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The Air I Breath: The Significance of EPA’s Challenge to BP’s Air Permit

As you can see I have been a skeptic of the EPA”s recent challenge to BP’s air permit.

<fb comment> a small victory. The EPA has order Indiana to rewrite the permit, essentially discrediting Indiana’s ability to manage their environmental resources. All I see this doing is fortifying a poorly written permit against future disputes. In the end BP is the beneficiary of the action</fb comment>

Noah Hall, author of the Great Lakes Law blog is beginning to clear me of my skepticism.

via [ Great Lakes Law ]

Tar sands oil gives coal some competition for the title of dirtiest fuel.  From mining to refining to burning, tar sands oil is an environmental disaster.  The Great Lakes is becoming a center for refining imported tar sands oil, which comes from western Canada.  As a result, refinery pollution is threatening our water and our communities.  BP’s Whiting Refinery on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana has become a focal point in the legal fight to stop tar sands pollution in the region.  Environmental groups scored a victory earlier this month when the EPA objected to an Indiana permit for air pollution from the refinery.  Meleah Geertsma, an attorney and public health expert with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, was involved in the fight against the air pollution from the tar sands refinery, and wrote this guest post on the victory and what it means in the fight against tar sands pollution in the Great Lakes.

On October 16, in a move that could significantly improve air quality for the Great Lakes region, the U.S. EPA sent a clear message to the oil industry that the federal agency is serious about air pollution from refining – especially the processing of dirty Canadian tar sands crude. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on that day issued an order objecting to a permit granted by Indiana to BP’s Whiting Refinery, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. At the heart of Administrator Jackson’s order is a concern that numerous potential sources of air pollution are going uncounted and uncontrolled. And that the industry is ignoring or downplaying the air pollution impacts of processing the much heavier, dirtier Canadian tar sands crude, a crude that contains high levels of sulfur and toxic metals.

The BP operating permit was issued to enable a significant increase in the processing of heavy tar sands crude at BP’s Whiting, Indiana facility. However, the permit allowed BP to expand without installing so-called “best available control technology,” on the premise that increases in air pollution from the expansion would be balanced by decreases in pollution from the existing refinery. Such a trade-off of increases and decreases is referred to in air permitting as “netting.”

In response, several environmental groups and individual citizens filed a petition with U.S. EPA, asking the agency to object due to BP’s and the agency’s failure to count numerous potential sources of increased air pollution. Among these sources are increased operations of certain equipment needed to process larger amounts of Canadian crude, as well as greater levels of sulfur and toxics in the crude itself.

Great Lakes Law: Environmental groups and EPA step up the fight against tar sands oil refinery pollution in the Great Lakes.

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