Watchdog calls for more EPA enforcement on cancer-causing benzene

Oil refineries have been releasing unsafe levels of cancer-causing benzene, says a new report calling for more action from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

© AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The EPA’s office of the inspector general said this week that out of 25 refineries that had an instance of excess benzene levels, 18 later emitted the chemical at unsafe levels. 


The report looked at a period from January 2018 to September 2021.


It particularly pointed to refineries in Pennsylvania and Texas that emitted unsafe levels of benzene during 23 separate two-week sampling periods and 11 separate two-week sampling periods, respectively.


Eric Schaeffer, former director of the EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement, described benzene emissions at this level as “posing a significant risk to people downwind.”


The watchdog report called on the EPA to “enhance oversight” of the refineries and said that the oversight that was being provided “has not always been sufficient.” 


The EPA has classified benzene — which can come from burning coal and oil— as a known human carcinogen.


Read more in a full report at

Welcome to The Hill’s Energy & Environment newsletter, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk — keeping you up to speed on the policies impacting everything from oil and gas to new supply chains.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top