Category Archives: Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Marilyn Bardet on AB617, California’s Community Air Protection Program

February 19, 2018

Benicia air monitoring advocate Marilyn Bardet spoke powerfully at a recent workshop held by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board.  Her comments nicely summarize the longstanding neglect of air monitoring in Benicia and the need for state and regional agencies to include Benicia in upcoming community outreach regarding AB617, the Community Air Protection Program.

Here is the 2-minute video clip of Marilyn and the encouraging  1-minute response from the BAAQMD’s Greg Nudd.  Below is more info and the video of the full workshop.

Highly recommended: highly informative video of the entire 2:39 minute workshop:

Full length video of the January 31, 2018 workshop, 2 hours 39 minutes.  (Note that audio doesn’t start until minute 13:20, and the meeting begins at 15:55.  You can move the slider forward to skip the first part.)

MORE about AB617, the Community Air Protection Program:

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Letter: Bay Area Air Board needs to step up for cleaner air

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Where our mayor, supervisor stand

By Michelle Pellegrin, 08/04/16, 4:09 PM PDT

There are 24 people in the Bay Area with the power to regulate the air we breathe. Their decisions cause or reduce asthma, cancer and other illnesses that can and have resulted in death.

This regional board has so much power to affect peoples’ lives and deaths, yet most people haven’t even heard of this agency with the unwieldy name: The Bay Area Air Quality Management District — or BAAQMD.

The 24 members of this board — which includes Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis — have a mandate to protect public health.

The neighborhoods around the refineries have suffered severe health effects from emissions. The 2012 Chevron toxic explosion and fire in Richmond sent more than 15,000 people to the hospital, which is now closed. A broad coalition of Bay Area groups would like to see refinery emissions, which have continuously gone up for the past 20 years, capped and then methods found to reduce harmful emissions. The first step in this process is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

On Wednesday, July 20, after four long years and several refinery incidents, the board, in a room with standing room only, was to vote on this. What appeared as a simple slam dunk became a political football between clean air advocates and Big Oil.

Bay Area refineries have been preparing to process heavier dirtier crudes, which will increase emissions and their diseases. The wave of Crude By Rail (CBR) of proposed projects, such as the Valero Benicia CBR project, are designed to facilitate the importation of extreme crudes, such volatile oil from the Bakken fields and volatile heavy crude from the Canadian Tar Sands.

BAAQMD staff, in what can only be seen as another move to interminably delay implementing modern and necessary emission standards on Bay Area refineries, supported combining the simpler refinery emission cap EIR with a complex EIR on toxic chemical emissions for up to 900 businesses.

Bay Area refinery corridor communities and their allied cities want the EIRs to be conducted separately, as the EIR on refineries can be done much more quickly than the more complex toxic chemical EIR because it requires no infrastructure changes. They want answers and relief from the constant health problems they are suffering.

And here is where our mayor stepped in to show his stripes. Davis, just recently appointed to the board, gave a critical speech supporting combining the two EIRs. Who would have thought the BAAQMD’s newest member would have such sway with the board?

Anyone with respiratory health problems or cancer can give a big round of applause to our mayor and Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering, who made the motion to combine the two EIRs. We in Solano County have the dubious distinction of having the most anti-public health, pro-corporate members on the board.

Even the Contra Costa appointees where four of the five refineries are located weren’t as instrumental as the Solano reps in pushing for the delay of this most important EIR.

Luckily, other board members did uphold their duty to the public’s health and a compromise was reached. The EIRs will be combined but if they become bogged down then they will be separated out. In addition, and a very important one from the public’s point of view, there will be citizen oversight of the process.

The irony here is that this is a false dichotomy. Big Oil will keep functioning and we need them for those cars we drive. These companies provide jobs and add to our economies. But it is no longer legitimate to trade health for jobs. It is an outmoded model and has no place in deciding public policy. It is no longer acceptable for companies to dominate local economies and the policies of the people in those communities where they are located.

Big Oil has known for years that this is the direction things are moving. A 2014 article in the San Jose Mercury News notes the refineries are already working on improving their systems in anticipation of processing the dirtier and volatile oil from outside California.

As Tom Griffith, head of the Martinez Environmental Group back in 2014 stated, “The missed opportunity here is for the oil companies to refocus their sights on the future of renewable energy.”

We should be working together to improve public health. The corporate stranglehold on such important regional boards must end. Citizens need to be attend BAAQMD board meetings and provide input on upcoming board decisions for this to happen. The next meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 9:30 a.m. at the BAAQMD headquarters at 375 Beale St. San Francisco.

And here in Vallejo we need to do the same and be more engaged. We have seen the result of complicity between politicians and corporations that excluded public input: The absurd notion of putting a cement factory in a residential area with its disastrous public health consequences. Don’t let Mayor Davis and his cronies put our community in harm’s way. Say “no” to the Orcem/VMT cement plant and don’t vote in November for any candidate who supports it!

— Michelle Pellegrin/Vallejo
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Valero Benicia sues BAAQMD, demands $57M in Clean Air Credits

Repost from Courthouse News Service

Refiner Demands $57M in Clean Air Credits

By Dave Tartre, July 29, 2015 5:37 AM PT

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Valero Refining Co. sued the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Monday, claiming it abused its discretion by denying it $57 million in emissions-reduction credits.

Improvements from a major modernization of Valero’s Benicia refinery brought significant and permanent reductions in air pollution, Valero claims, but the Air Quality Management District last year rejected its application to bank $57 million in emissions reduction credits for the work it did of its own volition.

The refinery, next to the Carquinez Strait about 25 miles north of San Francisco, emits fewer nitrogen oxides and less particulate matter greater than 10 microns in diameter than it did before the project, and also reduced organic compounds and sulfur dioxide, Valero says.

It claims that the Air Quality Management District has not disputed that “the emissions reductions were real, permanent, quantifiable, enforceable and not legally required.”

A Bay Area Air Quality Management District representative on Tuesday said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Valero says it relied on a senior district engineer for guidance during the project, only to find out that the district was not bound by her decisions.

After the project was complete, Valero says, the Air Quality Management District changed the baseline emissions figures for the before-and-after comparison it uses to grant or deny credits.

The district’s hearing board upheld the denial on appeal.

Valero on Monday asked the Superior Court to declare the ruling a prejudicial abuse of discretion not supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record.

Valero claims the district’s hearing board mischaracterized its 3½-year project as a “simple shutdown of equipment.”

To the contrary, Valero says, the refinery was outfitted with new furnaces, new flue gas scrubbers and other equipment that “reduced emissions of various pollutants … by thousands of tons per year, thereby significantly improving Bay Area air quality.”

Though the work was prompted by a 2005 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Valero says it went far beyond the agreement’s requirements, to retool the refinery’s equipment and operations.

Valero says that $500 million of the $750 million spent on the project went to “achieve emissions reductions beyond those required by the Consent Decree or by other provisions of law.”

Valero seeks writ of mandate to evaluate the fairness and consistency of the district’s rejection, not just whether it was reasonable.

A spokesman from Valero declined to comment, saying the company would let the filing speak for itself.

It is represented by Ronald Van Buskirk with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, in San Francisco.

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