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BP seeks air pollution exemption for Whiting refinery

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WHITING, Ind. (AP) An exemption from clean air rules would allow BP PLC to emit more pollution from its oil refinery along Lake Michigan than normally permitted.

The company has asked the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for permission to emit more particulate matter, which forms when gases burnt in stacks are released into the atmosphere, cool down and condense.

The reason for the request is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revised its estimates of how much particulate matter is emitted from gas. The estimates are twice as high as they used to be, which means that BP would have to reduce its emissions by about 50 percent to comply with current limits.

Theres been no change in the emission that were talking about, BP spokesman Ron Rybarczyk said. This is a change in the way the emissions are calculated and the variances are made in accordance with that.

IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly issued an order approving the companys request, saying the additional emissions will not result in environmental harm to air quality in Lake County. The order takes effect Monday unless a petition for review is filed before then.

The order will allow certain refinery units to emit more than four times their current limit. Thats because theyre burning gas that was previously burnt at refinery units that have been shut down, Easterly said.

The company argued that compliance with these emission limits is neither technologically or economically feasible and would impose an extreme hardship on BP.

Easterly said natural gas is among the cleanest sources of energy, and that there is currently no technology available to further reduce the amount of particulate matter from burning gas.

The EPA says exposure to the tiny particles can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. At elevated levels, exposure can also cause conditions such as asthma and heart disease to become worse.


Posted 7/19/2007




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