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EPA Targets Oil Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said yesterday that roughly 80 percent of the nation's 152 refineries are violating pollution laws, and the agency is having trouble keeping up.

"Based on our investigations and our best estimates, we believe there is at least an 80 percent noncompliance among refineries," a high-level EPA official told Reuters. "We can't be everywhere. We need the resources and we need to determine which cases present the greatest risk."

The high rate of environmental violations among refineries is due primarily to oil companies neglecting a rule that requires them to report new sources of emissions at their plants that come during upgrades or expansions, Reuters reported.

The Bush energy plan unveiled last month a review of that rule, the New Source Review which was enacted in the 1970s, to determine how hard to crack down on the industry, already struggling to increase thin supplies and meet looming low sulfur regulations for gasoline and diesel.

Environmentalists have warned against a weakening of enforcement in favor of energy supplies, saying it is vital to keep curbs on an industry that represents one of the most significant sources of air pollution. U.S. refiners process roughly 16 million barrels of crude oil each day.

Ahead of the review, companies remain vulnerable to complaints by the EPA, agency sources said. Citgo Petroleum Corp., a leading U.S. gasoline refiner and marketer, said in April it faces "significant penalties" for failure to report new emissions at two of its refineries, the report said.
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