Thursday, March 02, 2006

EPA cracks down on toxic pollution from oil refineries, but wants to permit more toxic pollution from ethanol refineries

No one in the media seems to have put this together yet, but yesterday the US EPA simultaneously proposed to crack down on emissions of toxic pollutants in gasoline, while simultaneously proposing to permit more toxic pollution from ethanol refineries. See stories below from AP.

This may be an indicator of the political pecking order. Ethanol has become a political sacred cow -- even when it could mean more pollution.

EPA plans cuts in benzene, other air toxics for cars, fuel, containers

Thursday, 02 March 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government wants better built fuel cans, cleaner-starting engines in cold temperatures and a nearly 40 percent cut in benzene in gasoline to cut air toxics associated with gasoline.

The new requirements would go into effect between 2009 and 2011 under a proposal Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency, making federal standards similar to California's evaporative emission standards for light-duty vehicles.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said that within the next two dozen years, air toxics such as benzene and other hydrocarbons would fall to 80 percent below 1999 emissions. That would be a direct result of the new proposal and the fuel and vehicle standards already in place.

``By cleaning up our fuels and vehicle exhaust, EPA is paving the road toward a cleaner environment and healthier drivers,'' he said.

The EPA plan would set new evaporative standards for fuel containers, beginning in 2009. It would require, starting in 2010, that passenger vehicles started up at cold temperatures emit fewer pollutants.

And, by 2011, the agency would require that all gasoline, which is now allowed to contain little more than 1 percent benzene, have only 0.62 percent or less benzene.

Traditional critics of Bush administration environmental policies were quick to praise the plan.

Frank O'Donnell, president of the Clean Air Watch advocacy group, called it ``a positive step toward reducing the cancer risk that Americans face from breathing chemicals in the air produced by cars, SUVs and pickup trucks.''

``It is not, however, a substitute for other needed pollution control measures, including steps _ and federal money _ to clean up existing diesel engines,'' he added.

Bill Becker, the executive director for the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials, said the plan was long overdue. EPA issued it to meet court-ordered deadlines in a lawsuit brought by two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in 2004.

``The proposal is a good first step in regulating benzene, a known carcinogen, and other important hazardous pollutants that are emitted from vehicles and fuels,'' he said. ``These pollutants show up in almost every major metropolitan area in the country in quantities that exceed safe levels.''

Congress required EPA in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act to issue mobile source air toxic regulations by 1995. The two environmental groups, represented by environmental law firm Earthjustice, won a court order in November 2005 forcing EPA to issue its proposal by the end of February and a final rule by 2007.

Requiring cleaner-burning gas and cars and tighter fuel containers will cost consumers an estimated $205 million at dealers' lots and other stores, though cost per vehicle is thought to be just $1 more and per gas can less than $2, EPA said.

But the agency estimates the annual health benefits from cutting fine particle pollution that causes respiratory and other illnesses will be $6 billion a year starting in 2030.

Existing fuel and vehicle standards that also are contributing to fewer emissions of benzene and other toxic air pollutants are EPA's latest tailpipe standards and cuts in emissions from diesel-burning cars, heavy trucks and off-road equipment.

Thursday, March 2, 2006
Story last updated at 12:30 AM on Mar. 2, 2006
EPA Proposes Allowing Ethanol Plants To Emit More PollutionBy: By MARY CLARE JALONICKAssociated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- In an attempt to increase domestic production of alternative fuel sources, the Bush administration has proposed allowing ethanol plants to send more hazardous air pollutants into the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it has proposed a rule that would raise the emissions threshold for corn milling plants that produce ethanol fuel, allowing those plants to emit up to 250 tons per year of air pollutants before triggering tougher restrictions on production.

Currently, corn milling plants can emit 100 tons of pollutants per year.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has been pushing the agency to make the change since last fall, noting that corn milling plants that produce ethanol products for human consumption had a higher emissions threshold than those that produce ethanol fuel.

The change, he says, will help the country navigate gasoline price spikes by producing more renewable energy.

The plants "are poised to produce ethanol at higher capacities, and farmers are prepared to grow and sell more corn," Thune said.

President Bush pushed increased production of renewable fuels in his State of the Union speech this year, urging Congress to spend federal dollars on ethanol research in order to free the country of its "addiction" to foreign oil.

Though environmentalists have generally supported increased use of ethanol and other renewable fuels, some point out that the EPA has settled several noncompliance cases with companies producing ethanol fuel. In several of the cases, the agency noted that the plants "burn off gases which emit volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide into the air."

Frank O'Donnell, director of the environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said the rule could "create a new problem by trying to solve an old problem."

"This appears to be an attempt to cut a break for some ethanol producers," he said. "My concern is that this could lead to more pollution in communities near the refineries."

The EPA will gather comments on the proposed rule for 60 days.


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