Recent rule changes announced by EPA would put an end to most visible flare emissions of toxic chemicals at refineries nationwide and the refineries would have to install monitors on their sites and around their fence lines to measure for carcinogenic benzene gas.

EPA officials said that when fully implemented in 2018, the rule changes 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. The rule changes also will result in a reduction in greenhouse gases equivalent to about 660,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide, EPA officials said.

The new rules apply to 142 refineries nationwide identified by EPA as "major source" facilities, which have the potential to emit 10 or more tons per year of any single air toxic or 25 tons per year or more of any combination of air toxics.

"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 EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, in a news release announcing the rule changes.

"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 fence line and corrective action if standards are exceeded," McCarthy said.

The rules require a minimum of three pollution prevention measures to be installed, the continuous monitoring of flares and pressure release devices and an analysis of any release events to determine their cause and to identify a remedy.

And refineries will have "a hard limit" of no more than three release events over three years for each device or flare.

The rules also require additional emission reductions for releases from storage tanks and "delayed coking units" at refineries.

EPA has estimated the new rules will require an initial capital cost of $283 million, and annual costs of about $63 million.

The American Petroleum Institute said the rule changes were much better than EPA's initial proposal, announced in 2014, but warned they could cost up to $1 billion, and that consumers will pay that bill.

Source:  The New Orleans Times-Picayune