Looking for Input: Displaying Data from Fenceline Monitors for Refinery Pollution

 

EPA’s standards will require air monitoring systems at the fenceline of petroleum refineries. The fenceline of a refinery is the perimeter or boundary of the plant. While some emission sources at refineries are well understood, there are many sources of emissions from the refinery that are not well understood, such as emissions from cracks in pipes, storage tanks, leaky equipment or faulty valves. Fenceline monitoring at refineries will help EPA better understand toxic air emissions.

EPA’s standards will require air monitoring systems at the fenceline of petroleum refineries. The fenceline of a refinery is the perimeter or boundary of the plant. While some emission sources at refineries are well understood, there are many sources of emissions from the refinery that are not well understood, such as emissions from cracks in pipes, storage tanks, leaky equipment or faulty valves. Fenceline monitoring at refineries will help EPA better understand toxic air emissions.

By Janet McCabe

Have you ever wondered what’s in the air you breathe? Is it clean? Is it dirty?

At EPA, we think about those questions all the time and we’ve made it our mission to improve the quality of the air we breathe in order to protect public health and the environment. We’ve worked for decades with states, local governments, tribes and other stakeholders to improve air monitoring technology to expand our monitoring networks and to update our regulations to ensure that they are protecting public health and the environment.

And that’s why I’m excited that this month we’re starting conversations with communities and other stakeholders with environmental justice concerns about the information we’re going to be getting from fenceline air toxic monitors at petroleum refineries.

During EPA’s public outreach on the 2015 petroleum refinery standards, we heard that communities wanted to know more about the emissions located in their neighborhoods. Taking this into account, EPA set a standard that will significantly improve air quality in neighborhoods near petroleum refineries because we now require fenceline monitoring of the toxic air pollutant benzene – a chemical that can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues and can increase the risk of developing cancer. This is the first time that a rule will require companies to provide data to the public about toxic air emissions at the fenceline.

The monitoring and data collection requirements are outlined in our 2015 rule, but right now we’re focused on finding the best way to share this data.

So, we want to hear from you!

We want to know what kind of information is most important to you; how can it be presented in a clear, understandable and useful way; and what other information will help you make best use of the data. We know that the easiest way to answer these questions is to talk to you—our potential users—before we even start.That’s why we’re starting this process.

Here are the basics:Industry_036

What: EPA standards for petroleum refineries require testing air at the fenceline for benzene. EPA will make the monitor locations and the associated data for benzene available on our website.

Why: Testing for benzene is a good way for refinery owners/operators to know if there are excess emissions they need to investigate. Because benzene is an indicator for other toxic chemicals, refinery owners/operators will have more readily available information about whether they need to take steps to reduce emissions to ensure they are complying with EPA’s rules regulating toxic air emissions.

Where: There are approximately 150 petroleum refineries in the United States, and many are located near communities, many are primarily low income and minority households. 

When: EPA’s rule requires that refineries begin air testing using reliable and accurate technology in 2018. EPA’s data system will begin receiving data in 2019. Once EPA receives the data, we will make it available to the public within 30 days.

To kick off the process of getting community input, EPA is holding webinars in June; the webinars will include an overview of the 2015 Refineries Rule, debut a draft web page design for sharing air toxics data from fenceline monitors, and give you an opportunity to provide feedback to EPA. Some of the questions we would like to discuss are:

  • What information needs to be included on the web page to understand the data?
  • What information and data on benzene do you want to see on the web page?
  • Do you have other ideas for sharing the information besides a web page?
  • What other information would be helpful for you?
  • Other EPA information about air toxics? Links to EPA environmental justice tools?
  • Is there other training or support that might be helpful?

Please Industry_028join us for the community webinar and share your ideas or listen to ideas from others. We will also be holding sessions for industry and for state, local and tribal agencies.

Join us for a presentation  

Webinar Details:

Organizations                      Dates/Times                                                

  • Communities                    June 22, 2016 @3:00-4:30pm EDT
    • Please call (800) 309-5450 and use 18500703 as the conference ID;
  • Industry                             June 21, 2016 @2:00-3:30pm EDT
    • Please call (800) 309-5450 and use 18500534 as the conference ID;
  • State/tribes/local             June 22, 2016 @1:00-2:30pm EDT
    • Please call (800) 309-5450 and use 18501701 as the conference ID.

Participants do not need to register for the webinar. To participate, at the time that corresponds with your type of organization, please click this meeting link: https://epawebconferencing.acms.com/fencelinedata

If you are unable to participate in the webinars, please visit the petroleum refinery website at https://www3.epa.gov/ttn/atw/petref.html to provide input. We will also post the presentation on June 21st.

You may send ideas about displaying refinery monitoring data to fencelineteam@epa.gov through July 31, 2016.

We look forward to hearing from you!

About the Author: Janet McCabe is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. Prior to joining EPA, McCabe was the Executive Director of Improving Kids’ Environment, Inc., a children’s environmental health advocacy organization, and was an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Public Health at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

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