16 May 2014

WASHINGTON – On 15 May 2014, The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to update the toxic air pollution standards for petroleum refineries to protect neighborhoods located near refineries. After receiving input from stakeholders including community groups, industry and the States. EPA’s common-sense proposal aims to (further) reduce toxic pollution from “flaring” and other processes, and includes new monitoring requirements. PROBLEM IS, AND HAS BEEN that exposure to toxic air pollutants, such as benzene, can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, and can increase the risk of developing cancer at/near the approximately 150 petroleum refineries around the USA.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said: “This proposal will help us accomplish our goal of making a visible difference in the health and the environment of communities across the country”. 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”

EPA’S PROPOSAL WOULD (FOR THE FIRST TIME) REQUIRE: (1) monitoring of air concentrations of benzene around the fence-line perimeter of refineries (YES, BUT WHAT ABOUT NEIGHBORHOODS LOCATED NEAR REFINERIES.) to ensure that emissions are controlled, and that these results would be available to the public. (2) upgraded emission controls for storage tanks including controls for smaller tanks; (3) performance requirements for flares (continued burning of waste gases) to ensure that waste gases are properly destroyed; and (4) emissions standards for delayed coking units (fractional distillation units for crude oil that are currently a significant unregulated source of toxic air emissions at refineries).

EPA ESTIMATED TOXIC AIR EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS If/when these proposed updates are fully implemented, including benzene, toluene, and xylene, would be reduced by 5,600 tons per year. Volatile organic compound emissions would be cut by approximately 52,000 tons per year. EPA says “no noticeable impact on cost of petroleum products” These cost-effective steps will have no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products at the approximately 150 petroleum refineries around the country. (oh yea! – wait till we hear the petrochemical industry tell it).

EPA IS ISSUING THIS PROPOSAL AS PART OF A PROCESS OUTLINED IN THE CLEAN AIR ACT that requires the agency to evaluate the emissions standards currently in place to determine (1) whether there is any remaining risk to public health or the environment and (2) whether there have been any new developments in practices, processes and control technologies. In a series of recent enforcement cases, EPA has compelled the use of innovative pollution control practices such as flare gas recovery and flare efficiency that are reducing toxic air pollution in communities. These efforts demonstrate that the proposed standards are practical and achievable today. More information about these cases:  QUESTION: IF EPA IS ALREADY “COMPELLING” SOME REFINERIES, WHY DO THEY NEED ONE MORE YEAR OF FOOT-DRAGGING TO ENFORCE THE “CLEAN AIR ACT” ON THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY NOW.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The agency plans to hold two (2) public hearings, near Houston and Los Angeles (dates still in consideration) and will finalize the standards in April 2015 (that is nearly a year from now).


EPA cannot reasonably expect that the petrochemical industry will look kindly at any change that adds cost to their production. When the EPA says: “steps will have no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products” they must mean to the consumer, but that is questionable. Surely it will add many costs to the petrochemical industry.  It should also be considered that the air toxicity in crude oil processing refineries such as those existing/proposed for Port Arthur/Houston area are normally the “killing kind” (or at least life altering); Unfortunately, more so to those producing it. Refineries have never shown any concern for the long term health of their employees, let alone the residents of nearby neighborhoods these industrialists are exceptionally greedy, slow to change, and indifferent to the airborne, and other pollution they create. Pray say: what would they do with even more truly nasty pollutants removed from the Keystone heavy crude? Probably what they do now – As little as possible. Regrettably the Texas coast from Corpus Christi north to Beaumont is already heavily polluted by Industrial or petrochemical pollution, or both.

TEXAS IS THE USA’s LARGEST GREEN HOUSE GAS PRODUCER. The dirty-air fact is that Texas was the only state in 2010 that refused to meet New US-EPA greenhouse gas emission rules, placing some of the nation’s largest refineries in operational limbo. The US-EPA, in an effort to ensure those facilities could continue to operate, had been issuing permits piece-meal since 2011.

Regrettably, EPA has already granted the State of Texas authority to regulate its own green house gasses (GHGs) in 2014 when they conceded authority to the “Texas Commission on Environmental Quality  (TCEQ)”. In 2013 Texas state legislature approved a law giving the TCEQ the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking for the EPA, on 4 Feb 2014 Mr.Curry said: “US-EPA and the TCEQ began working to develop a program that would meet federal requirements. Initially, Texas had wanted to have a six-month turn-around on all permits, but the US-EPA refused to put a cap on how long it would take to issue a permit; Curry added: “The state also wanted to include a hearing process in its program, but the federal agency declined; In addition, Texas had to establish appropriate emission thresholds. Once those and several other issues were resolved we were able to shift authority to Texas, though the US-EPA will periodically review this program It’s a program that the state(Texas) will have forever as long as it operates correctly” As long as it operates correctly?-  Say what?; Who will determine that?- Oil/other Industrialists, of course!

TCEQ RUBBED IT IN: “We do not agree with the US-EPA’s move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but will follow the direction of the (Texas) Legislature so that permits can be issued in a timely manner, and to continue the successes of the strong Texas economy”. Naturally, they do not want anyone looking over their shoulder as they connive with their mentors.

SO WHY IS EPA GOING THROUGH THESE MOTIONS? We suppose they are just following a preconceived plan even when they know what to expect. Still, we hope a sufficient number of citizens impacted will attend the forthcoming hearings. Frankly it seems to us EPA is foot-dragging on this very important health issue to give the Big-Oil/Industrialists a break for as long as possible, with no real regard for the immediacy of the toxic air pollution to our people; specially in California, and Texas. It will be interesting to see the differences expressed between California (a leader in pollution controls), and its antithesis: Texas.

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)


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May 16, 2014 at 4:22 AM Comments (0)