Cancer-Causing Benzene Cut In Half At US Refineries In 2023: Report

"HOUSTON — The number of U.S. oil refineries exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for benzene in 2023 was cut in half compared to 2020, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project.

In 2023 just six refineries were above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s average annual “action level,” compared to 12 back in 2020. The level, which is nine micrograms per cubic meter and was set in 2015, serves as a standard that requires corrective action if the concentration of benzene at a facility exceeds it. Corrective measures include determining the root cause of the emissions and then mitigating the pollution. The 2015 benzene standard also required fenceline monitoring for benzene to be finalized by 2018 at several refineries and chemical plants.

Benzene is a cancer-causing compound found in oil, gas and petroleum products. Long-term exposure can also cause various blood disorders and reproductive harm. Short-term exposure can result in headaches, dizziness and respiratory irritation.

Environmental groups lauded the findings.

“Requiring companies to publicly disclose their fenceline monitoring results and to find and fix benzene pollution sources appears to be working,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, in a statement. “Although we and others are sometimes critical of EPA, this is an example of a success story of regulations working to help to protect neighborhoods near refineries from a dangerous pollutant.”

However, it’s not all good news. Houston, the “energy capital of the nation,” hosts one of the six remaining refineries exceeding the EPA’s benzene standards."

Cami Ferrell reports for Environmental News May 16, 2024.

Source: EHN, 05/17/2024