UpdateEPA has not updated plant-emission formulas in years – suit

02 May 2013 17:47  [Source: ICIS news]

(Adds background and updates throughout)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A US regulator is years overdue in reviewing the formulas used to estimate air pollution emitted from refineries and chemical plants, environmental groups said on Thursday.

The groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), accusing it of using outdated and inaccurate formulas to measure air pollution.

The EPA is required to review and, if necessary, revise those formulas once every three years, the groups alleged.

Not only is a review overdue, the EPA's current formulas grossly underestimate the amount of pollution emitted from the plants, which are several orders of magnitude greater than the estimates produced by the regulator, the groups alleged.

The groups seek to force the EPA to review its formulas and, if necessary, update them.

The EPA said it would review the lawsuit.

The groups that filed the lawsuit are Air Alliance Houston; Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA); Louisiana Bucket Brigade; and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS).

The groups filed the lawsuit in US District Court, District of Columbia.

The formulas in question measure how much volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides are released by chemical plants and refineries.

Companies use these formulas to report air pollution to the EPA and state environmental regulators, such as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the groups said.

Those agencies, in turn, rely on the data to develop environmental regulations and programmes intended to reduce air pollution, the groups said. Companies use the data to decide if they need to update equipment used to limit pollution.

The groups cited several studies, which say that the formulas underestimate the amount of emissions released from the plants.

They point to an evaluation report that the EPA itself released in 2006, which said that the group's formulas remain low.

A study from November 2010 at what was then BP's Texas City refinery in Texas also showed detected emissions exceeding the EPA estimates, the groups allege.

Other studies show VOC emissions exceeding EPA estimates by up to 132 times, the groups said.

The last time the EPA reviewed and made a decision to update its formulas for flare emissions was September 1991, the groups allege. For tanks and wastewater-treatment systems, it is at least 2006.

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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