Tag Archives: NRDC

Letter to the Bay Area Air District: require strict emissions caps on refineries

Posted with permission

Benicia Resident Marilyn Bardet’s letter to the Chair of the Board, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)

Direct staff to require numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissons
By Marilyn Bardet, Sept 16, 2015

Dear Chair Groom,

Marilyn Bardet

Marilyn Bardet, Benicia CA

In response to the overwhelming testimony the District has received from all corners of the Bay Area, as chair of the BAAQMD board of directors, you, with your board, have the authority to direct District staff to revise DRAFT Rules 12-15 and 12-16 as currently released, to require strict numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissions, including GHG.

By all means of public testimony over a two-year period, you have heard from concerned and affected members of the public, respected regional and national organizations (including Sierra Club, NRDC, CBE, 350 Bay Area, APEN, Sunflower Alliance) and other experts in the field who have recommended and put forward well-defined revisions that would impose strict numerical emissions caps on refinery emissions tied to current emissions baselines for TAC, VOCs, heavy metals and PM2.5, including GHG.

You know that oil companies in the region aim to acquire and process the most dangerously polluting crude in the world — tar sands. Refineries processing changed crude slates whose blends have increasing amounts of heavy crude, unconventional crudes such as Bakken oil, and/or tar sands will adversely impact regional and local air quality, especially affecting front-line communities and those “downwind communities.” Allowing emissions to “go up to” long ago established permitting levels (Valero Benicia’s permit was established in 2003) is tantamount to the District “giving in” to benefit the oil industries’ profit, not public health.

The District’s mandate is to clean up the air for the benefit of public health, and, in accordance with state mandates, to protect the climate by drastically reducing GHG. Oil refining is the biggest industrial source of GHG. Carbon trading by refineries will simply send “pollution credits” elsewhere and keep toxic emissions “at home” that kill thousands of people in the Bay Area each year. GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion threaten to destroy our global climate and way of life.

Strong refinery rules that set numerical limits on toxic emissions tied to current baselines and limit GHGs are our best chance to protect public health and protect the climate.

We need your leadership more than ever now! I am writing to ask that you make it clear to your directors that the “highest good” must be done by BAAQMD in the name of public health and climate protection, such that, until revisions to Rules 12-15 and 12-16 are adopted that set refinery emission caps at today’s levels, including for GHG, the agency will suspend permitting for refinery projects.

This is a bold request, but these are very uncertain times that require every precaution and concerted action by leadership to create policies that protect people and the planet.

Thank you for your public service, and for you attention to my comments.

Respectfully,

Marilyn Bardet
Benicia
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California cities’ crude-by-rail opposition makes national news

Repost from The Miami Herald

As oil shipments rise on rails, California cities fight to be heard

By Curtis Tate and Tony Bizjak
McClatchy  Newspapers                           
 A tanker truck is filled from railway cars containing crude oil on railroad tracks in McClellan Park in North Highlands on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. North Highlands is a suburb just outside the city limits of Sacramento, CA.
A tanker truck is filled from railway cars containing crude oil on railroad tracks in McClellan Park in North Highlands on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. North Highlands is a suburb just outside the city limits of Sacramento, CA.        Randall Benton    /     MCT 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As rail shipments of crude oil have risen in Northern California, so has opposition in many communities along rail lines and near the refineries they supply.

Concerned about the potential safety and environmental hazards of 100-car trains of oil rolling through population centers, leaders from Sacramento to San Jose say they’re banding together to present a unified voice for “up-line” cities: communities that could bear some of the highest risks as California turns toward rail shipments to quench its thirst for fuel.

“What I suspect will come out of this is more of a regional understanding and interest in the topic,” said Mike Webb, director of community development and sustainability in Davis.

The federal government regulates rail shipments, but the rules haven’t caught up to the surge in oil traffic on the nation’s rail network. That’s left local leaders at the forefront of pushing for changes in state and federal laws.

Last week, the city councils of Berkeley and Richmond voted to oppose crude shipments on rail lines through their towns. The resolutions call for state lawmakers and members of Congress to seek tougher regulations.

Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit last week against pipeline operator Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The groups said the agency quietly issued a permit to Kinder Morgan for a crude-by-rail facility in February without reviewing potential environmental and health impacts.

“We don’t accept that as a forgone conclusion,” said Diane Bailey, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups in the lawsuit.

But it may be an uphill fight. State officials anticipate that within two years, California will receive a quarter of its petroleum supply by rail. That could potentially mean several trains of crude oil passing daily through Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis.

The Sacramento Bee reported last week that crude oil had been transferred from trains to trucks at the former McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento since last year without the knowledge of local emergency response officials and without a required air quality permit.

Webb said Davis’ goal is to be part of the review process to make sure the city’s concerns are heard.

“Our primary objective and interest is in the health and safety of our community,” he said.

A group of community activists in Benicia and Martinez has been trying to stop two oil refiners, Tesoro and Valero, from expanding their crude oil deliveries by rail. And they’re pressing local, state and federal officials to push for tougher oversight of crude oil shipments by rail following a series of derailments with catastrophic fires and spills.

They’re focused on two types of crude oil that are moving by rail in the absence of new pipelines. First is tar sands, a thick, gritty crude that’s produced in western Canada. Tar sands production generates more carbon dioxide emissions, environmentalists say, and is more difficult to clean up when spilled in water because it’s heavy and sinks.

The second is Bakken crude, extracted through hydraulic fracturing of shale rock. Most of the Bakken formation lies in North Dakota, and most of the oil produced there moves out of the state by rail. The oil has proved more volatile than conventional types.

Since last summer, three major derailments have involved Bakken crude. The first, in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people in an inferno that also leveled the center of the small lakeside town.

Subsequent derailments in Alabama and North Dakota, though not fatal, showed that disaster could strike again.

“People are afraid that anybody along the rail line could become the next Lac-Megantic,” said Andres Soto, a community activist in Benicia.

Part of the frustration at the local level is the lack of information about how much crude oil is being shipped on rail lines. The companies involved in transporting and refining oil are not required to provide much information on the shipments and usually don’t.

“There is so little oversight,” Bailey said. “This is a new area and people are scratching their heads, saying, ‘Wow, this isn’t covered.’”

West Sacramento Fire Chief Rick Martinez, who has experience fighting oil fires, said national attention on the issue may provide a platform for cities to push for better real-time information on what materials are coming through town, so emergency responders know what to expect as they head to a call.

“Is there way through technology to get more information to local agencies?” he asked. “We are trying to take advantage of the interest to pose the questions.”

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CALL TO ACTION Monday, March 10, 7pm, Benicia Library

CALL TO ACTION COMMUNITY MEETING
Stop Valero Crude By Rail!
Monday, March 10, 7pm
Dona Benicia Room, Benicia Public Library

 FacebookStopCrudeByOil_cover(LGlogo)Benicia, CA – Benicia residents and business owners, along with concerned citizens of neighboring communities, have been following with growing alarm, the proposal of Benicia’s Valero Refinery to import dangerous crude oil by rail.  The public is invited t join with Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, at a community forum to learn more and raise concerns and questions.  Panel followed by Q&A.

Expert panel of speakers and co-sponsors – see below.
Optional: Sign up on Facebook here.
Help promote: download the flyer, print and distribute – thanks!

A panel of experts and activists will present their concerns:

  • Video: Marilaine Savard, spokesperson for a citizens’ group from Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.  In 2013, a string of exploding crude oil rail cars destroyed the center of town and claimed 47 lives.
  • Marilyn Bardet, Valero refinery watchdog, activist and founding member of Benicia Good Neighbor Steering Committee: “Where does Valero’s CBR Project Begin and End?”
  • Ed Ruszel, co-owner of Ruszel Woodworks, located right along the tracks in Benicia’s industrial park: “Impact to Local Business & Industrial Park”
  • Antonia Juhasz, oil industry analyst, journalist, and author of several books, including The Tyranny of Oil: “Crude by Rail 101”
  • Andrés Soto, Benicia resident, KPFA’s Morning Mix host and Communities for a Better      Environment Richmond organizer: “Local and Regional Impacts”
  • Diane Bailey, Senior Scientist with Natural Resources Defense Council: “Health and Community Impacts”
  • Damien Luzzo, Davis resident and CEO,  SaveWithSunlight, Inc.: “Valero’s impact on ‘uprail’ communities”

This meeting is open to the public.  Residents, business owners, City officials and the press are all welcome.  After the panel, a brief question and answer period will follow.

CO-SPONSORS:

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Benicia Good Neighbor Steering Committee, Natural Resources Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, Sunflower Alliance, 350 Bay Area, Pittsburg Defense Council, Pittsburg Ethics Council, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Gathering Tribes – Idle No More.

BACKGROUND:

For a detailed background on Valero’s proposal 2012-present, see http://beniciaindependent.com/?p=80 Also see http://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={C45EA667-8D39-4B30-87EB-9110A2F9CE13}

MORE INFORMATION:

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (SafeBenicia.org)
Facebook: Stop Crude By Rail (facebook.com/stopcrudebyrail)
The Benicia Independent (BeniciaIndependent.com)

CONTACT:

Andrés Soto, (707) 742-3597
info@SafeBenicia.com

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