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

Valero to pay huge fines – again – for air quality violations

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor: These fines are routinely written off by giant Valero as a cost of doing business.  Examples from recent years: Valero Benicia Refinery fined $122,500 in 2016.  And fined $183,000 in 2014.  IMPORTANT: Benicia Mayor Patterson and residents have repeatedly petitioned the Bay Area Air District to channel at least SOME of these fines to the affected community.  The District has suggested responsiveness, but failed to engage meaningfully.  Again in today’s news, the District will keep the fines for its own use, leaving the polluted community adrift in the wind (as it were).  – R.S.]

Valero paying $266,000 for air quality violation

By John Glidden, October 10, 2018 5:45 pm | UPDATED: 7:38 pm
A photo of the Valero Benicia Refinery taken at night in May 2014.

BENICIA — Valero Refining Co. will pay $266,000 to settle 22 air quality violations that took place mostly in 2016 at the Valero Benicia Refinery, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) announced this week.

“This settlement helps to ensure that Valero remains vigilant in running its operations according to all air quality regulations,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of BAAQMD, in a district news release. “Our air district enforcement and source testing teams, together with a variety of other tools are in place to ensure refineries comply with their permits.”

Eleven of the violations were for exceeding emission limits, with nine of them being detected by monitors which measure emissions from refinery equipment, the air district said in a news release. Officials said the other two violations were discovered by a source test conducted by the facility’s contractor and by a BAAQMD inspector.

Seven additional violations were recorded for hydrocarbon leaks from storage tanks or lines, while two violations were given because there were errors in an inspection database which resulted in missed leak inspections for valves omitted from the database, officials explained in the same release.

Single violations were assessed for a missed calibration on an emissions monitor and a failed monitor accuracy test, officials said.

The Air District said in the same release that violators must respond to a violation notice within ten days and further submit a detailed description of what actions they will take to correct the problem.

Officials said the settlement funds will be by the air district to fund future inspection and enforcement activities.

A representative with Valero couldn’t be reached for comment prior to press deadline.

    If California is so climate friendly, why are Bay Area air regulators allowing increased tar sands oil refining (and offshore drilling)?

    Repost from Red Green and Blue

    If California is so climate friendly, why are they upping tar sands oil refining (and offshore drilling)?

    By Dan Bacher, September 4, 2018

    As thousands get ready to march in the Rise for Climate Day of Action in San Francisco September 8 and the city gears up to host the Governor Jerry Brown co-sponsored Global Climate Action Summit next week, area climate and environmental justice advocates say local air regulators mandated to protect air quality and the climate are taking significant steps to allow increased tar sands refining and creeping refinery emissions in the Bay Area.

    No Fossil Fuels for California
    (Photo by Peg Hunter)

    Major public protest is expected tomorrow, September 5,  at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) Board of Directors meeting at 9:30 a.m. at the agency’s headquarters at 375 Beal St., San Francisco.

    The event will preceded at 8 a.m. by an Idle No More SF Bay-led prayer circle and teach-in outside BAAQMD headquarters, according to a press release from the Communities for a Better Environment, 350 Bay Area and the Sunflower Alliance.

    The local climate and environmental justice advocates say they plan to “sound the alarm about the widening gap between lofty California climate goals and the reality on the ground here in the Bay Area and other refining centers in the state.”

    A recent public records request reveals that BAAQMD staff issued an administrative permit on August 16, 2018 to increase production capacity at the Phillips 66 refinery by 61.3 million gallons per year.

    “This permit allows for increased heavy oil processing, or hydrocracking, at the Rodeo facility, and will enable the refiner to process the increased amounts of Canadian tar sands oil it proposes to bring in across San Francisco Bay via nearly tripled oil tanker traffic in a wharf expansion project,” the groups said. “ This small but highly significant step actually allows Phillips 66 to begin implementing its goal of switching its San Francisco Refinery over to tar sands.”

    “The Rodeo refinery is connected to its sister refinery in Santa Maria by pipeline; together they make up the larger San Francisco Refinery.  Two years ago, multi-community protest shut down a Phillips 66 proposal to increase tar sands deliveries by oil train to the Santa Maria facility,” the groups said.

    “The company is trying to sneak its expansion past regulators and the public by pretending each little increase is unconnected, but we aren’t fooled,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Executive Director of San Francisco Baykeeper regarding the permit:

    The groups said the permit was issued without any public review or notice while Chief Air Pollution Control Officer Jack Broadbent was meeting with First Nations representatives and touring tar sands mining sites in Alberta, Canada.

    “The fact-finding tour, which included several BAAQMD board members, took place at the urgent request of members of Idle No More SF Bay, who urged local regulators to connect the dots between the destructive impacts of Canadian tar sands mining on carbon-sequestering boreal forest and First Nations peoples, soaring greenhouse gas emissions and local Bay Area air quality and public health,” they said.

    Pennie Opal Plant of Idle No More SF Bay said, “It is wildly irresponsible for Phillips 66 to add to the problems that are causing sick refinery communities and the climate disruption impacting us in California and around the world.  Phillips’ expansion proposal must be stopped and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the agency to stop it.”

    Jed Holtzman of 350 Bay Area stated: “BAAQMD has committed to a vision of a fossil-free Bay Area in 2050, starting now with steep reductions of the pollution that causes premature death in our communities and destroys the stable climate.  Yet its action to allow Phillips 66 to expand its refinery infrastructure ensures more local air pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions. Air District permits must be aligned with agency goals.”

    Area climate and environmental justice advocates said news of the secret permit was distressing to many of them.

    “This type of rubber-stamping of refinery permits demonstrates how BAAQMD serves at the pleasure of the fossil fuel industry, not the citizens who live in the Bay Area,” said refinery neighbor Nancy Rieser of C.R.U.D.E., Crockett-Rodeo United in Defense of the Environment.

    Ironically, the permit was issued nearly five years to the day after the Air District board passed a resolution condemning the KXL pipeline, noted Rieser.

    That resolution warned against the more intensive processing required by tar sands oil, which causes enormous quantities of toxic, criteria and greenhouse gas pollutants to spew from refinery smokestacks.  As the 2013 resolution made clear, “any increase” of these pollutants will cause negative impacts on the health of local residents.

    ”Tar sands bitumen is the most carbon-intensive, hazardous and polluting major oil resource on the planet to extract, transport, and refine. Despite this, the Air District staff is intentionally bypassing California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and refusing to evaluate the climate impacts of its permit, which opens the gates to increased tar sands refining,” the groups said.

    “Staff argues that it must bypass CEQA, one of California’s greatest environmental protections, because the revised cap-and-trade program (AB 398) that Governor Brown so aggressively pushed for last summer has withdrawn the authority of all regional Air Districts to directly regulate refinery-emitted greenhouse gases.   California’s carbon pollution-trading program is now BAAQMD’s chief alibi for eliminating public and board review, and for refusing to protect the climate from oil pollution,” the groups said.

    Activists said they are also alarmed by the “gutting and indefinite postponement of a long-awaited particular-matter reduction regulation impacting the Chevron, Marathon (formerly Tesoro) and Shell refineries.”

    A letter submitted to the Air District by 25 environmental justice organizations on August 16 points to yet another “secret agreement”—this one signed with the oil industry by the District’s Chief Air Pollution Control Officer. The agreement commits the Air District to propose and advocate for weakened emissions limits.

    ”As the Global Climate Action Summit rapidly approaches, our air quality regulators and designated climate protectors need to stop coddling the oil industry and start demonstrating real accountability to the public. People’s lives depend on it,” the groups concluded.

    Read the Demand Letter to BAAQMD for Refinery PM Clean-Up at www.CBECAL.org.

    While California is often lauded as a “climate leader” and Governor Jerry Brown is praised as a “climate hero” in national and international idea, the reality is much different, as we can see in the  widening gap between lofty California climate goals and the reality on the ground in the Bay Area and other refining centers in the state.

    The reality is that Big Oil is the largest and most powerful lobby and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the largest and most powerful lobbying organization. As a result of the enormous political influence of WSPA and the oil industry on the Brown administration and the Legislature, Governor Brown’s oil and gas regulators have approved over 21,000 new oil and gas permits in the past seven years — and Brown controls 4 times the number of offshore wells that Donald Trump does.

    WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations.

    This article on Big Oil Regulatory Capture is a must-read for everybody going to the BAAQMD meeting tomorrow, the Rise for Climate March on September 8, and the many other climate events planned for the coming week: Before the Rise for Climate March Sept. 8, read this: Big oil’s grip on California.

      ISO Working Group: Benicia Deserves a Local Industrial Safety Ordinance (Part 3)

      Repost from the Benicia Herald

      ISO Working Group: Benicia Deserves a Local Industrial Safety Ordinance (Part 3)

      By Benicia ISO Working Group, June 19, 2018

      In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we examined the health effects and costs of particulates and other air pollutants and pointed out the inadequacies of Valero’ proposed air monitoring plan, now under review at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).  Today we will look at other statewide developments on air quality, and the continuing need for a LOCAL Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO).

      Valero and others have pointed out that community air monitoring programs are part of the recently adopted California Air Resources Board (CARB) statewide mandate to determine which communities are most impacted by poor ambient air quality.  The expectation is that local air districts will install community monitors on a prioritized basis, and that Benicia might qualify and benefit. This is a reference to AB 617, and we understand that Benicia could self-nominate to seek funds through AB 617. However, City staff has declined to spend time on an application, and even if it did, would likely not benefit much.  Only $5 million is available statewide for communities who qualify, with a priority on disadvantaged communities.

      At this point in time, the ISO Working Group expects a draft Benicia ISO to incorporate a provision that requires a communitywide air monitoring program, one which integrates existing programs and data collection to the extent relevant and practical. Any additional air monitoring that becomes available to Benicia through AB 617, CARB, the BAAQMD or other outside source can be integrated into the Benicia ISO’s overall plan for monitoring, oversight and correction.

      Benicia deserves better! Benicia deserves a communitywide monitoring program, not fence line only.  Benicia deserves a program that provides data and meaningful analysis and information to the general public on a 24/7, real-time basis. Valero’s current proposal will not do this, and other regional and state monitoring programs on the horizon that may include Benicia have unclear implementation dates and are severely underfunded. In the meantime, what’s in Benicia’s air remains unclear.

      A Benicia ISO will give City staff, Council members and representatives of the schools and residents a seat at the table when decisions are made concerning air monitoring and more.  A Benicia ISO will strengthen the City’s response during emergencies and “rare conditions,” and provide detailed reporting to City staff, Council members and the public during and after such events.  A Benicia ISO would improve cooperation and communication between industry and the City, County, local fire departments and regional and statewide oversight agencies.  A Benicia ISO would – after years of waiting – bring community-wide air monitors to Benicia.  A Benicia ISO would bring a strong measure of local control and locally nimble response when it comes to our own health and safety.

      Finally – and importantly – an ISO would be budget neutral for the City, supported from fees through implementation and enforcement of the ISO. Benicia’s ISO will engage the experts we need to participate as equals at the table reviewing documents and regulations on behalf of the City and community.

      Please contact the Mayor, City Council members, and Benicia’s City Manager to let them know you support a community industrial safety ordinance for Benicia.    


      The Benicia ISO Working Group is an ad hoc citizen’s group of about a dozen Benicia residents.  Since October 2017, the Working Group has been studying, writing, meeting with officials and advocating that Benicia join all other Bay Area refinery towns in passing a local community industrial safety ordinance.  More information: beniciaindependent.com/iso.