US oil refineries spewing cancer-causing benzene into communities, report finds | Pollution

A dozen US oil refineries final yr exceeded the federal restrict on common benzene emissions.

Among the 12 refineries that emitted above the utmost stage for benzene, 5 had been in Texas, 4 in Louisiana, and one every in Pennsylvania, Indiana and the US Virgin Islands, a brand new evaluation by the Environmental Integrity Project revealed on Thursday.

Benzene is a identified carcinogen that’s extremely poisonous and risky when uncovered to air. Much of the surplus emissions come by way of leaks from valves, tanks, pumps and different means which might be exhausting to detect.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 6.1 million folks within the US stay inside three miles of a refinery, with low-income folks and folks of colour represented at charges practically twice that of the final inhabitants.

Out of 129 operable oil refineries in 2021, 118 reported benzene focus registered at or close to the positioning, in any other case generally known as the fence-line.

Nearly half of those refineries launched benzene ranges above 3 micrograms per cubic meter, which the Environmental Integrity Project defines as a long-term potential well being risk.

The EPA requires amenities to take motion in the event that they exceed a mean 9 micrograms per cubic meter, or above “action level” emission of benzene.

“If [facilities] can’t get their benzene below the action level, year after year, we really need to see enforcement from the EPA,” stated Eric Schaeffer, the chief director of the Environmental Integrity Project, in a press convention. “You need to start paying penalties when your fence-line levels persist,” he added.

A bar chart displaying a dozen refineries that exceeded the EPA restrict on benzene emissions final yr, with Marathon Petroleum’s Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City had the very best common web benzene ranges in 2021.

Lifetime publicity to benzene at ranges as little as 0.13 microgram per cubic meter might trigger a danger of as much as one extra most cancers case for each a million uncovered, in keeping with the EPA. The increased the extent of benzene, the upper the well being danger.

Marathon Petroleum’s Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City had the very best common web benzene ranges in 2021, in keeping with the evaluation of the self-reported information. Roughly 37,000 folks stay inside a three-mile radius of the refinery. Among them, 62% are folks of colour and 47% are low-income.

“This analysis provides important insight into why the Houston area is an industrial cancer hotspot,” stated Leticia Gutierrez of advocacy group Air Alliance Houston, on the press convention.

“People living near these facilities have greater [exposure] to lifetime cancer risk than any other part of the state, yet the regulatory agencies responsible for protecting us continue to approve permits for these facilities,” Gutierrez stated.

Environmental Integrity Project notes that its evaluation didn’t measure concentrations of benzene inside neighborhoods adjoining to refineries, and doesn’t mirror the precise ranges of benzene inside the communities.

In an announcement to the Guardian, EPA spokesperson Taylor wrote that the company is actively engaged in reviewing the benzene fence-line information, and has “initiated several investigations of facilities to determine the reason for the elevated benzene emissions”.

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