WASHINGTON (CN) - Environmental regulators are ignoring their duty to amend old rules that curb air pollution emitted by petroleum refineries, nonprofits say in federal court.
The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to address current pollution problems with new standards within eight years of promulgating regulations, according to the complaint.
Eight groups say the time has come for the EPA to revisit regulations on petroleum refineries, including their catalytic cracking units, catalytic reforming units and sulfur recovery units.
"Emission factors for petroleum refineries are inaccurate and emission reporting, such as to the National Emissions Inventory, based on such factors has long underestimated air emissions from petroleum refineries," the complaint states.
The groups say that the EPA recently collected emission data from refineries that showed "approximately 150 existing refineries in 32 states emit a total of over 20,000 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants, including 1,346 tons of benzene, 4,079 tons of hydrogen cyanide, 443 tons of formaldehyde, 282 tons of naphthalene, and 218 tons of hydrogen fluoride."
An old EPA final rule on refinery emissions connected such toxic emissions with cancer and a number of other chronic health disorders, according to the complaint.
"In recent years, the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific experts have released significant amounts of new information on the ways in which toxic chemicals emitted by petroleum refineries affect exposed people, particularly children, and on ways government agencies such as EPA can account for the real-world risk faced by communities exposed to toxic air pollution," the complaint states.
Yet in spite of this data, the EPA has allegedly failed to perform its required health impact assessments under the Clean Air Act.
"There is significant information available demonstrating that refineries can control their pollution at a greater rate than many facilities currently do," the groups say.
Failure to update refinery regulations ignores new technology that could significantly cut back on air pollution, such as using flares to control emissions, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs in the case are Air Alliance Houston, California Communities Against Toxics, the Coalition for a Safe Environment, the Community In-Power and Development Association, Del Amo Action Committee, the Environmental Integrity Project, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.
They want the EPA to either promulgate additional regulations to address the current risk to public safety created by refinery emissions or to determine that no additional regulations are required.
The groups are represented by EarthJustice attorney Emma Cheuse.