Category Archives: Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Bay Area Air District proposing to give refineries a pass on air monitoring

[Editor: For more, including HOW TO SEND THE AIR DISTRICT YOUR COMMENT, see the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Notice of Public Hearing.  Plan to attend on December 19, 2018.  – RS]

BAAQMD: Costs for daily air monitoring too expensive… poor refineries…

By Benicia Vice Mayor Steve Young, October 23, 2018 
Steve Young, Benicia Vice Mayor

The Bay Area Air District (BAAQMD) recently released their proposal on how to deal with the problem of excess ROG (Reactive Organic Gas) emissions from refinery cooling towers. Here are my favorite two sections from their proposed way of dealing (or more accurately, not dealing), with the problem …

Amendments to Rule 11-10 reduce monitoring of cooling towers for hydrocarbon leaks from daily to weekly, with provisions to extend monitoring periods after proving no leaks for an extended time. Costs for daily monitoring were found to be excessive relative to the potential hydrocarbon emission reductions. Requirements for cooling tower best management practices and reporting were eliminated when found to be focused primarily on Process Safety Management and cooling water chemistry rather than leak detection.

The only feasible method to reduce ROG emissions from cooling towers is more frequent monitoring and repair, but this method was concluded to not be feasible due to economic factors as per CEQA Guidelines §15364. Thus, no feasible mitigation measures have been identified that could avoid the significant impact or reduce the impact to less than significant.

Generally, CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) does not allow  an environmental impact to be ignored based on the fact that reducing those impacts will cost money. And refineries certainly SHOULD be expected to spend money on such things as more frequent monitoring and repairs.

Going to testify at these hearings – where testimony is limited to no more than three minutes, and often shorter – is both necessary and, seemingly, pointless.

    Questionable community outreach by Air District for Industrial Safety Ordinance audits

    From local emails…


    From: Roger Straw
    Sent: Friday, July 06, 2018 9:45 AM
    Subject: FW: [BAAQMD Coalition] Questionable community outreach for Industrial Safety Ordinance audits

    This is amazing – read below, from bottom, up.  (Click on the image for larger display.)  And then come back and ask a couple of questions:

    1. Does Solano County have to report to the public like this now – even under current regulations?  Do they publish a notice like the one Nancy sent from Crockett?  Is this something that our newbie “CUPA” needs to be doing on our behalf?
    2. If/when we have an ISO, what assurances do we have the Hazardous Materials staff (Contra Costa OR Solano) would be any more attentive to Benicia citizens’ needs.  (Randy Sawyer should be embarrassed by this.)

    I think the Working Group could be making a big deal out of this!  I think I’ll post about it on the BenIndy.


    Begin forwarded message:

    On Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 3:28 PM Nancy Rieser via BAAQMD Network wrote:

    The Contra Costa Health Department considers a booth behind an elementary school two blocks away from a street fair in Crockett as a “public meeting..”   They reckon that the booth where they will be twiddling their fingers while the locals drink and dance a few blocks away will meet its obligation to hold a face-to-face public meeting.

    Guess we are lucky.  Martinez gets its face-to-face at a Christmas tree farm in August on National Night Out.

    I called the Health Department:  The gentleman who answered the phone said that apparently nobody cares enough to hear this kind of information and they won’t hold a meeting unless they can get a guaranteed audience of 25 people.  Neither will they mail notices to individual homes about their meeting to hustle the crowds.  “It is too expensive.”


    From: Ralph Dennis
    Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 12:26 PM
    Subject: ISO related

    I noticed in the Benicia Herald this morning two public notices for Risk Management Plans prepared by Solano County Department of Resource Management, one for Praxair and the other for Benicia’s Water Treatment Plant. These are part of the 5-year audit review process, I believe, the same reports referenced in the Contra Costa County notice you sent around the other day.

    I figured there ought to be one for Valero, so I called the Solano County Department of Resource Management. Turns out the Valero plan was filed in Dec. 2017 and is still under review. The staffer I spoke with who is doing the review is suppose to call me about status. Interesting, I guess: no public meetings planned, copies of plans not available in our library (as in Contra Costa County). He seemed surprised at my question about public meetings, said he could check with management.

    CCHMP public notice meetings July-Aug 2018

      ISO Working Group personal reflection: City Council says no to industrial safety…for now

      By Roger Straw

      Council turns down draft local ISO, puts trust in Valero, County, State and Air District

      Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

      It’s a sad story.  An ambitious and dedicated group of us formed a Benicia ISO Working Group over 7 months ago.  We met, researched, wrote, met with officials and embraced the pro-bono attorney labors of Terry Mollica, who drafted a head-start on Benicia’s own Industrial Safety Ordinance.

      The City Council didn’t buy it.  Mostly, they bought the joint opinion of Valero, Solano County and the Bay Area Air District – that a LOCAL ordinance is redundant given new regional and state regulations.  Which of course, it isn’t – redundant, that is.

      Mayor Patterson and Vice-mayor Steve Young voted to direct staff to further review the concept and the draft ordinance and return to Council with recommendations.  Mark Hughes (predictably), along with Alan Schwartzman and Tom Campbell, voted to wait awhile.

      Significantly, for the first time on the public record, all five agreed that the City of Benicia and its residents are long overdue for air monitors.

      Campbell and Schwartzman threatened Valero that they would revisit the issue and vote in favor of an ISO in November 2018 if Valero has not complied with a new Air District requirement for a few “fenceline” air monitors on Valero’s southeast border.

      Of course, we would get fenceline AND COMMUNITY-BASED, neighborhood air monitors with the draft ISO.  But three Councilmembers chose to take a slower route with much less leverage over our local Goliath.

      It could go either way in November or December.  Valero could conceivably install the required but totally inadequate fenceline monitors.  Or they could seek a delay, or just never perform.  It really doesn’t matter.  Many are saying we should sit tight, and hold Councilmembers Schwartzman and Campbell to their promise if Valero doesn’t comply – that they would then vote for an ISO.  Fine, but a better plan is to simply remember that Councilmember Hughes is up for re-election in November.  Whether or not Valero complies, a third vote on Council would be assured with Hughes’ defeat in November.

      This isn’t over.  Benicia continues as the only refinery town in the Bay Area without a local industrial safety ordinance.  Our City staff and our citizens need a measure of oversight and control when it comes to our public health and safety.