OMB Reviewing EPA Proposal on Adequacy Of Refinery Air Toxics, New Source Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency Sept. 5 sent a proposed rule to the White House for review on the outcome of an evaluation of the adequacy of air pollution standards for petroleum refineries.

The proposed rule under review by the Office of Management and Budget is part of required periodic EPA reviews of the new source performance standards and national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants for petroleum refineries and various pieces of related equipment.

The proposed rule is not expected to include greenhouse gas emissions limits. EPA agreed to adopt greenhouse gas standards for refineries in a 2010 court settlement, but has not completed work on those standards.

The White House review is typically the last step before the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its toxic air pollutant standards at Section 112 and its new source performance standards at Section 111 every eight years to determine if the emissions allowable under those rules still pose risks to public health, and to evaluate any new control technologies that might be available.

The agency either must promulgate additional standards to protect public health against any residual risk or make an official determination that no further controls are necessary.

In January 2009, the Bush administration determined that toxic emissions from petroleum refineries did not pose any additional health risks and no new controls were required. However, that finding was never published in the Federal Register. The Obama administration later withdrew that finding and said it would perform a second review (74 Fed. Reg. 55,670; 206 DER A-1, 10/28/09).

EPA Collected Additional Data.

The latest risk and technology review comes after EPA surveyed the 152 refineries in the nation about their emissions and pollution controls. The information collection request also required refinery operators to conduct emissions sampling and testing.

“We are confident the risk and technology review here will once again show the remaining risks from refineries are low and at safe levels,” Howard Feldman, director of scientific and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, told BNA Sept. 6.

The hazardous air pollutant standards for petroleum refineries were issued in 1995 under 40 C.F.R. Part 63, Subpart CC (60 Fed. Reg. 43,244). The hazardous pollutant emissions standards for catalytic cracking units, catalytic reforming units, and sulfur recovery units at petroleum refineries were issued in 2002 under 40 C.F.R. Part 63, Subpart UUU (67 Fed. Reg. 17,762).

The new source performance standards for the facilities were first issued under 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart J in 1974. Those standards were last revised in 2008, but EPA delayed implementing the rule to address requests for reconsideration (73 Fed. Reg. 35,838).

Greenhouse Gases Not Addressed.

Petroleum industry and environmental groups do not expect the proposed rule to address greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum refineries.

An EPA spokeswoman could not be reached for comment on the issue.

EPA agreed to issue greenhouse gas new source performance standards for refineries in December 2010 as part of a court settlement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Integrity Project, and several states (American Petroleum Institute v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 08-1277, 12/23/10; 246 DER A-1, 12/27/10).

EPA missed a December 2011 deadline to propose the greenhouse gas standards.

“We still have channels open with them. We haven't got a new deadline, but we also haven't agreed it's all for naught,” David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Climate Center, told BNA Sept. 6.

Doniger said he expects EPA will propose greenhouse gas standards for refineries after it issues final emissions standards for power plants.

EPA proposed the carbon dioxide new source performance standard for power plants April 13 (77 Fed. Reg. 22,392; 71 DER A-1, 4/13/12).

By Andrew Childers