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EPA Updates Emissions Standards for Petroleum Refineries/First-ever fenceline monitoring requirements will protect nearby communities

Release Date: 09/29/2015
Contact Information: Enesta Jones jones.enesta@epa.gov 202-564-7873 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated air pollution standards to further control toxic air emissions from petroleum refineries. 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. The rule requires first-of-its-kind fenceline monitoring to better protect and inform nearby communities, while also strengthening emission controls for flares, pressure relief devices, storage tanks, and delayed coker operations that will reduce thousands of tons of hazardous air pollutants.

“These updated Clean Air Act standards will lower the cancer risk from petroleum refineries for more than 1.4 million people and are a substantial step forward in EPA’s work to protect the health of vulnerable communities located near these facilities,” said Gina McCarthy EPA Administrator. “The act requires a healthy environment for all communities, and this rule delivers on EPA’s commitment to environmental justice by reducing toxic air pollutants that impact families living near refineries by requiring, for the first time ever in an EPA air rule, monitoring of emissions at the fenceline and requiring action be taken if standards are exceeded.”

When fully implemented, the rule will result in a reduction of 5,200 tons per year of toxic air pollutants, and 50,000 tons per year of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Also, as a co-benefit of these final standards, EPA projects that these standards will eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases equivalent to approximately 660,000 tons per year of CO2. These cost-effective steps will have no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products at the approximately 150 petroleum refineries around the country.

Today’s action requires continuous monitoring of benzene concentrations at the fenceline of refinery facilities to ensure that refineries appropriately manage toxic emissions. The rule requires corrective action to protect neighboring communities from being exposed to harmful levels of emissions if the established standard level is exceeded. The new fenceline monitors must encircle the facility to detect benzene at very low levels, and the monitoring data will be posted on EPA’s website. In addition, in response to public feedback, the rule provides room for alternative monitoring methods in the future as technology advances.

Other specific requirements in this rule will virtually eliminate visible flare emissions and releases by pressure release devices by requiring a comprehensive program of process changes and pollution prevention measures for these emission sources. It will also require additional emission reductions from storage tanks and delayed coking units, some of which had no previous required controls.

This rulemaking was informed by a Petroleum Refinery Risk and Technology Review (RTR). During this scientific and technical review, EPA also engaged with key communities in the two years prior to proposing a regulation in 2014. After an extensive review of practices, processes, control technologies and public input, including two public hearings, today’s regulatory updates ensure that petroleum refineries use the most up to date and effective monitoring and control technologies.

Additional information: http://www3.epa.gov/ttn/atw/petref.html