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.