After i moved with my family from California to Utah 9 years ago, I used to be stunned by the horrible air high quality in this otherwise gorgeous mountain state. Day after day, throughout that first winter, we had been smothered in a breath-taking blanket of smog. Back then, I knew little about how air pollution impacted our well being, however as a mother, I instinctively felt air this dirty may solely be harmful to my two young daughters. I had the sensation I used to be locking my two daughters in a windowless room full of chain smokers.
Quickly after, a new group called Utah Physicians for a Wholesome Setting held a press conference confirming that this air pollution was making our youngsters sick. Breathing Salt Lake Metropolis’s dirty air during a 24-hour winter inversion is just about the identical as smoking half a pack of cigarettes. Our our bodies really have no idea the distinction.
The image of my child with a cigarette dangling from her toothless mouth was sufficient to move me to motion. I emailed about a hundred fellow Utah mothers, inviting them to a brand new group called Utah Mothers for Clean Air, and the group was born.
Regardless of our efforts to make change happen, fixing the air pollution downside is a herculean job. For instance, in Salt Lake and Davis counties, that are home to 5 refineries, it’s common to be greeted every morning by the stench of rotten eggs, the sulfuric scent of toxins within the air. When we smell this noxious scent, we know that one thing has gone terribly incorrect.
On other days, a storage tank might blow up and splatter the neighborhood playgrounds, gardens, lawns and rooftops with sticky, black goo.
Typically, we come dwelling from work to find flames ominously lighting up the evening sky from a smokestack gone rogue. And when that occurs, it is anybody’s guess when these flames can be brought back underneath management.
With government oversight and many years of environmental rule making, one would think such incidents would be rare, but records show that leaks, spills, fires, explosions and other pollution violations occur, on average, each nine days on the five refineries close to my residence. The tank explosion was only one of one hundred fifty toxic incidents on the HollyFrontier refinery since 2003. Altogether, since 2000, 519 environmental incidents have been linked to the 5 refineries close to my neighborhood.
Of course, to be honest, oil refineries function in keeping with plan much of the time too. Nonetheless, even once they perform as permitted, they nonetheless spew tons of hazardous pollution every year, thus rising the most cancers danger for hundreds of thousands of People.
In Utah alone, air pollution prematurely claims the lives of between 1,000 and a couple of,000 people yearly. Oil refineries are obviously not accountable for all of Utah’s air pollution, however they pump a few of the worst gunk into our air corresponding to benzene, risky natural compounds and other hazardous air pollutants which can be linked to most cancers, neurological hurt and respiratory problems. My very own brother-in-legislation just passed away from lung disease — and he by no means smoked.
The toxic soup spewed by oil refineries is, after all, not limited to Utah. Millions of Americans across 32 states are additionally exposed to such hazardous pollutants. Approximately a hundred and fifty refineries pump over 20,000 tons of poison into our air every year. And they do most of this legally.
Previously, the hurt these pollutants imposed on people was little understood and thus, industry and authorities can be forgiven for not duly protecting the public. But now, the dangers are understood enough to ask the question: Is it not morally fallacious to knowingly impose harm on innocent others, especially within the title of profit?
Allow us to be perfectly clear right here. Oil refineries can do extra — much more — to mitigate the hurt they impose on the Refinery Equipment manufacture general public. Higher pollution control expertise is offered. However they choose not to make use of it. Why? As a result of it’s in their financial self-curiosity to externalize as many of their costs of doing enterprise onto the native communities and ecosystems as they can, and for as long as they’re legally allowed to take action. Doing so permits them to keep away from paying the true costs of doing their enterprise and thus enhance their bottom line — however on the expense of others.
Lastly, after years of communities demanding stronger regulation and a lawsuit that charged the federal authorities with violating the Clean Air Act for not updating air pollution standards, the EPA proposed a brand new rule in Could that might significantly reduce hazardous air pollution.
The rule might be stronger but it does require fence-line monitoring for the primary time, so the general public and regulatory agencies can know what’s being emitted from refineries at the edge of refineries’ property where pollution goes directly into communities. And it tightens up emissions requirements in a lot of different essential methods. It could result in a reduction of 5,600 tons of hazardous air pollution, annually, decreasing the most cancers risk from this pollution.
The American Petroleum Institute, the main organization that lobbies for the gas and oil trade, has balked at the prices of the proposed rule and questioned the environmental benefits. But an EPA analysis concluded that the increase in costs for petroleum products that would outcome from the proposed rule is negligible.
For me, the argument about whether or not we should go forward with a proposal to remove tons of hazardous air and carcinogens from the air is a no-brainer. From the position of mom, citizen and consumer, I believe we should do all we can to save lives, as it is the morally proper factor to do.
This refineries’ rule can nonetheless be weakened by strain from the oil foyer and when it’s reviewed by the Workplace of Management and Budget, so we need the general public to reach out to the EPA during the current 60-day public comment period and demand that we have stronger environmental safety by the point the rule is finalized subsequent April. Respiratory clear air is a birthright — and now is the time to demand that right.
This blog put up is a part of a collection produced by The Huffington Put up and Earthjustice on air pollution from oil refineries. The sequence coincides with the start of the 60-day comment interval following the EPA’s new proposed laws to curb such pollution, which is opposed by oil refineries. For more details about the fitting to breathe campaign, click right here.
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