EPA rules extend to pesticides, petroleum

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 12:46 AM
A gas flare burns near an oil facility outside Williston, North Dakota. The Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations this week with regard to pesticides and curbing emissions from petroleum refineries.

DENVER – The Environmental Protection Agency continued with new regulations this week, this time centered around protecting farmworkers from pesticides and curbing emissions from petroleum refineries.

The announcements on Monday and Tuesday come after rule-making by the EPA for other environmental issues, including controlling carbon pollution, regulating small bodies of water and limiting methane and ozone pollution.

Most of the rule-making impacts rural communities.

The new pesticide standards could have the largest impact on agricultural activity. The farmworker-protection rules require annual safety training and prohibits children younger than 18 from handling pesticides. The last rules on the subject have been in place since 1992.

The rules stopped short of requiring regular medical monitoring of workers who apply pesticides. Small-scale farmers also caught a break, as the rules would not apply to them and their immediate families.

The new rules would go into effect 14 months after the agencies post in the Federal Register, which is expected in the next 60 days.

On Tuesday, the EPA announced updated air-pollution standards for petroleum refineries. The rule requires refineries to monitor concentrations of benzene, a chemical that has been linked to cancer and respiratory problems. It also requires refineries to control equipment and operations, including flares, pressure-relief devices and storage tanks. The rule would be implemented in 2018.

It requires refiners to reduce toxic air pollutants by 5,200 tons and cut 50,000 tons of volatile organic compounds from the air every year.

Meanwhile, the EPA also is set to release new ozone standards by Thursday. The agency proposed strengthening the current standard on ozone from 75 parts per billion to 65 or 70 parts per billion.

Concerns already have been raised in Colorado, where much of the Denver area and Western Slope has been in violation of current standards, raising questions as to how the state would comply with more stringent standards.

EPA rule-making has kicked into high gear in recent months, stemming from President Barack Obama’s quest to curb climate change. Last week in Denver, the EPA took feedback on new methane rules, with the goal of cutting emissions from the oil-and-gas sector by at least 40 percent from 2012 levels. The anticipated deadline for the reduction is 2025.

As for carbon emissions, the EPA is requiring Colorado cut emissions by 28 percent and 32 percent nationally by 2030.

And new EPA rules to protect smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands took effect last month in some states. A court ruling blocked the measure in 13 central and Western states, including Colorado.