The Environmental Protection Agency released new rules Tuesday requiring better monitoring and control of air emissions from oil refineries, including five operating in Washington.
Refineries are being targeted by the new rules in part because they emit volatile organic chemicals, greenhouse gases and the carcinogenic compound benzene.
Officials behind the new rules said they will improve the health of the 6 million Americans who live within 3 miles of a refinery. The EPA's assistant administrator, Janet McCabe, said this will be especially beneficial for people of color, who are nearly twice as likely to live near a refinery.
"They see the emissions and we worked with them to build requirements into this rule that will give them some peace of mind," she said. "And we know that when you pay more attention to your emissions you’re more inclined to reduce them."
Washington's refineries operate in Tacoma, Anacortes, Ferndale and at Cherry Point.
Under the new rule, companies will be required to monitor benzene emissions surrounding their refineries. The EPA will make the data available to the public.
Refineries will also need to reduce emissions from flaring and use upgraded technology to limit air pollution.
The EPA said the rule will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more 600,000 tons.
The American Petroleum Institute said the new requirements could cost up to a billion dollars to implement and that air emissions from refineries are already at safe levels.