By Jessica Coomes
The White House Office of Management and Budget has sent back to the
Environmental Protection Agency a proposed rule to revise air pollution
standards for petroleum refineries, BNA has learned.
The proposed rule, which would affect about 150 refineries, was intended to
address residual risk and technological developments related to air toxics
emissions from the sector and to amend new source performance standards to
control emissions of a number of pollutants.
“OMB returned the rule to the agency so EPA could complete additional
analysis for the proposed rules,” EPA said in a statement to BNA March 13.
The Bush administration determined in January 2009 that air toxics emissions
from refineries did not pose any additional health risks and no new controls
were required. However, the Obama administration later withdrew that finding (42
ER 1630, 7/22/11).
EPA then surveyed all of the refineries in the country about their emissions
in preparation for a new proposed rule.
OMB received the proposed rule for interagency review Sept. 5, 2012. The OMB
website said the office completed interagency review March 12, and the rule
would be withdrawn.
The Natural Resources Defense Council criticized the withdrawal March 13.
“The Obama administration has allowed these clean air standards for Big Oil
to languish for over four years, after the Bush administration before it refused
to uphold the law to protect people,” John Walke, clean air director for the
environmental group, told BNA in a statement. “Now the White House interferes
and offers this non-explanation as explanation for further inaction? That is
The refining industry has opposed new emissions controls.
“Imposition of additional regulation of refinery emissions on top of the
layers of regulations already imposed on the refinery sector is unnecessary,”
Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific policy for the American
Petroleum Institute, told BNA in a statement March 13. “EPA's own analyses have
demonstrated that petroleum refineries are not 'high risk' facilities and that
the public health is already protected with an ample margin of safety.
Furthermore, the refining industry is already facing additional regulatory
threats from EPA, including Tier III fuels, greenhouse gas regulations, and a
tightening of the ozone standards.”
Representatives of petroleum refiners told administration officials during an
Oct. 4, 2012, meeting on the proposed rule that more stringent air pollution
controls on the sector would not reduce the risk to public health (43 ER 2697,
API and several companies had said data that EPA collected from industry show
that the risk from refineries is low, which meant EPA should not impose
additional control requirements unless they are cost-effective.
presented during the OMB meeting, the trade association said the data that EPA
collected show that existing regulations have been effective in protecting
public health. It also said refineries spent $50 million to comply with the EPA
information request in the survey.
The now-withdrawn proposed rule was expected to include a Clean Air
Act-mandated review of residual risk from the existing national emissions
standards for hazardous air pollutants for refineries and of the potential for
new technology to make further emissions reductions. The rule also was expected
to amend new source performance standards for the sector.
The petroleum industry also has been lobbying against Tier 3 gasoline and
vehicle standards, which API says could be costly for the industry. EPA is
expected to propose the Tier 3 standards this month (44 ER 541, 3/1/13).