The Times-Picayune (NOLA): Louisiana Bucket Brigade sues EPA over rules governing cancer-causing air pollutionSeptember 27th, 2012
Louisiana Bucket Brigade sues EPA over rules governing cancer-causing air pollutionBy
on September 27, 2012 at 8:30 PM, updated September 28, 2012 at 5:44 AM
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade and seven other environmental groups filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday in an attempt to get the agency to limit air emissions of the most toxic, cancer-causing chemicals released by 150 oil refineries in 32 states, including 17 in Louisiana. “More than 200,000 people live, and over 60 schools and daycares are located, within two miles of Louisiana’s refineries,” said the Bucket Brigade’s Anna Hrybyk. “The EPA’s lack of action on limiting toxics creates serious long-term health impacts that endanger the lives of thousands of people.”
The groups, most of which are based in California and Texas, contend that EPA’s current rules are based on inaccurate estimates of the emissions released by refineries and allow the use of outdated technology that fails to adequately control the releases.
The Clean Air Act required EPA to develop standards that would reduce releases from refineries by 1998 of pollutants that are known, probable or possible cancer-causing agents to levels that would reduce the lifetime excess cancer risk to the individual most exposed to emissions to less than one in 1 million. The law requires those standards to be reconsidered every 8 years, including looking at whether new technology can better identify the amount of the chemicals released by the refineries or do a better job of reducing the releases.
“Recent studies at Marathon, Shell, and BP facilities have shown that the emissions actually going into the air from flares, tanks, and other components at refineries are 10 to 100 times higher than what industry reports to federal and state regulators,” said a news release announcing the suit. “The EPA’s current rules are based on these inaccurate estimates and outdated technology which is why new limits that reflect the actual community health impact and employ current technology are necessary.”
The 17 refineries in Louisiana released 5.8 million pounds of the cancer-causing chemicals in 2010, according to EPA statistics. That included 431,000 pounds from the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery, then owned by BP, and 467,000 pounds from the Motiva Enterprises LLC-Norco Refinery.
The Bucket Brigade has been campaigning against what it contends are unnecessary releases of chemicals at refineries in Louisiana during accidents for several years, with 40 percent of those involving the movement of chemicals to flares.
“Motiva-Norco flared for 12 consecutive days between July 15 and July 27,” Hrybyk said. “The flare reached up to 100 feet in height.”
She said that under the existing EPA rules, companies use outdated analyses to conclude that 99 percent of the chemicals are burned up in the flares, even as the agency’s own studies elsewhere show the flares only remove 40 to 50 percent of the chemicals.
Updating the regulations “would trigger a lot more action” by state officials, both in requiring emissions reductions, and in increased fines and possible criminal actions when new emission limits are topped, she said.
In early September, the EPA submitted proposed regulations to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review that would address the environmental groups’ concerns, but has not released the rules to the public.
The submission came only a few weeks after the environmental organizations informed EPA that the intended to file Thursday’s suit, as required by law.
Joining the Bucket Brigade in filing suit are Earthjustice, a national organization providing legal services to environmental groups; the Environmental Integrity Project; California Communities Against Toxics, Coalition for a Safe Environment; Del Amo Action Committee; Community In-Power Development Association; Air Alliance Houston and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.