Tag Archives: Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition

FRACTRACKER ALLIANCE: Who Lives Near the Refineries?

Repost from FracTracker Alliance

Petrochemical Industry Presence in East Bay CA’s North Coast Refinery Corridor

Who Lives Near the Refineries?

By Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator & Kirk Jalbert, Manager of Community-Based Research & Engagement, March 30, 2016

Key Takeaways

  • Communities living along the North Coast of the East Bay region in California are the most impacted by the presence of the petrochemical industry in their communities.
  • Emissions from these facilities disproportionately degrade air quality in this corridor region putting residents at an elevated risk of cancer and other health impacts.
  • People of color are more likely to live near the refineries and are therefore disproportionately affected.

Refinery Corridor Introduction

The North Coast of California’s East Bay region hosts a variety of heavy industries, including petroleum refineries, multiple power plants and stations, chemical manufacturing plants, and hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. Nationwide, the majority of petroleum refineries are located in heavily industrialized areas or near crude oil sources. The north coast region is unique. Access to shipping channels and the location being central to the raw crude product from North Dakota and Canada to the North, and California’s central valley oil fields to the south has resulted in the development of a concentrated petrochemical infrastructure within the largely residential Bay Area. The region’s petrochemical development includes seven fossil fuel utility power stations that produce a total of 4,283 MW, five major oil refineries operated by Chevron, Phillips 66, Shell Martinez, Tesoro, and Valero, and 4 major chemical manufacturers operated by Shell, General Chemical, DOW, and Hasa Inc. This unequal presence has earned the region the title, “refinery corridor” as well as “sacrifice zone” as described by the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition.

The hazardous emissions from refineries and other industrial sites are known to degrade local air quality. It is therefore important to identify and characterize the communities that are affected, as well as identify where sensitive populations are located. The communities living near these facilities are therefore at an elevated risk of exposure to a variety of chemical emissions. In this particular North Coast region, the high density of these industrial point sources of air pollution drives the risk of resultant health impacts. According to the U.S.EPA, people of color are twice as likely to live near refineries throughout the U.S. This analysis by FracTracker will consider the community demographics and other sensitive receptors near refineries along the north coast corridor.

In the map below (Figure 1) U.S. EPA risk data in CalEnviroscreen is mapped for the region of concern. The map shows the risk resulting specifically from industrial point sources. Risk along the North Coast is elevated significantly. Risk factors calculated for the region show that these communities are elevated above the average. The locations of industrial sites are also mapped, with specific focus on the boundaries or fencelines of petrochemical sites. Additional hazardous sites that represent the industrial footprint in the region have been added to the map including sites registered with Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) permits as well as Superfund and other Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) sites. The Toxmap TRI sites are facilities that require a permit to emit hazardous air pollutants. The superfund and other CERCLA sites are locations where a historical footprint of industry has resulted in contamination. The sites are typically abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that are part of register for tax-funded clean-ups.

Figure 1. Interactive map of risk in the East Bay’s North Coast refinery corridor

View Map Fullscreen | How Our Maps Work

Oil refineries in particular are unique sources of air emissions. There are 150 large domestic refineries throughout the United States. They are shown in the map in Figure 2 below. The majority (90%) of the refined products from these refineries are fuels; motor vehicle gasoline accounts for 40%. The refinery sites have hundreds of stacks, or point sources, and they emit a wide variety of pollutants, as outlined by the U.S. EPA:

  • Criteria Air Pollutants (CAPs)
    • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
    • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
    • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
    • Particulate Matter (PM)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)
    • Carcinogens, including benzene, naphthalene, 1,3-butadiene, PAH
    • Non-carcinogenic HAP, including HF and HCN
    • Persistent bioaccumulative HAP, including mercury and nickel
  • Greenhouse Gases (GHG)
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

Figure 2. Map of North American Petroleum Refineries


View Map Fullscreen | How Our Maps Work

BAAQMD Emissions Index

Disparate health impacts are therefore a known burden for these Bay Area communities. The region includes the cities of Richmond, Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, Crockett, Port Costa, Benicia, Martinez, Mt. View, Pacheco, Vine Hill, Clyde, Concord, Bay Point, Antioch, and Oakley. In addition to preserving the ecological system health of this intercostal region is also important for both the ecological biodiversity of the marsh as well as commercial and recreational purposes. These wetlands provide a buffer, able to absorb rising waters and abate flooding.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMDCumulative Impacts report identified areas where air pollution’s health impacts are relatively high in the San Francisco Bay Area. The report is does not limit their analysis to the North Coast, but shows that these regions with the most impacts are also the most vulnerable due to income, education level, and race and ethnicity. The report shows that there is a clear correlation between socio-economic disadvantages and racial minorities and the impacted communities. Figure 3 shows the regions identified by the BAAQMD as having the highest pollution indices.

Analysis

This analysis by FracTracker focuses specifically on the north shore of the East Bay region. Like the BAAQMD report, National Air toxic Assessment (NATA) data to identify census tracts with elevated risk. Specifically, elevated cancer and non-cancer risk from point sources emitting hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) as regulated by the U.S. EPA were used. CalEnviroScreen 2.0 data layers were also incorporated, specifically the U.S. EPA’s Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) data. RSEI uses toxic release inventory (TRI) data, emission locations and weather to model how chemicals spread in the air (in 810m-square grid units), and combines air concentrations with toxicity factors.

The census tracts that were identified as disproportionately impacted by air quality are shown in the map below (Figure 4). The demographics data for these census tracts are presented in the tables below. Demographics were taken from the U.S. census bureau’s 2010 Census Summary File 1 Demographic Profile (DP1). The census tracts shapefiles were downloaded from here.

Figure 4. Interactive Map of Petrochemical Sites and Neighboring Communities in the East Bays North Coast Industrial Corridor

View Map Fullscreen | How Our Maps Work

Buffers were created at 1,000 ft; 2,000 ft; and 3,000 ft buffers from petrochemical sites. These distances were developed as part of a hazard screening protocol by researchers at the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to assess environmental justice impacts. The distances are based on environmental justice literature, ARB land use guidelines, and state data on environmental disamenities (Sadd et al. 2011). A demographical profile was summarized for the population living within a distance of 3,000 feet, and for the census tracts identified as impacted by local point sources in this region. The analysis is summarized in Table 1 below. Additional data on the socioeconomic status of the census tracts is found in Table 2.

Based on the increased percentage of minorities and indicators of economic hardship shows that the region within the buffers and the impacted census tracts host a disproportionate percentage of vulnerable populations. Of particular note is 30% increase in Non-white individuals compared to the rest of the state. We see in Table 2 that this is disparity is specifically for Black or African American communities, with an over 150% increase compared to the total state population. The number of households reported to be in poverty in the last 12 months of 2014 and those households receiving economic support via EBT are also elevated in this region. Additional GIS analysis shows that 7 healthcare facilities, 7 residential elderly care facilities, 32 licensed daycares, and 17 schools where a total of 10,474 students attended class in 2014. Of those students, 54.5% were Hispanic and over 84% identified as “Non-white.”

Table 1. Demographic Summaries of Race. Data within the 3,000 ft buffer of petrochemical sites was aggregated at the census block level.

Total Population Non-White Non-White (%ile)  Hispanic or Latino  Hispanic or Latino (%ile)
Impacted Census Tracts 387,446 212,307 0.548 138,660 0.358
3,000 ft. Buffer 77,345 41,696 0.539 30,335 0.392
State Total 37,253,956 0.424 0.376

Table 2. Additional Status Indicators taken from the 2010 census at the census tract level

Indicators (Census Tract data) Impacted Count Impacted Percentile State Percentile
Children, Age under 5 27,854 0.072 0.068
Black or African American 60,624 0.156 0.062
Food Stamps (households) 0.1103 0.0874
Poverty (households) 0.1523 0.1453

Conclusion

The results of the refinery corridor analysis show that the communities living along the North Coast of the East Bay region are the most impacted by the presence of the petrochemical industry in their communities. Emissions from these facilities disproportionately degrade air quality in this corridor region putting residents at an elevated risk of cancer and other health impacts. The communities in this region are a mix of urban and single family homes with residential land zoning bordering directly on heavy industry zoning and land use. The concentration of industry in this regions places an unfair burden on these communities. While all of California benefits from the use of fossil fuels for transportation and hydrocarbon products such as plastics, the residents in this region bear the burden of elevated cancer and non-cancer health impacts.

Additionally, the community profile is such that residents have a slightly elevated sensitivity when compared to the rest of the state. The proportion of the population that is made up of more sensitive receptors is slightly increased. The region has suburban population densities and more children under the age of 5 than average. The number of people of color living in these communities is elevated compared to background (all of California). The largest disparity is for Black or African American residents. There are also a large number of schools located within 3,000 ft of at least one petrochemical site, where over half the students are Hispanic and the vast majority are students of color. Overall, people of color are disproportionately affected by the presence of the petrochemical industry in this region. Continued operation and any increases in production of the refineries in the East Bay disproportionately impact the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

With this information, FracTracker will be elaborating on the work within these communities with additional analyses. Future work includes a more in depth look at emissions and drivers of risk on the region, mapping crude by rail terminals, and working with the community to investigate specific health endpoints. Check back soon.

References

  1. U.S.EPA. 2011. Addressing Air Emissions from the Petroleum REfinery Sector U.S. EPA. Accessed 3/15/16.
  2. Sadd et al. 2011. Playing It Safe: Assessing Cumulative Impact and Social Vulnerability through an Environmental Justice Screening Method in the South Coast Air Basin, California. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2011;8(5):1441-1459. doi:10.3390/ijerph8051441.

** Feature image of the Richmond Chevron Refinery courtesy of Paul Chinn | The Chronicle

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    Benicia Blocks Oil-By-Rail Plan

    Repost from the East Bay Express
    [Editor:  I am posting this excellent review by Jean Tepperman belatedly, with thanks for East Bay Express’ regional coverage of a Benicia story with huge regional and national implications.  I’ve not read a better review of the Feb. 8-11 Benicia Planning Commission hearings.  – RS]

    Benicia Blocks Oil-By-Rail Plan

    By Jean Tepperman, February 12, 2016
    Valero Refinery in Benicia. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
    Valero Refinery in Benicia. – WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

    The little town of Benicia is looking to become the next link in the chain barring crude oil from traveling by rail to the West Coast. After four evenings of contentious hearings, the Benicia Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously rejected Valero refinery’s proposal to build a rail spur that would allow it to import up to 70,000 barrels a day of “North American crude oil” — meaning extra-polluting crude from Canada’s tar sands and the highly explosive crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields. Both fossil fuels have been involved in numerous derailments, explosions, and fires, including a 2013 fire and explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec that killed 47 people.

    Starting on Monday, planning commissioners, led by Commissioner Steve Young, grilled staff members about their decision to recommend approval of the Valero project, identifying inconsistencies and pointing to problems that the project would create, from blocking traffic to increasing pollution to potential oil spills and other emergencies that the city would not be able to cope with. The central issue that emerged, however, was whether the city had the authority to make decisions about the project.

    The staff report actually said the benefits of the project did not outweigh the potential harm. Shipping crude oil by rail, the staff found, would have “significant and unavoidable” impacts on air quality, biological resources, and greenhouse gas emissions. These impacts would conflict with air quality planning goals and state goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the city can’t prevent any of this, the staff report said, because only the federal government has the authority to regulate railroads.

    Bradley Hogin, a lawyer whom the city hired on contract to advise on this project, said federal law prevents local governments from interfering with railroads, a principle referred to as “preemption.” According to the interpretation of “preemption” described by Hogin and city staff, local governments are not permitted to take actions that “have the effect of governing or managing rail transport,” even indirectly. And they are not allowed to make decisions about a project based on impacts of rail shipping connected with that project.

    “Hogin is making a case that would affect cities across the nation dealing with crude by rail,” said environmental activist Marilyn Bardet in an interview. “They were going to create a legal precedent on preemption here.”

    Bardet reported that public testimony by representatives of environmental organizations and “two young women from the Stanford-Mills Law Project made it clear that “there are many people who would disagree with Hogin’s interpretation.”

    Roger Lin, lawyer with Communities for a Better Environment, said in an email that, contrary to Hogin’s claims, the California Environmental Quality Act actually requires local governments to consider “indirect or secondary effects that are reasonably foreseeable and caused by a project, but occur at a different time or place.” Valero is not a railroad, he said, so the “preemption” doctrine does not bar the city from using its land-use power to reject the project.

    However “preemption” is interpreted, Bardet said, “the commissioners seemed uncomfortable with being told they would have to approve the project based on considerations they couldn’t accept.” Late in the hearing process, commission chair Donald Dean said, “I understand the preemption issue on a theoretical legal level, but I can’t understand this on a human level.”

    Bardet expressed appreciation for the commissioners’ concern. “My sense was that these guys are real human beings,” she said. “They all listened carefully. None of them was asleep.”

    Project opponents packed the hearing room for four straight nights, filling two overflow rooms on the first night. People came from “uprail” communities, including Davis and Sacramento, as well as allies from across the Bay Area, Bardet said.

    Opposition to the project has been led by a community group, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, formed in 2013 when the city seemed ready to approve the project without requiring any environmental impact study. “We joined with other refinery communities in the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition” and in a coalition working to persuade the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to pass tough new regulations on refinery pollution, Bardet said. She said support from the National Resources Defense Council and Communities for a Better Environment was also important. “The grassroots came alive together,” she said.

    Many of these organizations, like the Benicia group, are concerned, not only about the hazards of shipping crude by rail, but by the impact of refining the extra-polluting crude oil from Canada’s tar sands, Bardet said. She noted that the city’s environmental review of the project made no mention of this issue, although it is well established that refining dirty crude oil, like oil from tar sands, emits more health-harming pollution as well as more greenhouse gases.

    Valero is expected to appeal the planning commission decision to the city council, which could meet to decide on the issue as early as mid-March. “The city council is going to be hard-pressed to reject the views of their own planning commission,” Bardet said.

    She emphasized the significance of this decision for the national and international issue of shipping crude oil by rail. “The whole world is watching,” she said. “I just got a message from a guy in New Jersey congratulating us.”

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      Martinez News-Gazette: Hotly contested Valero crude-by-rail application denied by Benicia Commissioners

      Repost from the Martinez News-Gazette

      Hotly contested Valero crude-by-rail application denied by Benicia Commissioners

      By Joseph Bustos, February 21, 2016Martinez News-Gazette

      The Benicia Planning Commission rejected a permit application by the Valero Benicia Refinery on Thursday night that would have allowed the refinery to haul upwards of 70,000 barrels of crude oil on two 50 car trains along Union Pacific railroad tracks throughout various Bay Area cities.

      Anticipating a large amount of speakers, Benicia’s Planning Commission fielded more than 70 comments from the public across four days of late night public hearings, beginning on February 8th and finally concluding on February 11th.

      Against staff recommendation to approve the use permit and certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report, the Commission unanimously voted to reject the project application and did not certify the project’s environmental impact report.

      The Commission cited that the project holds highly negative impacts to traffic in the industrial park and economic impacts to adjacent businesses that stand against city health, safety, and quality of life. They also cited the lack of provisions for clean-up costs in case of accidents in Benicia and other cities, creating potential economic strain on Benicia as well as uprail cities.

      Other large concerns were the possibilities for rail cars to fall into Sulphur Springs Creek and the bay, as well as technology surrounding rail safety, increases in the cost of insurance coverage for the community, liability risk for property damage, and the construction of the unloading rack in Benicia causing significant traffic and emergency access issues.

      The Planning Commission called all of these concerns directly contrary to the city’s general plan, and citied a responsibility to act for the other uprail communities that would be at risk.

      Texas-based Valero Energy expressed disappointment with the decision, and are currently looking into a possible appeal. The company has until February 29 to file an appeal to the Benicia City Council.

      The controversial proposal first took root in late 2012 and has seen a vast array of detractors from multiple environmental groups and cities through which the railways pass through, citing rail and environmental safety concerns.

      Comments continued to pour in by a number of groups all week, demanding that the commission reject Valero’s proposed rail project. Barring action from the City Council, the decision would be a major win for environmental groups lobbying for rejection for the last three years.

      In contrast, Valero officials and supporters claimed the installation of an oil by rail program would make the refinery far more flexible and competitive, strengthening Benicia’s economy with more than $350,000 in tax revenue and providing additional jobs. The refinery currently receives crude oil by ship and pipeline, and the proposed rail would have been an additional source of oil transportation rather than completely replacing the other methods.

      Valero is currently the largest private employer for the city of Benicia, and constitutes more than 20 percent of Benicia’s general fund revenue.

      Tamhas Griffith of the Martinez Environmental Group praised the decision of the Planning Commission and thanked them for listening to concerns of Bay Area communities.

      “The Martinez Environmental Group is grateful for the exemplary work of the Benicia Planning Commissioners. In service to their community, each commissioner went above and beyond expectation to render a fair, compassionate, and unanimous judgement that people are more important than company profits,” expressed Griffith.

      Griffith added that the denial of the application shows care and concern for communities through which refineries operate and travel through. “It was a hopeful decision for refinery corridor communities who absorb the brunt of daily massive pollution and constant danger.”

      Just a few short weeks ago, Martinez was host to a rail incident that saw three tankers carry sulfuric acid derailed near Marina Vista Avenue under the I-680 overpass. Although the tankers fortunately did not leak, the accident again yielded concerns regarding rail safety and monitoring what hazardous materials pass through the city.

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        NRDC et al: Important comments on Final EIR, Valero Crude By Rail

        The Benicia Independent is in receipt of a letter sent to the City of Benicia Planning Commission by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) detailing the failure of the EIR to “adequately analyze, disclose and mitigate the [Valero Crude by Rail] Project’s significant environmental impacts.”

        The letter has not yet been posted to the City’s website as of this writing.

        NRDC, joined by experts, attorneys and advocates representing 18 other Bay Area environmental groups (listed below), also responds to the City of Benicia staff report.  The staff report recommended certification of the EIR and approval of the project.

        The NRDC letter details at length the EIR’s various omissions and failures of law, logic and scientific method.  Comments are organized into sections on Air Quality, Environmental Justice, Hazards, Water Quality, Biological Resources  and “Additional Impacts Not Analyzed.”

        The additional section on the Staff Report makes a lengthy and careful legal case against the City’s claim that federal law preempts Benicia from mitigating impacts or denying approval for the project.

        In conclusion, the letter states, “Benicia Municipal Code 17.104.060, prohibits the City from approving a project that will be detrimental ‘to the public health, safety, or welfare of persons residing or working’ near the project, ‘to properties or improvements in the vicinity,’ or ‘to the general welfare of the city.’  For all the reasons stated above and in our prior comments, the Project will harm Benicians, other communities throughout the state, and our climate. The City should decline to certify the EIR and deny the permit for this Project.”  [emphasis added]

        This important and powerful letter has nineteen signatories:

        • Natural Resources Defense Council
        • Communities for a Better Environment
        • San Francisco Baykeeper
        • Center for Biological Diversity
        • Sierra Club
        • Richmond Progressive Alliance
        • ForestEthics
        • Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter
        • Bay Localize
        • Community Science Institute
        Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community
        • Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment
        • Martinez Environmental Group
        • Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
        • Sunflower Alliance
        • Pittsburg Defense Council
        • 350 Bay Area and 350 Marin
        • Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
        • Rodeo Citizens Association
        • Asian Pacific Environmental Network

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