EPA Goes Easy on Oil Refineries

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is running an investigatory series (remember investigatory journalism?) on the EPA and its relationship to the nation’s 145 oil refineries. During the Bush administration, there’s been a precipitous drop in clean-air enforcement actions against refineries, which are some of the nation’s top polluters. They spew a lethal cocktail of chemicals with disastrous respiratory and cardiovascular consequences, often in predominately poor areas. Under the guise of taking a less “adversarial” approach, the EPA has reduced the number of enforcement personnel, and comprehensive clean-air inspections are down 52 percent since 2001. So-called “fugitive” emissions — resulting from leaks, equipment breakdowns, or accidents — are virtually unregulated and have been increasing steadily at the few refineries that have been tested. In many cases, refineries self-report their emissions, with reams of data that understaffed agencies rarely have time to analyze. It’s a grim but important set of stories — read them.