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City petitions EPA for tougher pollution counting


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Posted Friday, July 11, 2008 at 1:14 PM

City of Houston Petitions EPA for More Accurate Emissions Assessments to End “Undercounting” of Hazardous Air Pollutants

Mayor Bill White today announced that the City of Houston is filing a petition to change the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates hazardous emissions from petrochemical and refining plants. The current system relies on formulas, equations and assumptions, known as “emission factors,” which have been proven by direct observations of facilities to be inaccurate, unreliable and biased toward undercounting.

The City is filing a formal “Request for Correction of Information” because it does not believe the current system meets the legal standards under the federal Data Quality Act and EPA’s Information Quality Guidelines. Scientific studies have confirmed that actual emissions from petroleum refineries and chemical manufacturing plants can be 100 times greater than the EPA’s estimations.

The City’s official petition to the EPA notes that direct observations at a number of facilities in the Houston area over a several year period have shown that undercounting occurs in reports for emission of both volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”) and hazardous air pollutants (“HAPs”), such as benzene, a known carcinogen.

“We have the responsibility of reducing these hazardous compounds in our air and holding emitters accountable,” said Mayor White. “We have got to have accurate data to accomplish that. It can be done. The technologies exist, are in use and they are affordable.”

Specifically, the City is requesting the EPA to take the following actions:

Expeditiously revise the emission factors based upon accurate data, including direct observation.
Require the use annually of direct observation through affordable and available technologies and the use of fence-line monitoring to confirm reported emissions at the largest facilities.
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Require the use of direct observation for facilities undergoing modifications to document emissions reductions, for those that wish to avoid installing pollution control technologies required under the Clean Air Act.

The petition also cites some of the EPA’s own documents which show it continues to use the erroneous emission factors even though it has acknowledged their inaccuracy and unreliability on several occasions. This leads to inaccurate emission inventories, which are relied upon by policy-makers to develop laws, rules and programs to protect public health, says the filing.

To view the petition online, visit http://www.greenhous...ov/reports.html.