it evaluated petroleum refinery emissions as part of the American Clean Air Act requirement looking for potential risks that remain after implementation of standards known as maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards. Issued in 1995, MACT standards require industrial facilities to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants.

Based on the agency’s findings, the EPA says it is proposing two options for controlling air toxics emissions from refineries:

The first option requires no additional emissions reductions because the “risks are acceptably low.”

As a second option, EPA is proposing requiring additional emissions reductions for certain storage vessels and wastewater treatment units.

Under this alternative, the EPA projects that refineries could reduce air toxics emissions by about 1,000 to 4,600 tons per year from 153 facilities. The agency estimates this alternative could cost up to $1.1 million or save up to $4.0 million nationwide each year by reducing product loss.

The EPA statement says they will accept public comment on their proposals for 60 days.

Environmental activist group Earthjustice responded early this week by submitting comments and issuing their own statement.

They say that the EPA must act quickly on regulating greenhouse gas from refineries which “pumped out more than 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air in 2004, and along with chemical plants, constitute the second greatest stationary source of greenhouse gases,” the Earthjustice statement said.

“We’re facing our biggest environmental challenge in global warming, and allowing an entire industry to remain unchecked in their greenhouse gas emissions just doesn’t make sense,” said Timothy Ballo, attorney with Earthjustice.

Dana Gornitzki

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie