UPHE members’ statements to be read at EPA public hearing on oil refineries

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) would like to add our strong support to the statements submitted by a few of our members whose families and loved ones have been directly affected by refinery emissions. These statements will be read along with UPHE’s statement at the Houston, TX public hearing on Nov. 17 (see below for full press release).  UPHE  submitted comments on the refinery rule last year but would like to emphasize our concern over exemptions and loopholes that would allow communities to be exposed to the toxic pollution that we are all trying to work to avoid.

So-called accidental releases, that can take a high share of refinery emissions, would truly amount to the exception swallowing up the rule.   The U.S. refinery industry is more accident prone than those in Europe because we are forcing our plants to produce beyond their designed capacity regardless of safety.  Refinery emissions contain benzene, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and VOCs such as toluene and xylene, several of which are carcinogens.  Acute and episodic exposure to VOCs can be more harmful than exposure averages.  UPHE has highlighted the danger of these pollutants on fetuses and newborns.  They harm our entire body’s system.

Exemptions on force majeure events and smoking flares cheat communities at risk of the protection they need. Let’s not stop where a true benefit of a strong rule may be found.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!  The EPA is taking in public comment until Dec. 19, 2016.



November 16, 2016


On Nov. 17, EPA To Hold Public Hearing On Toxic Air Threats from Oil Refineries

Testimony in Houston Will Address National Requirements for Protection from Air Pollution

Washington, D.C. –   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding a hearing in response to a petition from 11 community and environmental groups challenging the federal agency’s behind-closed-doors decision, giving  U.S. refineries free passes to ignore pollution limits and release uncontrolled amounts of toxic chemicals in certain instances.

What: EPA Hearing with public testimony on national air toxics standards for refineries, last-minute exemptions, and the need for communities to have the full protection from the Clean Air Act every day, not just sometimes.

When: November 17, from 2:00 – 8:00pm (Central time). Speakers may come any time.


Hartman Community Center

9311 East Ave. P.

Houston, TX 77012



Last December, after decades of inaction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally released important new air standards, tightening restrictions on the toxic pollution oil refineries can emit. The rules for the first time required over 140 refineries in the U.S. to monitor and report levels of benzene, a cancer-causing compound, at the boundaries of their properties and to cut emissions if they are too high. The rules targeted all oil refineries across the nation that are major air toxics sources, strengthening standards on emission sources like storage tanks, coker units, and flares, which burn off excess gases, but unfortunately the agency left key parts of its job undone by creating loopholes to several of these requirements at industry’s request and not taking further actions to assure communities are not exposed to unacceptable and unfair health risks .

After the public comment period closed, EPA created dangerous new exemptions from pollution limits during periods of upset or malfunction when refineries can release large amounts of toxic air pollution during short periods of time through pressure relief devices and smoking flares, and threatening the health and safety of communities nearby. EPA created these malfunction exemptions allowing refineries to release unlimited air pollution, without public notice or comment, a gift to the oil industry, meaning that refineries have a free pass to pollute uncontrollably at least once (and possibly twice) every three years for each affected unit, which could result in hundreds of free passes to pollute.

On Feb. 1, 2016 community and environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project, filed an agency petition  urging the EPA to take formal reconsideration action to remove the exemptions in the final rule that were added after the comment period closed.  A hearing on the petition was granted November 3 and EPA is taking comment on reconsideration through Dec. 19, to decide whether it should remove the loopholes in the health protections and whether the agency should ensure that fenceline monitoring applies at all times at all refineries.

Contact: Keith Rushing, Earthjustice, krushing@earthjustice.org; (202) 797-5236; (757) 897-2147; Emma Cheuse, Earthjustice,echeuse@earthjustice.org, (202) 745-5220;

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (Salt Lake City, UT), Denni Cawley, (385)707-3677, dcawleyuphe@gmail.com;

Juan Parras, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, (281) 513-7799, parras.juan@gmail.com;

Adrian Shelley or Brian Butler, Air Alliance Houston, (713) 702-8063, Adrian@airalliancehouston.org

Sparsh Khandeshi or Gabriel Clark-Leach, Environmental Integrity Project, (202) 263-4446, skhandeshi@environmentalintegrity.org;

Neil Carman, Sierra Club, 512-288-5772, neil.carman@sierraclub.org

Coalition For A Safe Environment (Wilmington, CA), Jesse Marquez, (310) 704-1265

Del Amo Action Committee (Torrance, CA), Cynthia Babich, (310) 769-4813

Louisiana Bucket Brigade (New Orleans), Anne Rolfes, (504) 484-3433


EPA Website on the reconsideration proceeding:


Community Groups’ Lawsuit and Full Reconsideration Petition for EPA to Strengthen Standards:


Community Groups’ Intervention Opposing Industry’s Lawsuit:



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