Environmental Protection

Lawsuit Filed Against EPA for Pollution Reporting Failures at Refineries and Chemical Plants

Community groups in Louisiana and Texas have filed a suit against the EPA, due to their failure to meet Clean Air Act deadlines and revising rules that require more accurate pollution reporting.

Air Alliance Houston, Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA), Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) have filed a lawsuit to encourage EPA to review outdated and inaccurate formulas that are used to report the levels of toxic emissions from refineries and chemical plants. These community groups are represented by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

In studies at the Marathon, BP refineries’ emissions were found to be 10 to 100 times greater than estimates based on outdated “emission factors” that are currently used by the EPA to report emissions. These results may mean that more than a third of a million tons of pollutants, such as volatile compounds from tanks, flares, and wastewater plants, may not be reported each year.

The federal Clean Air Act requires EPA to review and revise the formulas used to estimate dangerous volatile organic compounds at least once every three years.  But EPA has failed to do so even after receiving a petition from the City of Houston in 2008 asking EPA to close loopholes that allow hundreds of thousands of tons of pollution to escape detection and reporting each year.  The lawsuit is a follow-up action to the "notice of intent" letter filed by the groups in July 2012.

"Emissions that aren't counted are 'off the books' as far as federal and state agencies are concerned," said Whitney Ferrell, attorney for the EIP.  "And that leaves communities downwind of oil, chemical and gas plants exposed to higher levels of butadiene, benzene, and other toxic pollutants that increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.  Getting these emissions back on the radar can also help industry identify cost effective ways to recover and reuse gases that are now leaking into the air as pollution."

“For too long, the communities in Port Arthur, TX have been subjected to dangerous chemicals emitted from refineries, chemical plants, and incinerator facilities,” said Hilton Kelley, executive director, Community In-Power and Development. “Many of our kids suffer from asthma, bronchitis, and other air related chemical exposure illnesses.  EPA should step up its efforts to protect human health from big polluters-we depend on them for our safety." To see the EPA’s proposal for resolving these issues, please click here.

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