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New emission standards for petroleum refineries include fenceline monitoring to protect communities


 Petroleum Refinery_31911
Photo: Walter Siegmund

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has updated air pollution standards for 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 fenceline monitoring, for the first time, to better protect nearby communities. It also strengthens emission controls for flares, pressure relief devices, storage tanks, and some processing 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 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.

In addition, the EPA estimates the standards will eliminate emissions of about 660,000 tons per year of CO2, a greenhouse gas.

The cost-effective steps will have no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products at about 150 petroleum refineries around the country, McCarthy said.

She said after a review of practices, processes, control technologies, and public input, the updated regulations will ensure that petroleum refineries use the most up to date and effective monitoring and control technologies.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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As always their claims of the amount of pollution that will be reduced is not as certain as they say because they often allow for loopholes. The good news is the word fenceline in their monitoring requirement because a huge loophole in monitoring is not requiring exact location, which means they tend to do monitoring upwind and only during favorable weather conditions. This has been a common complaint of my friends living near biomass electricity generating facilities on Olympic peninsula who should have way better air then they currently have.


Hi Deane,

Yes, I always wonder when they work with industry on the standards how strong they can really be.


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