The EPA — seemingly defying both common sense and safety concerns — recently issued an analysis concluding that the risks to human health and the environment posed by oil refinery emissions were low enough to warrant no further regulations. As an alternative to eliminating controls to "manage" the toxic emissions spewed by refineries, the agency has proposed requiring additional emissions reductions for certain storage vessels and wastewater treatment units. This, it predicts, could enable refineries to reduce emissions by 1,000-4,600 tons per year from 153 facilities — saving them up to $4 million annually in the process.
In doing so, however, the EPA would be flouting a crucial requirement of the Clean Air Act — a law it itself enacted over 4 decades ago. "The EPA is officially proposing to ignore acknowledged risk levels that are 70 times higher than allowed by law," said John Walke, Clean Air Program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Under the law's provision, the agency is supposed to first verify whether the first round of MACT (maximum achievable control technology) standards sufficiently reduces lifetime cancer risks from refinery pollution to less than 1-in-1 million. If the risks exceed that figure, the EPA is supposed to mandate better controls to protect the public by lowering the risk levels. The EPA has disputed this provision, arguing that the appropriate threshold should be raised to 100-in-1 million. Since their analysis found emissions from oil refineries to pose risks of 70-in-1 million, agency officials have claimed that the best approach would be to do nothing.
Call us paranoid, but that doesn't exactly put our minds at ease. As Walke explained: "Nearly one in three Americans lives within 30 miles of a refinery. This ruling subjects the public to increased cancer risks and other chronic health hazards. Oil companies have the technology and the resources to fix this problem, but EPA wants to let them off the hook." Isn't it nice to know that our government has our best interests at heart?
See also: ::BP: Short for "Bad Pollution", ::Illinois Ups The Pressure On BP - Looking At Indiana-Issued Air Permit, ::Fewer EPA Cops on the Beat
Image courtesy of northbaywanderer via flickr