Earthjustice submitted comments Monday on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global warming, from petroleum refineries.
Oil refineries pumped more than 250 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air in 2004 and, along with chemical plants, constitute the second greatest stationary source of greenhouse gases.
“Petroleum refineries are one of the major sources of greenhouse gases, and the time has come to use available technology to reduce these emissions,” said David Bookbinder, Senior Sierra Club Attorney.
In April, environmentalists won a major victory when the Supreme Court gave the EPA euthority to regulate greenhouse gases from cars and trucks. Earthjustice played a key role in this litigation, arguing at the appeals court that the EPA must reduce harmful global warming pollutants. Following that landmark decision, Earthjustice and a wide coalition of environmental groups are now pushing similar standards for industrial sources like refineries and power plants.
“The Supreme Court decision paved the way for broader regulation of carbon emissions,” said Timothy Ballo, attorney with Earthjustice. “With the law on our side, we’re systematically pursuing each major source of greenhouse gases.”
Left unregulated, carbon dioxide emissions from oil refineries are projected to increase rapidly in coming years, at nearly double the predicted rate of emissions growth from other sources. According to estimates from the Department of Energy, annual carbon emissions from petroleum refineries will increase to more than 415 million tons by 2030.
“We’re facing our biggest environmental challenge in global warming, and allowing an entire industry to remain unchecked in their greenhouse gas emissions just doesn’t make sense,” Ballo added.
No federal standards currently limit carbon dioxide emissions from petroleum refineries. But the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to periodically review its emissions standards for each industry that significantly contributes to air pollution and to update those standards to keep pace with scientific and technological advances. Monday’s comments from Earthjustice were submitted on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project as part of that periodic review process, and reflect the clear directive from the Supreme Court that the EPA has the authority and the responsibility to regulate carbon dioxide.
Earthjustice attorneys are recommending that the EPA impose measures that improve efficiency at oil refineries, a way to significantly reduce carbon dioxide pollution from these sources.
“Rising gasoline prices have resulted in record profits for refiners, who are responding by increasing production and expanding their refineries, which means even more greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ben Wakefield, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “The EPA must monitor and limit these growing emissions.”
In addition to pursuing standards for petroleum refineries, Earthjustice has been fighting to limit carbon emissions from power plants, the single greatest stationary source of greenhouse gases in the United States.
Read the complete document submitted to the EPA here.