Category Archives: Air pollution

EAST BAY TIMES: Benicia: Valero to pay $157,800 penalty over toxic chemicals

Repost from the East Bay Times

Benicia: Valero to pay $157,800 penalty over toxic chemicals

By Denis Cuff, October 5, 2016, 5:53 pm
The Valero refinery is photographed in Benicia, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
The Valero refinery is photographed in Benicia, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

BENICIA – The Valero oil refinery has agreed to pay $157,800 in federal penalties for improper management and storage of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday.

The violations included illegal disposal of benzene, a carcinogen, into an unlined storm water retention pond and not alerting the public about all of its toxic chemical releases, EPA officials reported.

In addition to paying the penalties, Valero will modify its piping operations by June 2017 to prevent an estimated 5,000 pounds of benzene from being released into the atmosphere over the next 10 years, officials said.

Evidence of the violations were detected during an EPA inspection of the Benicia refinery in May 2014 to assess compliance with the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

Additional violations included the company’s failure to determine if solid waste generated at the refinery was hazardous; the failure to maintain and operate to minimize risks of a toxic release; and failure to maintain complete and accurate records, the EPA said.

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Demand sags for California credits aimed at greenhouse gases

Repost from Associated Press

Demand sags for California credits aimed at greenhouse gases

By Ellen Knickmeyer, Aug. 23, 2016 6:46 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California’s latest carbon auction brought disappointing results Tuesday as litigation and lagging support by lawmakers weigh down the state’s landmark programs combating climate change.

State officials said only 34 percent of the available carbon pollution credits were sold in the latest auction under the program, which requires companies that emit climate-changing gases to buy the pollution permits.

It was a slight rebound from this spring, when investors bought just 10 percent of the pollution credits offered, signaling a rocky period for the state’s overall campaign against climate-changing pollution from fossil fuels.

The cap-and-trade program is a keystone of Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to reduce climate-changing pollution in California and is being watched closely around the world as other governments put together efforts to fight climate change.

Dave Clegern, spokesman for the state air board that runs the effort, said the program is adapting as it should to shifts in the market.

“The California cap-and-trade program is first and foremost a greenhouse gas reduction program, and it is working” to bring down carbon pollution from fossil fuels, Clegern said in an email.

Pollution credits consistently sold out after the cap-and-trade program began in 2012, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars quarterly for initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases. The proceeds are used to fund a high-speed rail project pushed by Brown, along with other transit construction and energy conservation efforts.

This year, demand plummeted amid uncertainty about the program’s viability. The result was the steep decline in revenue at a spring auction, prompting concerns that funding won’t be available long-term to continue the programs.

Brown, backed by environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers, is struggling to win support for extending the state’s landmark global warming law amid opposition from oil companies, Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Legislature.

Republican lawmakers called the latest middling auction results a failure and a flop, and called again for the state to abandon the cap-and-trade program.

However, the state Assembly took a critical step Tuesday when it advanced the latest global warming legislation to the state Senate, where it is also expected to pass before next week. Both chambers are dominated by Democrats.

The California Chamber of Commerce is fighting cap-and-trade in court, claiming it is an illegal tax that did not go through the proper legislative approval process.

The lawsuit in particular is scaring away some potential investors, said Dan McGraw, a Houston-based carbon analyst with the ICIS trade publication.

“Potentially there’s a lot to lose if the California Chamber of Commerce wins that case,” McGraw said.

The growing backlog of unsold carbon credits also is weighing on the cap-and-trade program, he said.

“They’re going through something every carbon market has gone through,” the analyst said. “The question is: What do you do now?”

The latest auction results show that the market needs certainty about the state’s long-term cap and trade program, through either the Legislature or state voters vouching for its future in a ballot initiative, Nancy McFadden, Brown’s chief of staff, said in a statement.

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Valero’s secret output level – 65% of permitted output

By Roger Straw, August 5, 2016

A letter by Kathy Kerridge appeared in the print edition of today’s Benicia Herald. Kerridge clarified statements made many times in recent months regarding Valero’s recent product output as approximately 65% of the refinery’s capacity.

The refinery does not disclose its current operating output, claiming that it is a trade secret.  Kerridge discloses the source for the public knowledge on this.

First a little background: When Commissioner Steve Young questioned Valero executives at the Planning Commission hearing on Feb 8, the transcript has “(No audible response.)” See p. 184. And when Young asked Valero environmental engineer Don Cuffel about this at the Planning Commission on Feb 9, Cuffel’s response was clearly evasive – see page 49-50 of the transcript.

The significance, as Kerridge points out below, has everything to do with Valero’s ability to increase air pollution and even (if permitted) to expand its operations to overseas oil export, if the City were to approve Valero’s Crude by Rail proposal.

Kerridge’s letter follows.  (I have added live links to the sources. I have also excised references to Benicia’s whack-a-mole critic, whose repetitive nonsense is not worth repeating on these pages.)


Letter to the Editor, Benicia Herald, by Kathy Kerridge

HERE IS A SOURCE
August 5, 2016

Dear Editor,

In last Sunday’s paper and in other recent letters [a critic] has been quite upset over the claim that Valero is operating at 65% capacity. He has repeatedly attacked [candidate for City Council] Steve Young over this and most recently attacked me demanding my source for the fact that Valero is operating at less than full capacity. Well here is the source: a report done by Applied Developments Economics, Inc. for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Here is a link to the report: Socio-Economic Analysis of Proposed Regulation 12, Rule 15: Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking and Regulation 12, Rule 16: Petroleum Refining Emissions Limits and Risk Thresholds.  Look for Table 7 on page 15.

Applied Development Economics reported that Valero is refining 114,443 barrels of crude a day. Valero’s VIP permit in 2003 allowed for an annual average of 165,000 bpd, (with maximum daily permitted level set at 185,000 bpd.) Please see Valero’s permit for that. 114,444 divided by 165,000 equals 69%. Of course if you looked at the maximum daily capacity they are operating at 62% capacity. The average of the two is 65% just what Steve Young has been saying.

Why does this matter?

It matters because the Crude by Rail project will bring in heavy tar sands crude which emits much more reactive organic gases, more toxic air contaminates, benzene and heavy metal pollution. Bakken crude, which they also want to bring in could also result in more pollution. See the reports by Dr. Fox in response to the Crude by Rail DEIR filed 9-15-2014 and report by Greg Karras, senior scientist for CBE, filed 9-15-2014 with the city.

So if Valero operated at its permitted levels with more toxic crude we would see an increase in our local air pollution, particularly since there are no overall plant limits on these emissions at this time, and there may never be. This could cause real health impacts especially to students at Robert Semple school. The air district has been looking at this problem for several years and may never enact a numeric limit. Please see the Air District agendas for the last several years, proposed rule 12-16.

Let me add a few more words about accuracy. In a letter to the editor on July 5 [a critic] stated that Benicia’s opt out rate for Marin Clean Energy was “22% – three times higher than any other city.” He did not state a source. Given that in Benicia the opt out rate is 21% and the overall average for all cities opt out rate is 21%, according to Marin Clean Energy it appears that [the critic] has gotten his facts wrong. What else has he gotten wrong in his letters? I don’t have the time or energy to fact check every statement he makes, but I do look at the source.

Kathy Kerridge JD
Benicia

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