Valero fined $183,000 for 2010 incidents

Repost from The Contra Costa Times
[Editor: These fines are for violations in 2010.  In October of 2013, Valero agreed to pay $300,300 in fines for violations occurring in 2011 and 2012 (see SFGate story, Benicia Herald story).  At that time, Mayor Patterson and I asked the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (independently) to consider making the fines available to the local setting where the violations occurred, a practice not without precedent.  I never a definitive answer on my request from Eric Stevenson, the District’s Director of Technical  Serevices.  He did inform me in November 2013 that the District had scheduled a meeting with Mayor Patterson to discuss this request.  I wonder what happened?  It makes sense to me that the City of Benicia could finance better air monitoring using these funds.  – RS]

Benicia refinery hit with $183,000 fine for air quality violations

(Vallejo) Times-Herald   03/28/2014 04:56:30 PM PDT

BENICIA — Valero has agreed to pay $183,000 to settle air quality violations at its Benicia refinery, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced Friday.

The civil penalty covers seven notices of violation that the air district issued to Valero in 2011 for incidents that occurred in 2010, according to an air district news release.

The violations were related to a December 2010 upset of Valero’s fluid catalytic cracking unit, which converts heavy gas oils into gasoline and other lighter compounds. The upset resulted in intermittent violations of opacity and particulate standards at Valero’s main stack over a 10-day period, as well as violations of carbon monoxide and sulfur standards at other affected equipment, the district said.

All settlement funds will be used to fund air district activities such as the inspection and enforcement activities that led to the settlement.

    Setback on new federal regulations governing oil by rail

    Repost from DeSmogBlog

    Feds Weaken New Oil-By-Rail Safety Regulations Days After Announcing Them

    Nine days after announcing new regulations designed to improve oil-by-rail safety, the Department of Transportation quietly weakened the rules for testing rail cars and exempted shippers of bitumen from having to…

      Environmental groups sue Bay Area Air Quality Management District

      Repost from KPIX 5, CBS SF Bay Area

      Lawsuit Filed Over Fracked Oil Trains In The Bay Area After KPIX 5 Report

      March 28, 2014


      RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — Two weeks ago, KPIX 5 discovered trains carrying explosive fracked crude oil have been rolling into the Bay Area under everyone’s radar. On Thursday, four environmental groups have filed a lawsuit over it, calling the crude by rail terminal illegal.

      Earthjustice attorney Suma Peesapati had no idea the long trains were coming into the Bay Area until she saw KPIX 5’s story.

      “I was flabbergasted,” Peesapati said. “This just happened under the cover of night.”

      Fracked crude oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota can result in deadly explosions in a derailment. Yet we discovered the energy company Kinder Morgan started bringing 100-car trains loaded with the oil right into the heart of Richmond six months ago, all without having to go through any environmental review.

      “We can’t hold up their permit because there is public opposition. As long as somebody doesn’t increase their emissions, we give them a permit,” Jim Karas of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District told KPIX 5.

      Karas said since the rail yard was previously unloading ethanol trains, switching to fracked crude oil was no big deal. “Very small deal, very well controlled, very few emissions,” he said.

      According to permit documents obtained by KPIX 5, Kinder Morgan claimed the operation “will not increase emissions beyond currently permitted levels”, and requested that the air district treat it “as an alteration, not a modification”.

      “This hardly a minor alteration. I mean this fundamentally changes the nature of the operation and the environmental impacts,” said Peesapati.

      Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of 4 environmental groups: Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

      The complaint claims the Air District’s “clandestine approval” of the project “ignores the well-known and potentially catastrophic risk to public health and safety.”

      “These trains are rolling and they pose an immediate threat to the local community,” said Peesapati.

      “It’s really a slap in the face against the people of Richmond,” said Andres Soto with Communities for a Better Environment. He hopes the courts will take action quickly. And not just because of the danger of explosions.

      “There’s a number of chemicals that are constituents in this crude oil that are carcinogenic,” he said.

      Adding to the risk, Soto said the tanker trucks that deliver the crude to local refineries. “It’s going to take three trucks to unload one train car and that is an extreme expansion of the number of trips by diesel trucks on our city streets and on our state highways.”

      KPIX 5 reached out to Kinder Morgan and the Air District Thursday night. Both said they don’t comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit calls on the Air District to pull Kinder Morgan’s permit, and asks the judge to issue an injunction that would shut down the terminal until a full environmental impact report is completed.

        For safe and healthy communities…