Tag Archives: Chris Howe

Bay Area Air Board emissions plan draws response from Valero

Repost from The Benicia Herald
[Editor: The Benicia Herald is one of very few news outlets to cover the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s far-reaching  and highly significant December 17 initiative on refinery emissions.  The first Herald article just covered the facts, and oddly, is not posted on the Herald’s website.  As a follow-up to that story, our local newspaper either sought out comments from the Refinery or responded to Valero’s overture, not sure which.  Either way, we were treated on Christmas Eve to a front page Valero Benicia promotion of its wondrous efforts to control its emissions, and the supposedly small part Bay Area refineries play in contributing to greenhouse gases.  Note especially Valero’s resolve to “participate in any new rulemaking to ensure rules are reasonable and cost effective.”   Reasonable rules would surely protect community health and safety, no?  And according to whose costs should regulatory effectiveness be weighed?   For other reports on the Air District initiative, see The Contra Costa Times, and the Oil & Gas Journal. See also primary documents: BAAQMD 12/17 agenda, (p. 73), and  REPORT: Bay Area Refinery Emissions Reduction Strategy (PDF) .  – RS]

Emissions plan draws response from Valero

Refinery official: ‘Proud’ to contribute to better air quality
By Donna Beth Weilenman, December 24, 2014

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is hoping its new five-component strategy will reduce emissions from refineries in it geographic area.

The district’s Refinery Emissions Reduction Resolution, approved Oct. 15, sets a goal of 20-percent reduction in refinery emissions — or as much as is feasible — during the next five years.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.

The announced strategy would show the Air District how to achieve that goal.

“Our new Refinery Emissions Reduction Strategy continues and reaffirms the air district’s commitment to significantly decrease harmful air pollution in our communities,” said Jack Broadbent, the district’s executive officer.

“This strategy will ensure that refineries are taking the strongest steps to cut emissions and minimize their health impacts on neighboring residents and the region as a whole.”

But refineries are just one industry that contributes to the San Francisco Bay Area’s air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, according to an official at Valero Benicia Refinery.

“By the district’s own data, Bay Area refineries make up only a small segment of overall emissions in the Bay Area air shed,” said Chris Howe, the refinery’s director of health, safety, environment and government affairs.

“These emissions have continued to decline over the last two decades,” Howe said, data which the Air District also acknowledged.

“We are proud of the significant contributions our refinery has made and will continue to make to improve air quality, especially with the installation of our flue gas scrubber in 2011,” Howe said, citing a major component of the Valero Improvement Project.

In addition, he said, “We will continue to participate in any new rulemaking to ensure rules are reasonable and cost effective when weighed against the many options the district has to regulate emissions in our air basin.”

Broadbent said the Air District’s announced strategy sets overall goals of a 20-percent reduction in both criteria pollutants from refineries and in health risks to area communities, both within the next five years. That is the strategy’s first component.

To do this, the Air District plans to investigate significant sources of those pollutants at the refineries themselves, and to examine a variety of additional pollution controls at those sources, he said. That’s the second component.

He said this would be done under the district’s focused Best Available Retrofit Control Technology program.

“Rulemaking is already under way to reduce sulfur dioxide from coke calciners and particulate matter from catalytic cracking units,” Broadbent said.

“Several other rules to reduce refinery emissions will be developed in 2015.”

The strategy’s third component would be the Air District’s approach to reduce health risks from toxic air pollution, Broadbent said.

He said it would begin with requirements to reduce toxic emissions from such refinery sources as cooling towers and coking units.

Site-wide health risks would be assessed, and sources for further emissions controls would be identified, with an eye toward health benefits, he said.

A fourth component would be evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions at the refineries and their reductions as a result of the cap-and-trade system put in place under Assembly Bill 32.

That bill, signed into law Sept. 27, 2006, requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regulations and market mechanisms to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

CARB adopted a cap-and-trade program Dec. 17, 2010, allowing some emitters to buy credits at quarterly auctions for additional emissions.

Under the Air District’s strategy, refinery performance would be compared to third-party standards for best practices, with analysis of potential further opportunities for reductions, Broadbent said.

The fifth component concerns continuous improvement in emission reductions, for which refinery operators would be required on a periodic basis to evaluate the sources of most of their emissions to determine if more controls are needed.

Broadbent said the Air District would develop its package of rules in the coming year, and would be working with members of the public as well as refinery industry representatives to make any modifications in the proposed rules and to use the strategy to reach those stated goals.

In addition, the Air District will prepare its Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking rule that requires updated health risk assessments, additional fence-line and neighborhood monitoring capacity and the compiling of an annual emissions inventory.

Simultaneously, the Air District will write a companion rule to set emissions thresholds and mitigate potential increases at refineries, Broadbent said.

Those rules are expected to be sent to the Air District’s board for adoption in 2015.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s five major oil refineries, including Valero Benicia Refinery, produce air pollution and greenhouse gases in the region, Broadbent said, and “these are already subject to more than 20 specific Air District regulations and programs, and their overall emissions have been steadily decreasing.”

The Air District’s website is www.baaqmd.gov.

    Davis City Council finds Valero crude-by-rail impact report lacking

    Repost from The Davis Enterprise
    [Editor: Breaking news … DAVIS, CA – On Tuesday evening, 9/2/14, the Davis City Council approved the letter as written (but with minor editorial changes) and directed staff to submit it to the City of Benicia for the record.  The DRAFT letter can be seen here.  – RS]

    City Council finds Valero crude-by-rail impact report lacking

    By Elizabeth Case, September 3, 2014

    The Davis City Council has released a draft of the letter it plans to send to the city of Benicia in response to the Valero crude-by-rail project’s draft environmental impact report.

    The project would build out the Valero refinery’s capacity to unload oil from rail cars, increasing shipments to about 70,000 barrels of oil a day in two, 50-car-long shipments, likely from Roseville to Benicia along the Capitol Corridor rail line. That line passes right through downtown Davis.

    Draft environmental impact reports are required for projects that could have significant impacts on their surroundings. Notably, this report found the risk of an accident — a derailment and spill — to be an insignificant risk, while the additional trains would have a significant air quality impact.

    The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Chambers at City Hall to vote on the language contained in the letter. The letter, as it stands, argues that the assessment is both misleading and incomplete, and focuses on a few main concerns:

    * The report’s failure to address a May emergency order and an August notice from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The former requires railroads transporting more than 35 cars, or 1 million gallons, of North Dakota’s Bakken crude oil in a single shipment to notify state emergency response commissions. The latter includes a report about improving vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

    * A request that Benicia mandate the use of the newer 1232 tank cars. These have thicker shells and other improvements over “legacy” — DOT 111 — cars, which have been involved in most of past decade’s oil-by-rail accidents.

    However, 1232 cars were involved in at least one derailment in Lynchburg, Va., in April. Benicia cannot legally require Valero or Union Pacific to use a specific type of car, since railroads fall under federal jurisdiction.

    Valero spokesperson Chris Howe has previously confirmed that the company would use only the 1232 cars to transport oil.

    * A lack of information on where and how Valero might store the crude oil, if it isn’t used right away. Specifically, Davis is concerned that the siding between Interstate 80 and Second Street in Davis could, and might already, be used for the storage of crude oil.

    In addition to the above concerns, the Davis City Council requests an investigation into the current conditions of the railroad line from Roseville to Benicia.

    The letter also alleges that the EIR fails to account for fire or explosions in its assessment of damage caused by release of hazardous materials, that it fails to take a magnitude of such a spill into account, and that it does not assess all the possible routes for the crude oil to be shipped to the Valero refinery.

    The letter also requests that advance notice of shipments be made to city of Davis and Yolo County authorities — information oil companies have been tight-lipped about, citing terrorism concerns.

    If Valero is importing Bakken crude at amounts specified in the transportation department’s order, it will have to inform the state commission. Assembly Bill 380, which was approved Friday, would require flow data and other information to be submitted about a company’s top 25 hazardous materials, including oil from the Bakkens, though it would continue to keep the information out of the public realm.

    Davis’ comments draw strongly from those already filed by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and Yolo County.

    Davis City Council member Lucas Frerichs, who also sits on SACOG’s Rail Ad Hoc Committee, said the council understands the need for oil imports, but doesn’t believe the environmental assessment adequately assesses potential dangers.

    “It’s going to come in by rail, we just need to make sure it’s done safely,” Frerichs said. “(But the report) absolutely needs to be adjusted in order to protect the safety of citizens up and down the rail corridor.”

    The council passed a unanimous resolution in April opposing oil by rail until safety issues, like better warning signs about speed changes, have been addressed.

    “Our read of it — even if the risk is only once in every 111 years, if there was a catastrophic explosion, especially in our downtown, it would obviously have a great impact on our community, on lives on our property,” said Mike Webb, the city’s community development and sustainability director and author of the letter.

    “Even if that was only once in 111 years, that’s once too much.’

    If the Benicia Planning Commission acknowledges the concerns voiced by Davis, it would require a reissue and recirculation of the EIR, delaying the project. Representatives for the commission could not be reached before deadline.

    “It would slow the process down, but I don’t think that would necessarily be a bad thing,” Webb said,” because we’re asking for more information and disclosure about what the project is.”

    Interested parties have until Sept. 15 to submit a comment on the EIR before the Benicia Planning Commission begins its review.