Tag Archives: Taft CA. Kern County CA

EPA Cites Bakersfield Oil Train Terminal for Clean Air Act Violations; Permit Invalid

News Release from Earthjustice

EPA Cites Bakersfield Oil Train Terminal for Clean Air Act Violations

Federal agency says California oil train terminal is major air pollution source, permit is invalid without significant environmental review
Contact: Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, 415-217-2084, mcaldwell@earthjustice.org, Monday, May 4, 2015
The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal in Taft which the EPA has found in violation of the Clean Air Act.
The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal in Taft which the EPA has found in violation of the Clean Air Act. | Elizabeth Forsyth / Earthjustice

Taft, CA —The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited the Bakersfield Crude Terminal for 10 violations of the Clean Air Act, declaring the California crude-by-rail facility a major air pollution source that should have been subjected to rigorous environmental review during the permitting process. The federal agency found that the terminal’s permit is invalid and that the facility lacks required pollution controls and emissions offsets, and that it is in violation of the Clean Air Act’s public notice and environmental review requirements.

In January, Earthjustice and Communities for a Better Environment sued the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which issued the invalid permit, over the permitting process for the facility’s expansion— a process that was conducted without public review. Earthjustice is representing the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR), ForestEthics, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.

A public records request revealed communications between San Joaquin Valley Air District officials and the project manager for the terminal that included advice from the officials about how the project could avoid public noticing and pollution controls. The Air District approved the massive expansion in a piece-meal permitting process that allowed one of the largest crude oil operations in California to expand largely out of public scrutiny.

“The EPA’s announcement declares the Air District’s permit a sham and that the Bakersfield terminal is operating illegally,” said Elizabeth Forsyth, Earthjustice attorney. “Air District officials went out of their way to exclude the public from the process and speed the approval through, ignoring the environmental review required by state and federal law. We applaud EPA for stepping in and enforcing the Clean Air Act.”

EPA’s action could subject the terminal to serious Clean Air Act fines, and should force the Bakersfield Crude Terminal to undergo the major source permitting required by the Clean Air Act.

“The EPA stepped in to protect California from this crude-by-rail facility’s dangerous air pollution,” said Vera Pardee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal intervention is urgently needed because the air district and Kern County officials have utterly failed to safeguard public health and the environment. They’re turning a blind eye to air pollution and environmental risks such as catastrophic explosions linked to these massive trains full of volatile crude.”

“EPA’s notice of violation should serve as a wake up call to local authorities around the country who help polluters when they should be protecting public health,” said Matt Krogh, ForestEthics Extreme Oil Campaign Director.  “Oil trains threaten 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone, plus millions more who live downwind of a refinery, downstream of where an oil train crosses a river, or in the Bakken and tar sands producing regions of North Dakota and Alberta, Canada.”

“In Kern County, with the worst air in the nation, the air district has harmed the health of the public by intentionally allowing this facility to violate the Clean Air Act,” said Tom Frantz, with Association of Irritated Residents.

“Given the increased pollution and hazards from refining and transporting a lower quality crude, there is immediate need for a moratorium that halts new permits and construction of extreme oil infrastructure, not the opposite fast track permitting process that Air District officials put this massive crude by rail terminal on – and in secret,” said Roger Lin, attorney with Communities for a Better Environment.

“The US Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement today is a significant step forward for Bakersfield and Kern County residents who bear all the burdens of volatile, accident-prone crude by rail transport and none of the benefits,” said Gordon Nipp Bakersfield resident and Sierra Club Kern-Kaweah Chapter Vice Chairman. “This terminal wreaks havoc on our region’s already compromised air quality and our communities now fear the risk of exploding trains.”

The agency also weighed in on the issue of vapor pressure of Bakken crude, declaring it unreasonable to underestimate the vapor pressure when permitting a crude-by-rail site and requiring vigorous monitoring and reporting of what crude oil is actually shipped. One way many of these facilities get around major source permitting is by cherry-picking the volatility of the crude oil being shipped, estimating the vapor pressure on the low end of the spectrum, which would keep emissions of volatile organic compounds under the threshold for triggering Clean Air Act review.

In addition to emitting volatile organic compounds from the off-loading of crude oil, the facility endangers Bakersfield and other communities in California by increasing the amount of explosive crude oil transported by rail through the state. There have been multiple incidents of train derailments and explosions across the nation and in Canada. An oil train that derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, destroyed most of the town center, burning more than 30 buildings to the ground and killing 47 people. Just this year, there have been four derailments and explosions in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario involving oil trains.

Read EPA’s Notice of Violation.

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    Environmentalists sue to stop crude-by-rail terminal in California

    Repost from Reuters
    [Editor: See also excellent coverage on YubaNet, The Sacramento Bee and Public News Service.  Read the legal document filed here.  Read the public records request here.  – RS]

    Environmentalists sue to stop crude-by-rail terminal in California

    By Rory Carroll, Jan 29, 2015
    bakersfield-crude-terminal_EF_01.jpg
    An oil train moves through California’s Central Valley. The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal has the capacity to receive two 100-car unit trains a day. Credit: Elizabeth Forsyth / Earthjustice

    Environmental groups on Thursday sued a California regulator that permitted trains carrying crude oil to begin making deliveries at a terminal in Bakersfield, arguing the permit was issued in secret and the volatile crude could cause explosions.

    The plaintiffs asked the California Superior Court to stop operations at the newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal in Taft until a full environmental review is conducted. The terminal, located in Kern County, began receiving crude in November from North Dakota and Canada and is owned by Plains All American Pipeline LP.

    In their complaint, the groups point to emails obtained through a public records request that they say show the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District helping the company avoid environmental and public reviews of the project.

    The terminal can currently receive one 100-car unit train a day carrying crude from the Bakken shale formation as well as heavier tar sands crude from Canada. The terminal will ultimately expand to receive two unit trains per day, carrying as much as 61 million barrels of crude a year, making it one of the state’s largest crude-by-rail terminals, the groups said.

    Crude oil shipments by rail in California have jumped in recent years as producers seek to move cheap, landlocked crudes from North Dakota and Canada to refineries along the West Coast.

    The increase has raised environmental and safety concerns due to a series of fiery derailments, most notably the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in Quebec in July 2013, which killed 47 people.

    “The Bakersfield Crude Terminal evaded both state and federal environmental review and was permitted largely in secret. Given the potentially catastrophic damage from derailments of these tank cars full of volatile crude, these permits must be cancelled,” said Vera Pardee, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the five environmental groups who are plaintiffs in the case.

    Annette Ballatore-Williamson, an attorney for the air district, said the lawsuit misrepresents the nature of the permit, which only covered the construction of a couple storage tanks that emit about a half a pound of air pollution per day.

    The facility and the rail terminal underwent significant environmental review and analysis by Kern County several years ago, she said.

    “The problem from (the plaintiff’s) perspective is the statute of limitations on their claim against Kern County expired quite some time ago so now they are just looking for a target,” she said.

    (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)

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