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No harmful soot checked as big oil fights EPA over testing

According to a Reuters-reviewed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document, dozens of deadly soot pollution from US refineries was due to controversy over how to measure it between the US oil industry and federal environmental authorities. The year is also unregulated.
Delays in dealing with so-called condensate particulate matter emissions mean that this pollutant is being released by numerous unchecked facilities across the country, and researchers are disproportionate to the health of the poor. It adds a lot of other pollutants from oil refineries that say it makes a sacrifice to the nearby minority community.
Due to the lack of federal standards, air quality regulators in at least one region of California attempted to crack down on these emissions, causing lawsuits from oil refiners there.
Condensable particulate matter is a type of soot that leaves the chimney as a gas before it solidifies into particles when it cools. The EPA first proposed a method for measuring it in 1991, with evidence that it would damage the human lungs at least as much as normal soot, which is solid when it is released.
Authorities say that even short-term exposure to fine soot particles can lead to heart attacks, lung cancer, asthma attacks, and premature death. According to a scientific study quoted by the EPA, the combination of condensed solid soot causes more than 50,000 premature deaths annually in the United States, which the industry disagrees with.
However, the EPA refused to impose restrictions on the condensable form of pollutants. The oil industry and its major lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute (API), have been interviewed by EPA disclosures and independent testing firms, API stakeholders, and industry groups to ensure that agencies are accurate in quantifying it. Claims that he couldn’t come up with a good test. member.
The industry states that the tests currently being adopted may exaggerate the amount of condensed soot emitted from refineries under certain conditions. This is an EPA-recognized flaw.
“We shouldn’t need costly modifications or new controls based on the consequences of the wrong method,” Chevron, a major US oil company, said in a statement.
According to regulators and stack test analysts, setting national limits without consensus on how to measure pollutant emissions is impractical because it raises legal issues from the industry.
The EPA said in a statement that it was still researching ways to reliably measure condensed soot, but did not comment on the schedule for the end of the effort.
Greg Karas, an environmental scientist who has worked for a non-profit organization seeking to reduce emissions from the refining industry, said the delay was dangerous.
“It is inappropriate to wait more than 30 years to protect people from this form of contamination while trying to complete the test,” Karras said.
If condensed soot is ultimately regulated, nearly all 135 oil refineries in the country will invest in new pollution control equipment based on current emission estimates using EPA’s competing test methods. Will be forced.
Soot is made up of particles that are many times smaller than the grains of sand that can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream when inhaled. The EPA regulates solid soot that can be easily measured by filtering chimney emissions. However, condensable soot is difficult to quantify because it is gaseous in the chimney.
The EPA’s current condensable soot test, called Method 202, uses a probe and glass tube located inside the chimney of a refinery to collect samples from a gas stream. According to a Reuters review of regulatory documents submitted by oil companies, individual refineries in the United States can emit up to hundreds of tons of pollutants annually, accounting for almost half of the refinery’s total soot emissions. There is also.
The material surveyed by the news agency dates from 2017 to 2021 and includes the results of Method 202 tests commissioned by some refineries to meet local requirements or as part of a litigation.
However, according to the API, if the sample reacts with other chemicals commonly found in refineries, the test can result in an erroneously high reading of condensed soot.
The EPA acknowledges that the use of Method 202 can overestimate contamination levels. The EPA revised Method 202 in 2010 to eliminate this bias. However, according to a 2014 EPA memorandum of understanding by Reuters, this amendment fully addresses industry concerns that the presence of other compounds, especially ammonia, in refinery chimneys can distort results. I didn’t.
EPA’s Ohio National Risk Management Institute, responsible for discovering scientific and engineering solutions to environmental problems, is currently working with APIs to solve Method 202 problems while exploring alternative methodologies. The EPA told Reuters.
Long-term problems surface when regulators in the San Francisco Bay Area, including nine counties around the city of San Francisco, pass the country’s strictest soot regulations to mitigate pollution around oil refinery clusters. Did. ..
States and territories in the United States are often empowered to impose their own pollution restrictions, provided that those rules are as strong as or stronger than federal regulations.
New restrictions on the Bay Area Air Quality Control Area (BAAQMD) include condensable soot, and the industry uses Method 202 to quantify their soot emissions, despite dissenting opinions. need to do it. Authorities claim that if the tests are accurate and the refinery is operating properly, the presence of ammonia in the chimney will not affect the measurement of condensable soot. The stricter soot standards will come into effect in 2026 to give oil companies time to adapt.
According to a civil lawsuit filed in September, refining companies Chevron and PBF Energy Inc are fighting new regulations on BAAQMD in the Contra Costa County High Court. The two companies say the rule will force them to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on pollution control equipment at Bay Area refineries.
“The API and its members support federal-level policies that promote emission reductions according to science, but the Bay Area’s air quality control districts are using the wrong approach,” said API’s downstream policymaker. Our Vice President, Ron Chittim, said in a statement. Reuters.
Chevron estimates that it will cost $ 1.48 billion to install a so-called wet gas scrubber at a refinery in Richmond, California. This is the pollution control approach that BAAQMD wants companies to use.
BAAQMD estimates that the restrictions will cut the annual death toll from soot in the region by half. According to regulators, soot-related deaths are currently up to 12 per year at the Richmond refinery in Chevron and up to 6 per year at the PBF Energy refinery in Martinez, California.
The refiner disputed these numbers in comments submitted to BAAQMD staff. The industry states that this figure does not take into account the deceased’s lifestyle choices such as smoking, claiming that the health benefits of reducing soot production are exaggerated.
A BAAQMD spokesperson declined further comments because of an ongoing proceeding.
It is not yet known whether other California air quality districts, other state regulators, or the federal government will follow the Bay Area initiative.
The EPA under Democratic President Joe Biden said he was considering lowering existing restrictions on soot pollution after the former Republican administration of Donald Trump refused to do so. However, authorities did not specify whether there were plans to crack down on condensed soot.
At the ExxonMobil Corp refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 17% of the measured soot was condensed, according to an August stack test submitted to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
Exxon declined to comment on the battle for Method 202. “We will continue to optimize our processes to minimize emissions and increase energy efficiency,” the company said. — Reuters

http://www.gulf-times.com/story/707647/Harmful-soot-unchecked-as-Big-Oil-battles-EPA-over No harmful soot checked as big oil fights EPA over testing

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