WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted new rules requiring oil refineries to monitor toxic emissions in neighboring communities.
The rules, adopted Tuesday, target some 150 refineries nationwide. It requires refineries for the first time to continuously monitor and report levels of benzene, a cancer-causing compound, at the boundaries of their properties and cut emissions if the levels are too high.
The so-called fence-line monitoring is intended to protect surrounding residents, often disproportionately poor and minority.
The new rules also strengthen emissions standards on pressure release devices, storage tanks, coker units and flares, which are used to burn off excess gasses. The changes should 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 EPA said.
"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 the EPA's work to protect the health of vulnerable communities located near these facilities," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
The American Petroleum Institute said the new standards could cost the industry up to $1 billion. The group said refineries have been voluntarily working for decades to reduce air emissions, so the levels are already safe. Bob Greco, API downstream group director, warned regulators must be "thoughtful about the additional impacts of new regulations and added costs to delivering affordable energy to U.S. consumers."
"Companies have already spent billions of dollars to reduce emissions by installing flare gas recovery and flare minimization systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and air quality continues to improve as a result of these voluntary programs and existing regulations," he said.