Houston Matters

Should Refineries Face Tighter Regulation?

The Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday held a public hearing in Galena Park, where residents called for the federal agency to adopt stricter emissions standards for oil refineries, to reduce exposure to benzene, a cancer-causing chemical. The meeting was the second and final public hearing over the new rules, which would require oil refineries to invest in better equipment to reduce such […]

Houston’s Ship Channel is home to one of the nation’s biggest oil refining and petrochemical complexes and is the site of the EPA hearing. (Image: Dave Fehling)

The Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday held a public hearing in Galena Park, where residents called for the federal agency to adopt stricter emissions standards for oil refineries, to reduce exposure to benzene, a cancer-causing chemical.

The meeting was the second and final public hearing over the new rules, which would require oil refineries to invest in better equipment to reduce such emissions. They would have to increase fence-line monitoring to track pollution blowing from their plants to nearby communities. The hearing was mandated, as part of a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project.

But they’re not the only environmental groups concerned about communities near oil refineries. Last month the Air Alliance Houston placed air pollution monitors throughout Galena Park. While the group’s monitors didn’t find any statistically significant difference on measurements of fine particulate matter (your soot, your dust, your smoke, and so forth), the monitors did measure what executive director Adrian Shelley called disturbing results in the amount of elemental carbon, which can be an indication of excessive diesel engine exhaust.

So Galena Park may be getting benzene from oil refineries, and elemental carbon from trucks.

We discuss how new EPA rules might impact Galena Park and communities like it, what other environmental concerns this community on the East side of Houston may face, and what responsibilities companies operating in the Houston Ship Channel refinery complex owe to nearby residents.

We welcome your questions and comments for Dave Fehling, Houston Public Media’s State Impact reporter for Energy and the Environment.

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