The EPA and Oil Refineries
Fort Worth Star-Telegram; July 17-19
Though Texas' refineries are concentrated along the Gulf Coast, hundreds of miles away from Fort Worth, the Star-Telegram's Jeff Claassen and Scott Streater, collaborating with Seth Borenstein of Knight-Ridder's Washington bureau, undertook a three-month investigation of environmental enforcement at the gasoline-producing plants. They concluded that since President Bush took office, federal and state authorities "have sharply cut back on clean-air enforcement at many of the nation's 145 oil refineries." Comprehensive air inspections at refineries are down 52 percent since 2001, compared to a 4 percent decline for all industries, they discovered. Meanwhile, violation notices, down 24 percent for all industries, have plummeted 68 percent at refineries. A senior environmental official in the first Bush administration told the reporters the data were a "stunning" indication that the current administration is not "bringing the oil industry to heel." But a current official said the federal government is forcing refineries to clean up their act by means other than traditional enforcement tools.