By Laura Sanicola
Apr 28 (Reuters) – Thirteen U.S. oil refineries released benzene, a carcinogenic chemical, in concentrations that exceeded federal limits last year, three more than in 2019, according to government data released Wednesday by the environmental group Environmental Integrity. Project.
The study is based on the second full year of data reported by U.S. refineries since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began requiring continuous monitoring of air pollutants around plants to protect nearby communities, many of which are poor, black and Hispanic.
“If Biden’s EPA wants to act on its promises of environmental justice, these neighborhoods near the refineries are a great place to start,” Benjamin Kunstman, a staff engineer for the Environmental Integrity Project, told Reuters.
According to the report, benzene levels consistently exceeded the EPA standard of nine micrograms per cubic meter of air at the perimeter of eight of the 13 refineries identified by the EIP. The EPA requires facilities that exceed that threshold to take corrective action, according to the report.
The group also found that one of the refineries exceeding the limits was the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions facility in Philadelphia, which closed in 2019 but continued to pump the chemical while its tanks were being emptied.
Last year, the US EPA said that “it is important to note that the benzene concentration levels observed around the perimeter of a refinery do not reflect the benzene levels in the community.”
The agency added that its limits are strict “to provide ample opportunity for early action.”
The largest benzene emitter in 2020 was the Delek refinery in Krotz Springs, Louisiana, which averaged more than 31 micrograms per cubic meter last year, more than three times the EPA action level, according to EIP.
“Delek is focused on serving as a good steward of the environment and a supportive member of the communities in which we operate,” said a Delek spokesperson.
(By Laura Sanicola; Edited in Spanish by Juana Casas)