EPA Protects Millions of Americans From Petroleum Refinery Air Toxics

[EPA press release - July 28, 1995]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the first comprehensive control of toxic air pollution from petroleum refineries. The final rule will protect the health of 4.5 million Americans living near refineries by reducing by almost 60 percent chemicals like benzene that can cause cancer and other serious health effects. The new rule also will greatly reduce air pollutants that contribute to smog.

The rule would cut emissions of 11 air toxics by 53,000 tons annually, representing a 59 percent reduction from current levels.

The regulation will also reduce smog-causing volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 277,000 tons annually, representing a 60 percent reduction from current levels. VOCs are the prime ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone (smog), the nation's most pervasive air pollutant.

EPA cost-benefit analysis of this regulation shows benefits substantially exceeding costs. The smog reduction benefits alone are valued at more than $150 million annually, while the total cost of the rule is approximately $95 million each year.

Petroleum refineries process crude oil to produce automotive gasoline, diesel fuel, lubricants, and other petroleum-based products.

The rule will affect 192 existing refineries and any new facilities built in the future. Many of these refineries are located in heavily-populated areas in California, Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Approximately 4.5 million Americans living near these facilities are potentially at risk from health problems that include cancer, respiratory illness, and reproductive disorders.

EPA will require these refineries to use maximum achievable control technology, a term generally defined by the Clean Air Act as the best demonstrated pollution control technology or practice in current use by similar sources anywhere in the United States.

The rule contains a common sense principle called "emission averaging," that would allow facilities flexibility in deciding which emission sources to control. Plants may find it more cost-effective to overcontrol certain emission sources and undercontrol others, the overall result being greater emission reduction at less cost.

Additional flexibility is provided by permitting the use of emissions averaging amongst petroleum refineries, marine terminal loading operations and gasoline distribution facilities located at the same site.

The rule, however, specifies to what extent facilities may use emissions averaging and which emission points may be included.

The regulation will require controls for emissions of air toxics for storage tanks, equipment leaks, process vents and wastewater collection and treatment systems.