Category Archives: Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)

We did it! The Air District Passed the Strongest Regulation on Refinery Pollution

By Roger Straw, July 22, 2021

Air District approves Rule 6-5, a new rule requiring Bay Area refineries to clean up their air pollution

Benicia and Bay Area environmental activists are celebrating this week after years of advocacy to get the area’s refineries to reign in the worst of their air pollution.

Our Air District’s newly adopted Rule 6-5, “Particulate Emissions from Refinery Fluidized Catalytic Cracking Units” will require refineries to install “wet gas scrubbers,” like the one at Valero Refinery in Benicia.

Andrés Soto, Communities For a Better Environment

Andrés Soto, Benicia resident and longtime organizer for Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), worked tirelessly for years advocating for rule 6-5.  In a CBE press release, Soto wrote,

“This is a huge win for environmental justice communities who have been fighting for this rule for years as a matter of racial, environmental, and climate justice. Despite a widespread misinformation campaign by the refineries and their allies of exaggerated costs that threatened our communities with doomsday scenarios, the Board of Directors made an historic vote today on behalf of disproportionately impacted communities.”

“We look forward to Chevron and PBF doing the right thing and installing wet gas scrubbers that will dramatically clean up their pollution and create numerous jobs in the process, without further delays,”

Benicia Mayor Steve Young

In hearing testimony before the Air District Board on Wednesday, Benicia Mayor Steve Young urged approval of Rule 6-5.  He pointed out that here in Benicia…

“…we have over a decade of experience of the value of the wet gas scrubbers. Valero installed a wet gas scrubber in 2010, and emissions data has shown a significant reduction in the overall emissions of criteria pollutants since it went online. Valero voluntarily addressed the problem of PM 2.5 emissions from their cat cracker by installing the wet gas scrubber. It is past time to do the right thing for clean air in the Bay Area. Please approve Rule 6-5”

In a Wednesday blog posting, 350 Bay Area urged thank-yous for the Air District Board members who voted yes in the 19 to 3 vote to approve Rule
6-5.  Thank goodness, both of Solano County’s Board members voted yes!  Take a minute and send your thanks to Solano Supervisor Erin Hannigan and Suisun City Mayor Lori Wilson.

Solano Supervisor Erin Hannigan
Phone: (707) 784-6662
ehannigan@solanocounty.com
675 Texas Street, Suite 6500
Fairfield, CA 94533-6352

Suisun City Mayor Lori D. Wilson
City Hall: 707-421-7300
Direct: 707-410-0585
lwilson@suisun.com
701 Civic Center Blvd.
Suisun City, CA 94585

More from 350 Bay Area:

After delaying the vote last month, the Air District Board voted this morning in favor of rule 6-5, the rule requiring refineries to clean up their air pollution.

This is a BIG deal and many activists have worked hard to make this happen. It’s been a years’ long coalition effort, but organizing works. The health and environmental justice arguments and dogged appeals to each board member (finally) paid off.

A big special thank you to our folks who stepped up to contact their representatives on the Board, and kudos to the coalition of community groups who put in years of effort. Huge gratitude to Communities for a Better Environment, Sunflower Alliance, APEN, and the health professionals from PSR and Climate Health Now. The headlines (Reuters) are already reading: Northern California requires oil refiners to slash air pollution — in which 350 Bay Area leader, Jan Kirsch, is quoted.

“I was there for the vote. Great victory for all involved. I will send a thank you to John Bauters from my esteemed home of Emeryville” — 350 Bay Area Leader

Toolkit: thank your representative!
The final vote was 19 YES and 3 NO.
350Bay Area Staff comment:

“The Air District Board’s decision to step up and fulfill the mandate of our regional Air District was necessary to protect lives and the health of our communities, particularly the already-disadvantaged communities in the path of the emissions monsters. We recognize that it took political courage to stand up to the refineries and other fossil fuel interests, who pulled out all the stops with an aggressive disinformation campaign as the decision neared. The community responded to this disinformation campaign robustly and with a focus on justice. That alone is a win for the Bay Area.

The win at the Air District is one that we embrace, and we welcome the eventual improvement in the air around the Bay Area. We are grateful to the large coalition of community organizations and individuals who spent many years collaborating and educating. We remain concerned that these common sense solutions that save lives and money still take so much work to enact, and are committed to continuing the work of improving air quality and phasing out fossil fuels to save lives and climate stability.”

— Nik, 350 Bay Area Staff

A well deserved celebration is in order today (YAY), and don’t forget to thank any/all representatives who voted YES in this historic vote.

For truly cleaner air,
Your 350BA Organizers

At long last! Getting closer to an Air District monitoring system in Benicia

     Click here for background

ALERT!  Please mark your calendar and plan to attend on Wednesday, June 30.  See  the Air District ANNOUNCEMENT (with Zoom link) below.

First, here are links to important documents about the meeting:



Virtual Meeting on Benicia
Community Air Monitoring Site Selection

Dear Benicia Community and Stakeholders,

You are invited to attend a virtual community meeting to learn about air quality monitoring and help shape the future of community air monitoring in the Benicia area.

In a joint effort with the City of Benicia, the Air District identified candidate locations in Benicia for a new community air monitoring station. At this meeting, Air District staff will share the sites under consideration and information about how the sites were selected. Community members and stakeholders will have the opportunity to inform final site selection.

When:

The workshop will be held using Zoom and will take place on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

Zoom Link:

https://kearnswest.zoom.us/j/91068701818?pwd=WVR5d3JwVVFRUmpuaUQxWWpOVGFnZz09

Why:

The Air District monitors air quality as part of ongoing efforts to inform and protect public health. One of the ways the Air District does this is by collecting fees to install, operate, and maintain air monitoring stations in communities near refineries. These air monitoring stations will provide additional information about the levels of pollution experienced by these communities.

The Air District invites you to participate in this community meeting to discuss and review the site selection process and provide feedback on a community air monitoring station within the Benicia community.

Air District staff want to ensure a fair and equitable virtual workshop experience and provide opportunities for all interested parties to participate. Workshop materials are available on the Air District’s Workshop web page.

Simultaneous language interpretation can be provided upon request at least 72 hours before the event. Contact Brian Butler at bbutler@baaqmd.gov or 415-603-7721 to request interpretation.

Questions may be sent by e-mail to iperkins@baaqmd.gov.

Para información en español, llame al 415-749-4609
中文聯絡電話 415-749-4609
Nói Tiếng Việt xin gọi 415-749-4609

Working to protect public health, air quality, and the global climate,
Your Air District


Bay Area Air Quality Management District
375 Beale Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States
(415) 749-4900 | 1-800-HELP-AIR | Email: feedback@baaqmd.gov

Air District debates public health vs. Big Oil profits – delays decision on refinery pollution controls

Bay Area air quality board delays vote on anti-pollution rules

San Francisco Chronicle, by Joe Garofoli, June 2, 2021
The Shell refinery on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Martinez, Calif. At Shell refinery in Martinez, “some equipment was temporarily affected by the quake” on Monday, according to a spokesman. Paul Kuroda/Special to The Chronicle

After hearing five and a half hours of public commentary, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District postponed its scheduled vote Wednesday on whether to require refineries to install technology that would greatly reduce the amount of pollution they emit.

Board chair Cindy Chavez asked the board to reschedule its vote so the panel could have a “thoughtful discussion” of the proposals before it. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on June 16.

The issue before the board involves fluid catalytic cracker units, commonly known as “cat crackers,” which are a major source of industrial pollution. The proposal would require refineries to install technology that reduces particulate emissions from the units by 70 percent, according to the air district.

A district analysis predicts that the new standards would have positive health impacts — particularly for low income communities of color that surround the Bay Area’s refineries and have borne the brunt of their environmental impact. In Richmond, the asthma rate is twice the state average.

The district has calculated that exposure to particulate matter from the Chevron refinery in Richmond increases mortality in the region by up to 10 deaths per year, while the PBF Energy refinery in Martinez adds up to six deaths per year.

The proposed changes to the Chevron plant alone could result in up to $27 million in health cost savings to those living nearby, according to an air district analysis, based on fewer days missed from work, fewer respiratory ailments and other health impacts.

Environmentalists pointed out that the technology has been widely used for years across the country, including in oil-friendly states like Texas.

“It’s hard to believe regulators in Texas 15 years ago valued their constituents’ lives more than Bay Area representatives do,” Jed Holtzman, a senior policy analyst with the environmental organization 350 Bay Area, told the board Wednesday. “So this should not be a complicated decision for you.”

Yet the refineries — backed by allies in organized labor who work at the plants — insisted that the cost to install the technology would be prohibitive, making the plants uncompetitive and leading to massive job losses.

The $800 million cost of implementation would “force us to close the Martinez refinery,” Timothy Paul Davis, PBF Energy Western Region president, wrote to the air district in April. That would put 600 full-time employees out of work, plus another 2,000 members of the local building trades union who work on other projects at the plant, said Kevin Slade of the Western States Petroleum Association, an industry group.

The air district found Davis’ estimate to be grossly inflated, estimating that it would cost just $255 million to make the changes at the PBF Martinez refinery and $241 million for the Chevron refinery in Richmond. The district found that the oil companies could pay for the cost of the upgrades by a one or two-cent per gallon fuel increase. Other speakers Wednesday were skeptical that PBF would shutter a refinery that it just bought in 2019 from Shell Oil for $1 billion.

Dozens of local union members and leaders — among the 198 people who addressed the board Wednesday — said they feared losing their jobs if the technology were mandated.

Andrew Scheiber, a Benicia resident who used to work for a refinery, was among the speakers skeptical that plant workers could find a “just transition” to another line of work should the refineries cut jobs.

“This ‘just transition’ everybody loves to talk about doesn’t exist,” Scheiber said. There are few other kinds of jobs that involve similar skill sets “and when they do come up there are hundreds if not literally thousands of applicants.”

A letter to the board signed by the leaders of six Bay Area building trades unions said: “Union members — your constituents — living and working in the Bay Area depend on these refinery jobs to raise their families well, put food on their tables, put their kids through college, and live a successful and fulfilling life.”

An alternative analysis conducted by UCLA’s Lufkin Center for Innovation found that new technology wouldn’t kill jobs, but rather create thousands more.

The UCLA report, conducted in conjunction with Communities for a Better Environment and the environmental research firm Inclusive Economics, found that installing the wet gas scrubbers would yield “thousands of engineering, construction, and other installation jobs, upwards of 4,600 jobs between the two refineries.”

“Our lungs can’t any longer,” said Zolboo Namkhaidorj, Richmond Youth Organizer for Communities for a Better Environment, after the meeting, urging the air district to approve the cat cracker rule.

“Refineries have mounted a massive misinformation campaign to sink this rule, threatening our communities with false doomsday scenarios,” Namkhaidorj said. “Shame on them, after decades of spewing pollution that has cost local Black, indigenous, and people of color families their health and livelihoods.”

Bonnie Lockhart of Oakland was one of several speakers Wednesday who questioned seeing the issue as one of workers versus greens.

“Why are we framing this decision as jobs versus the environment, when it’s really health versus corporate profits?” Lockhart asked.

Instead of suggesting that the only way to pay for the cost of the upgrades would be through layoffs or higher gas prices, Lockhart questioned why the discussion wasn’t focused on “the obscene profits” of the fossil fuel companies and the high salaries of its CEOs.

Her suggestion to the oil companies and their top executives: “Don’t buy a yacht this year.”


Joe Garofoli is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer.

Air Quality District to host Benicia meeting on long-awaited new Air Monitoring Station

[BenIndy editor: Residents of Benicia have for years expressed serious concern about the lack of adequate air monitoring in our “refinery town.”  For an excellent background on the lead-up to this important meeting, see Marilyn Bardet’s “Letter to BAAQMD: Must Enforce Refinery Air Monitor Requirements”.  Mark your calendar & plan to attend on June 30.  – R.S.]

Virtual Meeting on Benicia Community Air Monitoring Site Selection

Invitation to public, sent via email on May 27, 2021

Dear Benicia Community and Stakeholders,

You are invited to attend a virtual community meeting to learn about air quality monitoring and help shape the future of community air monitoring in the Benicia area.

In a joint effort with the City of Benicia, the Air District identified candidate locations in Benicia for a new community air monitoring station. At this meeting, Air District staff will share the sites under consideration and information about how the sites were selected. Community members and stakeholders will have the opportunity to inform final site selection.

When:

The workshop will be held using Zoom and will take place on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Login information to follow in a subsequent notice.

Why:

The Air District monitors air quality as part of ongoing efforts to inform and protect public health. One of the ways the Air District does this is by collecting fees to install, operate, and maintain air monitoring stations in communities near refineries. These air monitoring stations will provide additional information about the levels of pollution experienced by these communities.

The Air District invites you to participate in this community meeting to discuss and review the site selection process and provide feedback on a community air monitoring station within the Benicia community.

Air District staff want to ensure a fair and equitable virtual workshop experience and provide opportunities for all interested parties to participate. Workshop materials will be available on the Air District’s Special Air Monitoring Projects web page beginning June 7, 2021.

Simultaneous language interpretation can be provided upon request at least 72 hours before the event. Contact Brian Butler at bbutler@baaqmd.gov or 415-603-7721 to request interpretation.

Questions may be sent by e-mail to iperkins@baaqmd.gov.
Para información en español, llame al 415-749-4609
中文聯絡電話 415-749-4609
Nói Tiếng Việt xin gọi 415-749-4609

Working to protect public health, air quality, and the global climate,
Your Air District