With the 2012 presidential election looming, the White House seems to be postponing many of the hard decision in its environmental policy.
After delaying an EPA rule on ground-level ozone emissions from power stations in early September, and then delaying a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline this November, EPA said on Monday it will delay a mid-December deadline for greenhouse gas emissions rules on oil refineries.
“EPA expects to need more time to complete work on greenhouse gas pollution standards for oil refineries, and is working with the litigants to develop a new schedule to replace the current date of mid-December for a rule proposal,” the EPA said in a statement.
American oil refineries are large scale industrial plants that usually run run continuously, processing crude oil into mostly gasoline and diesel. The chemical refining process can produce substantial carbon emissions, which has led various environmental groups to pressure the EPA for tighter standards on the refineries.
Earlier this month, the EPA did pass a tighter greenhouse gas emissions rule on both new and reconstructed power plants, a decision the Natural Resources Defense Council applauded at the time. But the NRDC said it was disappointed with EPA’s Monday’s announcement.
“The refinery sector is a major source of greenhouse gas pollution and there are cost-effective techniques available to reduce that pollution. That is why we brought suit against EPA to carry out its duties to address this pollution. We are disappointed to learn that the agency expects not to meet the schedule negotiated to remedy this situation. We will be discussing this with the government and deciding on the best course of action,” said NRDC’s Director of Climate Programs David Hawkins in a statement.
But the oil industry and many Republicans, as well as some Democrats in Congress, have been vocally opposed to the regulations, saying they will further hurt an industry that is already struggling to create jobs in a weakened economy. They were joined in hailing the delay by industry representatives encouraging further study.
“We welcome the news that EPA will allow itself more time to analyze industry data before proposing the unprecedented and enormously complex greenhouse gas rules for refineries,” said American Petroleum Institute Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Howard Feldman. “EPA’s application of the Clean Air Act in a way that was never intended by Congress threatens to unnecessarily raise the cost of producing America’s energy at a time when the administration should be focused on job creation and economic recovery.”
Photo Caption: View of one of the plants where oil is precessed at Mexican state-owned petroleum company PEMEX refinery in Tula, Hidalgo state, Mexico on March 8, 2011.