From: Marilyn Bardet <email>
Subject: BAAQMD oversight/enforcement of Reg 12 – Rule 15, the Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking Rule.
Date: October 21, 2020 at 3:37:37 PM PDT
To: Marcy Hiratzka <firstname.lastname@example.org>
October 21, 2020
BAAQMD Board of Directors
Chair: Council member Rod Sinks, City of Cupertino
Vice Chair: Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County
Secretary: Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Contra Costa County
Sent via email: <email@example.com>
Subject: BAAQMD oversight and enforcement of Regulation 12 – Rule 15, the Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking Rule.
Dear Chair Rod Sinks, Vice Chair Cindy Chaves, Secretary Karen Mitchoff and Direrctors
I’m writing as a 34-year resident of Benicia and a founding active member of the Good Neighbor Steering Committee, [“GNSC”] which was organized in 2000 to address public concerns and protect community health and safety as related to operations of the Valero refinery. I’d hope to express the following concerns at the Special Meeting held as a webinar today, but was unable to do so.
On August 1st, the Board received emailed letters from Jay Gunkelman and myself, outlining problems to date with refineries’ fenceline monitoring systems’ performance and reliability.
As you recall, Rule 15 was adopted in April, 2016. It required Bay Area refineries to install new, best technology fenceline monitoring systems, with raw data to be collected in real time at 5 minute intervals, and with a website provided for public access to that data.
After 4 years since Rule 15’s adoption, for the sake of public health and community safety, we would have expected by now that the Air District would have enforced standards for reliable performance of fenceline monitoring systems at all Bay Area refineries, and that data quality would be assured. Yet, to date, as per Rule 15 protocols, the District has not yet signed off on—e.g., given final approval of— the refineries’ fenceline monitoring and quality assurance plans. This is an unacceptable situation.
Today, we encourage the board and staff to fully address the various problems associated to Rule 15’s implementation at all Bay Area refineries.
Pertinent to the Benicia community, Valero recently asserted that their Benicia refinery will be “the last man standing” among Bay Are refineries, and will continue to refine crude oil and produce petroleum products. Emissions tracking and fenceline monitoring will continue to be of particular concern to Benicians. The reliability of Valero’s fenceline systems’ performance is in serious doubt.
In 2017, as per Rule 15 Guidelines, the GNSC submitted substantial comments to the District on Valero’s plans that had been created by Sonoma Tech for Valero.
In late 2019, the Benicia City Council voted to encourage Valero to get their fenceline systems installed and up and running before the District’s original deadline. Valero complied, installing 3 pathway systems and creating a public website to provide access to the data collected. Later, when public questions began to arise, Valero said that the new Hydrogen Sulfide monitoring system they’d purchased had never been field tested. After a year’s worth of data collection, data reliability remains questionable even for “signature” gases, including benzene. According to the Federal EPA’s Benzene Fenceline Monitoring Program, Valero’s benzene emissions were not only found to be the highest in the Bay Area; Valero’s total benzene emissions are four times greater than the four other refineries in the region.
It is implausible that there would be so few reportable detections, as the website routinely reports. Repeatedly, the website indicates that instruments are offline, or data is “pending final review.” Whose review? There is apparently no public access to archived data. Good science requires independent validation of data. Credibility of the systems and the data collection is at stake. Without independent review, public confusion and doubt about the sytems’ reliability will persist.
Right now, there is no independent, 3rd party data analysis required by the Air District. Yet verification of data for accuracy is crucial to public trust. Unfortunately, in our case, the District has still not yet approved Valero’s fenceline monitoring system plan including the required quality assurance plan as mandated by Rule 12-15.
In the meantime, concerned Benicia residents formed a non-profit, incorporated in 2019, to provide an independently operated, community-based air-monitoring station for Benicia, called Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program. The system will be operated by solar, and will meet international standards for data quality. (Funding was appropriated through GNSC’s urging amendments to the Settlement Agreement negotiated with Valero and City of Benicia.) We expect the new station will be operational by the end of 2020.
How is it possible that a small community group in Benicia can locate, configure and install an array of air monitoring equipment in less than a year, while the refineries in the Bay Area are still installing technologically inferior fenceline systems four years after they were told by the BAAQMD that these systems had to be approved and proven reliable, thus producing accurate data by now?
I reiterate my request made in my letter of August 1st:
We ask the Board to compel Valero to present all of the data associated with these systems to the public as soon as possible. In addition, we would like to see all raw data produced by the fenceline system at Valero so that it can be reviewed by independent experts. We ask that the public have access to all District staff comments on refineries’ monitoring plans including quality assurance plans.
Thank you for your timely consideration of these matters.
Benicia CA 94510