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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Greens Want Stronger|Gas-Flare Emission Rules

(CN) — U.S. regulators last set rules on curbing air pollution emitted by natural-gas refineries in 1985. Now environmentalists want a federal judge to force an update.

Known as an emission factor for volatile organic compounds, the Environmental Protection Agency's 31-year-old rule relied on a study of natural gas heaters at refineries.

The emission factor for flares assumed 98 percent combustion efficiencies, but four nonprofits are telling a D.C. federal judge that such a high efficiency rate is "questionable," even for 1985.

Moreover, in 2011 collaborative rulemaking with the Bureau of Land Management, the EPA finalized regulations based on the understanding that flares achieve only 95 percent efficiency.

Air Alliance Houston, the lead plaintiff behind the Oct. 6 complaint, says that still "the agency has not reviewed or revised this emission factor in accordance with its duty under Section 130 of the Clean Air Act since its original publication."

Section 130 provides that the agency shall review the emission factors used to estimate the quantity of emissions from air pollution sources every three years.

"The timely review and, if necessary, revision of VOC emission factors is crucial to EPA's ability to implement the CAA in a manner that is protective of public health," the complaint continues, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Air Alliance Houston is joined as a plaintiff by Community In-Power and Development Association, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

They are represented by Eric Schaeffer with the Environmental Integrity Project in Washington.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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