EPA toughening oil refinery regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency moved Thursday to beef up air quality regulations for oil refineries, an action officials said would cut toxic emissions by 5,600 tons per year.

The agency maintained the updated standards would protect public health with negligible impacts on the cost of petroleum, a contention immediately disputed by the oil and gas industry.

Under the proposed changes, companies would for the first time be required to monitor concentrations of benzene, a chemical compound linked to an array of health problems, surrounding the refineries.

Results of the monitoring would be made available to the public.

The new proposal would also require upgraded emission controls for storage tanks, new “flare” restrictions to ensure waste gases are properly destroyed and emissions standards for delayed coking units, which are largely unregulated under current rules.

“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 Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand Obama EPA chief: Trump regulation rollbacks won't hold up legally MORE said.

The agency maintains the regulations, to be finalized in April of next year, would have “no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products at the approximately 150 petroleum refineries around the country.”

The American Petroleum Institute refutes the assertion, arguing the new restrictions would be expensive and possibly ineffective.

“With this proposal, EPA adds to the list of new regulations impacting refineries that come with enormous costs but questionable environmental benefits,” said Howard Feldman, the API’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs.

“This rule is intended to evaluate what risk, if any, is posed to the public from refinery emissions,” Feldman said. “But EPA has already concluded the risks associated with refinery emissions are low and the public is protected with an ample margin of safety.”

The EPA announced a 60-day comment period to collect feedback on the proposal, and it plans to hold public hearings near Houston and Los Angeles.