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Lawsuit Challenges U.S. EPA Refinery Emission Factors

Posted: May 17th, 2013

Author: All4 Staff 

A group of environmental organizations has filed suit against U.S. EPA for failing to review and update volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions factors from refining operations. The federal district court suit, Air Alliance Houston, et al. v. EPA, alleges that the emission factors published in U.S. EPA’s Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission Factors (commonly known as “AP-42”) and the Locating and Estimating Air Toxics Emissions (“L&E”) report series underestimate VOC emissions from flares, tanks, and wastewater treatment systems at refineries and petrochemical plants, potentially subjecting surrounding areas to levels of pollution that may exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires U.S. EPA to revisit emission factors every three years; however, the environmental coalition alleges that they last did so more than 20 years ago for flares and wastewater systems, and in 2006 for storage tanks. The suit claims that recent test data at BP, Shell, and Marathon refineries clocked in at 10 to 100 times higher than the emissions factors in question.

Existing air rules and permits using these emissions factors would be affected if the lawsuit is successful. For example, refineries would not be able to use these factors to demonstrate compliance with the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for oil and gas storage tanks (at 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart OOOO) by the October 15, 2013 compliance date. Refineries may want to examine their current permits and reporting practices to determine if these emission factors are used and identify alternative emission factors, including potentially developing site specific emission factors. Stay tuned to ALL4’s blog for further updates.


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