February 8, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
The Citgo Refinery of Lake Charles finds itself on an environmental group's top ten list tonight... Citgo is number ten on a list of oil refineries the group claims are ranked according to cancer causing air pollutants released in 2004. But Citgo officials dispute the report calling it bogus.
A Washington group called the Environmental Integrity Project has ranked oil refineries according to cancer causing pollutants released to the air and Lake Charles Citgo plant comes in 10th with 83,347 pounds of emissions. The report is based on 2004 Toxic Release Inventory Data. Eric Schaeffer who formerly headed EPA's office of regulatory enforcement says the numbers are a concern. "We hope that it will cause EPA's and the Louisiana state agency to pay some attention because you do have some pretty significant releases from Louisiana refineries."
Lake Charles environmental activist Jerome Ringo is in New Haven, Connecticut where he's guest lecturing at Yale. He too is concerned about the numbers."I think it's a legitimate concern that we have. We know that there are releases to the atmosphere. We just are not really clear how much. And any amount in my eyes is too much."
Citgo's Shawn Trahan declined to appear on camera but gave a statement saying the pounds released are directly related to the pounds produced. She says "Citgo the fourth largest refinery in the nation is number ten-- a testament to environmentally responsible operations." However, Schaeffer disagrees. " If you are breathing carcinogens and the facilities are emitting a lot it's not necessarily reassuring to hear, 'Don't worry, we're putting out a lot of chemicals that may cause cancer but that's just because we're really big." Trahan adds that Citgo's emissions have gone down by 17 per cent over the past five years.
To review the Environmental Integrity Project web site and report click here.
Citgo's entire statement is as follows:
* of the ten refineries listed, five are among the ten largest
refineries in the nation related to capacity, which is directly related to pounds of emissions.
* Citgo, the fourth largest refinery in the nation, is rated as
number ten-a testament to environmentally responsible operations.
* toxic release inventory emissions at Citgo Lake Charles have
actually been reduced by 17 percent in the last five years with
carcinogens representing a maximum of seven percent of the total
* Citgo continues to invest heavily in environmental projects,
totaling more than $218 million since 2004.
From A. Shawn Trahan, mgr. Govt. & Public affairs, Citgo Lake Charles
A spokesman for Louisiana DEQ relesed the following comments concerning the report from the Environmental Integrity Project. They are from Billy Eakin with the Lake Charles office of DEQ.
- I have not had a chance to review the subject report in detail, so it is somewhat premature for me to comment, to any extent, on it's contents,
- EPA's established the toxic's release inventory (tri) under the emergency planning and community right to know act. It is a database maintained by EPA's that contains information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities. There are reporting guidelines that have been established. More information is available on EPA's web site www.epa.gov/tri/
- refineries are sources of air pollution, as are chemical plants, utilities companies, and paper mills, among other facilities. They do release toxic air pollutants. Their emissions are limited by permits and we (deq) routinely conduct compliance evaluations to determine compliance with those limits,
- also, there have been major enforcement actions with most refineries via "consent decrees", and as a result we expect to see the continued decline in emissions due to the implementation of the requirements in the consent decrees,
- we (Louisiana) are currently in compliance with our state standard for benzene, which is a principle air toxic pollutant emitted from refineries, and
- thank you for inquiring about this - we are always happy to see reports that support advancing clean air and lower emissions.
ldeq - southwest regional office
1301 gadwall st.
Lake Charles, la 70615
As well Citgo sent us a response from a national industry group.
Sharon dey, 202.457.0480 Nicole Friedman, 202.457.0480
NPRA: EIP Report misleading, refiners reducing emissions
Washington, DC, February 8, 2007 - Charles T. Drevna, executive vice president of NPRA, theNational Petrochemical & Refiners Association, released the following statement regarding the environmental integrity project's report "refined hazard: carcinogenic air pollution from America's oil refineries."
"Today, the environmental integrity project (eip) released another report attacking the petroleum refining industry. The report simply correlates toxic release inventory (tri) information to existing petroleum refineries. Unfortunately, the report does not control for the significant shortcomings of the tri database, including its failure to weigh emissions according to actual risk. Emissions included in the tri are permitted releases which have a pre-determined level that does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment.
"Air toxics data, based on results collected from 300 monitoring sites, are available within the EPA's air trends reports and shows that 'nationwide air toxics emissions decreased by approximately 24%' from the baseline years (1990-1993). Thirty-three of these air toxics that pose the greatest threat to public health in urban areas have similarly decreased 31 percent." see http://www.epa.gov/airtrends/toxic.html.
"Specifically, EIP mentions benzene emissions. However, trends for benzene at 95 urban monitoring sites around the country show, on average, a 47% drop in benzene levels in recent years.
"Toxic emissions have declined in part because of actions taken by the refining industry. First, advanced technology and management systems at refineries and petrochemical facilities have lowered emissions. And second, the introduction of new refinery products -- namely cleaner gasolines -- has reduced the toxics profile of cars and trucks. These reductions will be even more pronounced when the phase ii mobile source air toxics rules are implemented over the next several years."
NPRA is a national trade association with more than 450 member companies, including virtually all U.S. Refiners and petrochemical manufacturers.