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EPA HEARING IN GALENA PARK

SARA ZARATE, a resident of Galena Park, testifies to the EPA committee about the high incident of cancer cases on her street, near Industrial Street. She attributed the sickness to pollutants that come from adjacent refineries, and said that industry had an obligation to clean up the air, and to pay for medical bills for those who are sick in the community.
SARA ZARATE, a resident of Galena Park, testifies to the EPA committee about the high incident of cancer cases on her street, near Industrial Street. She attributed the sickness to pollutants that come from adjacent refineries, and said that industry had an obligation to clean up the air, and to pay for medical bills for those who are sick in the community.

Air Pollution testimony presents 2 sides

The U.S. EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, is planning to issue new guidelines for the 149 petroleum refineries in the country, to reduce pollution from emissions that affect surrounding neighborhoods.

EPA is holding two all-day hearings nationally, one in California and the other in Galena Park, Texas. This hearing took place at the Baggett Community Center on Tuesday of this week, and an EPA committee heard testimony from about 100 persons, that included Congressmen, industry spokespersons, environmental activists, and ordinary citizens that live near the refineries.

EPA director Fred Thompson told the audience that the proposed rules would add emission control requirements for storage tanks, flares and coking units. Also, the proposal would require monitoring of air concentrations at the fenceline of refineries, to test for toxic air pollutants such as benzene, toluene and xylene and volatile organic compounds that exceed health standards. The rules in particular are aimed at releases during SSMs, or startups, shutdowns, and malfunctions.

Speaking for industry interests were Congressmen Gene Green and Pete Olson, as well as representatives of industry organizations API and AFPM.

Green said that the new rules would burden industry with high costs and unnecessary reporting, and were redundant with current regulations.

Representing environmental groups that had sued EPA for stronger controls were speakers from Environmental Justice, Air Alliance, Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, Clean Air Council, and others. These groups represented local and national interests, and came from as far away as California, and as close as Galena Park.

Alex Cuclis, a refinery engineer now with HARC, or Houston Advanced Reseach Center, said that movable monitors show much higher pollution rates than fixed monitors, some as high as 15 times the EPA estimates.

Galena Park City Councilman Juan Flores said that the air seems cleaner now that many years ago, but high rates of cancer and other sicknesses in the Galena Park community continue to raise the question of what affect the air quality has on residents’ health.

The EPA is promulgating these new rules as a result of settling a lawsuit filed by environmentalist groups Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Project, charging that the agency had no effective rules to monitor or limit emissions.

The new rules will be finalized and adopted by next April 2015 according to Thompson.