Skip to main content

Ending a Hazardous Waste Loophole for Oil Refineries

The Valero oil refinery in Port Arthur, TX.

The Valero oil refinery in Port Arthur, TX.

Eric Kayne / Earthjustice

What’s at Stake

A Bush-era industry favor allows the nation’s oil refineries to burn unlimited amounts of hazardous waste every year without meeting public health protections. Earthjustice is suing to force the EPA to close this insult-to-injury loophole.


One of the surest ways for polluters to maintain sky-high profits is to stay dirty, which is why oil refiners no doubt rejoiced when in 2008 the Bush administration exempted them from key provisions of the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This handout affords refineries great leniency in how they store and transport hazardous waste as well as the option to burn the hazardous wastes they generate onsite rather than disposing of them according to the law.

By exempting the burning of hazardous waste from Clean Air act and RCRA requirements enacted to control the resulting toxic emissions, EPA exposes people in neighboring communities to increased risk of brain damage, developmental problems, cancer and other serious illnesses.

Earthjustice is representing community groups that could be impacted by this exemption. Our lawsuit seeks to close the loophole and ensure that oil refineries follow the guidelines for disposing of hazardous substances that have been part of our nation’s laws for decades.

Case Updates

February 2, 2011 | Feature

A Success Story, with Many Chapters Still to Come

The Clean Air Act has substantially improved the lives of millions of Americans. Polluting industries have fought progress every step of the way. To protect your right to breathe, Earthjustice is working to ensure polluting industries don’t stand in the way of clean air protections.