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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to change the toxic emissions standards for oil refineries, a set of rules that have not been updated for nearly 20 years. New regulations should be finalized by the end of next year, so that the federal agency will be able to settle a lawsuit brought by environmental organizations over the delay in implementation of revised rules.

The draft regulation should be ready by Feb. 14, the EPA said, adding that the deadline for finalizing the rules was Dec. 19, 2014. By February the agency will also decide whether it will have to set up residual risk standards for oil refineries under the Clean Air Act.

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The EPA stated that the actions were part of a consent decree to settle the lawsuit filed in September 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Air Alliance Houston, California Communities Against Toxics and the Environmental Integrity Project, among others. These groups accused the agency of failing to update the toxic emissions standards, thus putting public health at risk. The consent decree is open to public comment over a period of 30 days.

Air Alliance Houston claimed that toxic chemicals released by oil refineries, such as benzene, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides, trigger the development of different types of cancer, asthma and other diseases.

The EPA was supposed to finalize greenhouse gas regulations on oil refineries in November last year under another settlement with several states and local governments but it missed that deadline, Platts pointed out.