The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a new Chevron fuel ingredient for boat engines, despite its own risk assessment indicating that the substance carries a lifetime cancer risk millions of times higher than what the agency normally accepts. The agency gave Chevron permission to produce the ingredient at its Mississippi refinery without mandating any significant safeguards, besides requiring workers to wear gloves. The ingredient, made from discarded plastic, presents an unprecedented risk level, potentially causing cancer in every person exposed to it over a lifetime. Six environmental organizations are challenging the agency’s decision and have urged the EPA to withdraw the consent order approving the fuels.
- Approval Despite High Cancer Risk: The EPA approved the boat fuel ingredient despite an identified lifetime cancer risk of 1.3 in 1. This risk is a million times higher than what the agency usually considers acceptable and six times worse than the risk of lung cancer from a lifetime of smoking.
- No Risk Reduction Measures: Though the EPA is required by law to reduce risk if a substance causes unreasonable health or environmental harm, it did not do so in this case. Only minimal safety measures were implemented, and the agency stated that it had significantly overestimated the cancer risks.
- Chevron’s New Fuel Products: The recent approval is not the first time Chevron’s plastic-based fuels have posed serious risks. Earlier this year, the risks of other Chevron fuels were reported, including a jet fuel with a 1 in 4 lifetime cancer risk. The new ingredient has a far higher risk that was not included in the consent order.
- Mistakes and Challenges: The EPA acknowledged it had made a mistake by not including the high-risk figures in the consent order and mislabeling information about harmful emissions. Six environmental organizations have challenged the agency’s characterization of the cancer risks and are urging the EPA to withdraw the consent order.
- Concerns from Experienced Scientists: Maria Doa, a scientist who worked at the EPA for 30 years, expressed shock at the unprecedented risk level, indicating that the figures were “ridiculously high.” The decision to approve the ingredient and the handling of risk assessments raised questions and criticism, casting doubt on the agency’s integrity and decision-making process.