New oil drilling in the Bay Area? Trump admin opens possibility
By Kurtis Alexander May 9, 2019
The Trump administration brought its pro-drilling agenda to Northern California on Thursday, disclosing a plan to make more land available for oil and gas development, including parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains and East Bay hills.
Documents released by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management show the agency is looking to nearly double the amount of federal property and mineral deposits in its Central Coast region that can be leased by fossil fuel companies compared to what was proposed by the previous administration.
Roughly 725,000 acres across 11 counties will be opened up for new leasing, according to the bureau’s preferred plan, including areas in or around Mount Diablo State Park near Walnut Creek and Butano State Park near Pescadero.
Industry experts say such spots, far beyond the major oil and gas fields in San Benito, Monterey and Fresno counties, are unlikely to attract interest from oil companies because of public outcry or engineering logistics — or because they don’t find petroleum. But environmentalists aren’t so sure.
“Many of these areas have drilling and active gas wells (nearby), so yes, there’s a real risk that these places will be developed,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The federal government’s new plan comes as part of an environmental report addressing a court ruling five years ago that essentially halted new drilling leases in California until the impacts of fracking were fully evaluated.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club had brought suit against the Bureau of Land management in 2013, alleging the agency had not sufficiently analyzed fracking’s toll.
Fracking is a method of extracting oil in rock with high-pressure water and chemicals. The practice has become an increasingly popular way to get at previously inaccessible mineral deposits, but it can tear up the landscape, pollute groundwater and trigger earthquakes.
While environmental groups say fracking’s impacts have become increasingly evident since the lawsuit, the Bureau of Land Management report outlines ways in which it says the technology can be safely deployed.
The fossil fuel industry praised the agency Thursday for moving forward with a plan that embraces fracking and advances the extraction of oil and gas.
“We’re pleased that after five years, the process worked and the federal government has reaffirmed that hydraulic fracturing is a safe method of production in California,” said Kara Greene, spokeswoman for the trade group Western States Petroleum Association.
The Bureau of Land Management’s new report comes in contrast to the agency’s initial environmental report, prepared under President Barack Obama and released in early 2017. That document proposed leasing about 400,000 acres in the Central Coast region for oil and gas development.
“For the BLM, the oil and gas program needs to align with new secretarial orders,” said agency spokeswoman Serena Baker, referring to the Trump administration’s aggressive push to expand energy production.
In the bureau’s Central Coast region, drilling operations are currently limited to Fresno, Monterey, San Benito, Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.
Industry experts say that while leases may be offered in additional parts of the region, which include the counties of Merced, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus, it’s not likely.
“Drilling for oil is so expensive in California, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone is doing it,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, formerly with the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and now a senior fellow at the nonprofit Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “There’s only going to be new drilling if there’s someone who has property nearby and they want to extend what they’re doing on the federal pocket next door.”
The Bureau of Land Management estimates that 37 new oil and gas wells will be drilled as a result of the new plan, a small fraction of the few thousand existing wells in the region.
Most of California’s oil operations are on state and private property, with California regulators dictating if and where new drilling proceeds. Like the Trump administration, officials in Sacramento have been supportive of fossil fuel extraction.
Environmental groups have pressed the state to limit or halt new drilling, citing not only the local problems but the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming.
“There are hundreds of organizations that have been coming together for years” to pressure California officials, said Monica Embrey, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. She’s hoping the Newsom administration will finally act.
The Bureau of Land Management’s new report is scheduled to be published Friday in the Federal Register, at which time a 30-day public comment period begins. The governor has 60 days to weigh in. After input is gathered, the agency will review any concerns and decide how to move forward.
Petrochemical Industry Presence in East Bay CA’s North Coast Refinery Corridor
Who Lives Near the Refineries?
By Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator & Kirk Jalbert, Manager of Community-Based Research & Engagement, March 30, 2016
Communities living along the North Coast of the East Bay region in California are the most impacted by the presence of the petrochemical industry in their communities.
Emissions from these facilities disproportionately degrade air quality in this corridor region putting residents at an elevated risk of cancer and other health impacts.
People of color are more likely to live near the refineries and are therefore disproportionately affected.
Refinery Corridor Introduction
The North Coast of California’s East Bay region hosts a variety of heavy industries, including petroleum refineries, multiple power plants and stations, chemical manufacturing plants, and hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. Nationwide, the majority of petroleum refineries are located in heavily industrialized areas or near crude oil sources. The north coast region is unique. Access to shipping channels and the location being central to the raw crude product from North Dakota and Canada to the North, and California’s central valley oil fields to the south has resulted in the development of a concentrated petrochemical infrastructure within the largely residential Bay Area. The region’s petrochemical development includes seven fossil fuel utility power stations that produce a total of 4,283 MW, five major oil refineries operated by Chevron, Phillips 66, Shell Martinez, Tesoro, and Valero, and 4 major chemical manufacturers operated by Shell, General Chemical, DOW, and Hasa Inc. This unequal presence has earned the region the title, “refinery corridor” as well as “sacrifice zone” as described by the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition.
The hazardous emissions from refineries and other industrial sites are known to degrade local air quality. It is therefore important to identify and characterize the communities that are affected, as well as identify where sensitive populations are located. The communities living near these facilities are therefore at an elevated risk of exposure to a variety of chemical emissions. In this particular North Coast region, the high density of these industrial point sources of air pollution drives the risk of resultant health impacts. According to the U.S.EPA, people of color are twice as likely to live near refineries throughout the U.S. This analysis by FracTracker will consider the community demographics and other sensitive receptors near refineries along the north coast corridor.
In the map below (Figure 1) U.S. EPA risk data in CalEnviroscreen is mapped for the region of concern. The map shows the risk resulting specifically from industrial point sources. Risk along the North Coast is elevated significantly. Risk factors calculated for the region show that these communities are elevated above the average. The locations of industrial sites are also mapped, with specific focus on the boundaries or fencelines of petrochemical sites. Additional hazardous sites that represent the industrial footprint in the region have been added to the map including sites registered with Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) permits as well as Superfund and otherComprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) sites. The Toxmap TRI sites are facilities that require a permit to emit hazardous air pollutants. The superfund and other CERCLA sites are locations where a historical footprint of industry has resulted in contamination. The sites are typically abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that are part of register for tax-funded clean-ups.
Figure 1. Interactive map of risk in the East Bay’s North Coast refinery corridor
Oil refineries in particular are unique sources of air emissions. There are 150 large domestic refineries throughout the United States. They are shown in the map in Figure 2 below. The majority (90%) of the refined products from these refineries are fuels; motor vehicle gasoline accounts for 40%. The refinery sites have hundreds of stacks, or point sources, and they emit a wide variety of pollutants, as outlined by the U.S. EPA:
Criteria Air Pollutants (CAPs)
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Particulate Matter (PM)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)
Carcinogens, including benzene, naphthalene, 1,3-butadiene, PAH
Non-carcinogenic HAP, including HF and HCN
Persistent bioaccumulative HAP, including mercury and nickel
Greenhouse Gases (GHG)
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)
Figure 2. Map of North American Petroleum Refineries
Disparate health impacts are therefore a known burden for these Bay Area communities. The region includes the cities of Richmond, Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, Crockett, Port Costa, Benicia, Martinez, Mt. View, Pacheco, Vine Hill, Clyde, Concord, Bay Point, Antioch, and Oakley. In addition to preserving the ecological system health of this intercostal region is also important for both the ecological biodiversity of the marsh as well as commercial and recreational purposes. These wetlands provide a buffer, able to absorb rising waters and abate flooding.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) Cumulative Impacts report identified areas where air pollution’s health impacts are relatively high in the San Francisco Bay Area. The report is does not limit their analysis to the North Coast, but shows that these regions with the most impacts are also the most vulnerable due to income, education level, and race and ethnicity. The report shows that there is a clear correlation between socio-economic disadvantages and racial minorities and the impacted communities. Figure 3 shows the regions identified by the BAAQMD as having the highest pollution indices.
This analysis by FracTracker focuses specifically on the north shore of the East Bay region. Like the BAAQMD report, National Air toxic Assessment (NATA) data to identify census tracts with elevated risk. Specifically, elevated cancer and non-cancer risk from point sources emitting hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) as regulated by the U.S. EPA were used. CalEnviroScreen 2.0 data layers were also incorporated, specifically the U.S. EPA’s Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) data. RSEI uses toxic release inventory (TRI) data, emission locations and weather to model how chemicals spread in the air (in 810m-square grid units), and combines air concentrations with toxicity factors.
The census tracts that were identified as disproportionately impacted by air quality are shown in the map below (Figure 4). The demographics data for these census tracts are presented in the tables below. Demographics were taken from the U.S. census bureau’s 2010 Census Summary File 1 Demographic Profile (DP1). The census tracts shapefiles were downloaded from here.
Figure 4. Interactive Map of Petrochemical Sites and Neighboring Communities in the East Bays North Coast Industrial Corridor
Buffers were created at 1,000 ft; 2,000 ft; and 3,000 ft buffers from petrochemical sites. These distances were developed as part of a hazard screening protocol by researchers at the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to assess environmental justice impacts. The distances are based on environmental justice literature, ARB land use guidelines, and state data on environmental disamenities (Sadd et al. 2011). A demographical profile was summarized for the population living within a distance of 3,000 feet, and for the census tracts identified as impacted by local point sources in this region. The analysis is summarized in Table 1 below. Additional data on the socioeconomic status of the census tracts is found in Table 2.
Based on the increased percentage of minorities and indicators of economic hardship shows that the region within the buffers and the impacted census tracts host a disproportionate percentage of vulnerable populations. Of particular note is 30% increase in Non-white individuals compared to the rest of the state. We see in Table 2 that this is disparity is specifically for Black or African American communities, with an over 150% increase compared to the total state population. The number of households reported to be in poverty in the last 12 months of 2014 and those households receiving economic support via EBT are also elevated in this region. Additional GIS analysis shows that 7 healthcare facilities, 7 residential elderly care facilities, 32 licensed daycares, and 17 schools where a total of 10,474 students attended class in 2014. Of those students, 54.5% were Hispanic and over 84% identified as “Non-white.”
Table 1. Demographic Summaries of Race. Data within the 3,000 ft buffer of petrochemical sites was aggregated at the census block level.
Hispanic or Latino
Hispanic or Latino (%ile)
Impacted Census Tracts
3,000 ft. Buffer
Table 2. Additional Status Indicators taken from the 2010 census at the census tract level
Indicators (Census Tract data)
Children, Age under 5
Black or African American
Food Stamps (households)
The results of the refinery corridor analysis show that the communities living along the North Coast of the East Bay region are the most impacted by the presence of the petrochemical industry in their communities. Emissions from these facilities disproportionately degrade air quality in this corridor region putting residents at an elevated risk of cancer and other health impacts. The communities in this region are a mix of urban and single family homes with residential land zoning bordering directly on heavy industry zoning and land use. The concentration of industry in this regions places an unfair burden on these communities. While all of California benefits from the use of fossil fuels for transportation and hydrocarbon products such as plastics, the residents in this region bear the burden of elevated cancer and non-cancer health impacts.
Additionally, the community profile is such that residents have a slightly elevated sensitivity when compared to the rest of the state. The proportion of the population that is made up of more sensitive receptors is slightly increased. The region has suburban population densities and more children under the age of 5 than average. The number of people of color living in these communities is elevated compared to background (all of California). The largest disparity is for Black or African American residents. There are also a large number of schools located within 3,000 ft of at least one petrochemical site, where over half the students are Hispanic and the vast majority are students of color. Overall, people of color are disproportionately affected by the presence of the petrochemical industry in this region. Continued operation and any increases in production of the refineries in the East Bay disproportionately impact the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.
With this information, FracTracker will be elaborating on the work within these communities with additional analyses. Future work includes a more in depth look at emissions and drivers of risk on the region, mapping crude by rail terminals, and working with the community to investigate specific health endpoints. Check back soon.
Report finds overwhelming opposition to project that would bring crude-by-rail through Bay Area cities
By Tom Lochner, 03/04/2016 04:44:34 AM PST
BERKELEY — A crude-by-rail project in Central California that could bring up to five trains a week through Berkeley and other East Bay shoreline cities has garnered overwhelming opposition among local politicians and the public, an observer for the city reports.
Ray Yep, a member of the Public Works Commission working with Councilwoman Linda Maio, represented Berkeley at hearings before the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission last month on the Phillips 66 Rail Spur Project. The proposal calls for bringing out-of-state crude oil, likely the tar sands variety, to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery via 80-car trains, via a 1.3-mile spur that would connect the refinery with the Union Pacific mainline.
Possible access routes to the refinery from outside the area would be from the south via the Los Angeles Basin, and from the north via the East Bay and South Bay along Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor tracks.
As early as 2014, the Berkeley and Richmond city councils voted to oppose the transport of crude oil through the East Bay.
Hearings were held Feb. 4 and 5, with at least one more hearing before the planning commission votes on the project. The next hearing is 9 a.m. March 11.
At the Feb. 4 hearing, the county staff gave a presentation, ending with a recommendation to deny the project. A county attorney followed with a discussion of federal pre-emption, characterizing it as a “gray area,” according to the Berkeley report.
Phillips 66 has challenged the county’s standing to evaluate Union Pacific mainline issues — including possible effects on the communities it traverses. In an ensuing presentation, the company held that mainline issues fall under federal regulations, the Berkeley report noted.
Phillips 66 said the rail spur project is needed because of declining of oil production in California, and that it would keep the refinery in operation and provide local jobs and taxes, according to the Berkeley report. The company declared willingness to reduce the volume of trains to three per week, which critics have derided as a tactic to facilitate approval without addressing the danger of fire, explosion and pollution.
Without approval of the rail spur project, 100 trucks would transport crude oil daily from Kern County to the Santa Maria refinery, according to the report.
About 300 people submitted speaker cards at the Feb. 4 hearing and 69 spoke that day, from as far away as Crockett, Davis and Sacramento, according to the Berkeley report. Some 430 speaker cards were submitted at the Feb. 5 hearing.
The report noted that 17 elected officials spoke, all but one against the project.
Maio is expected to present the report to the City Council on Tuesday. It is available online at bit.ly/1QsQL6w.
San Jose council member urges rejection of Central California refinery’s crude-by-rail project
By Tom Lochner, Oakland Tribune, 11/26/2014
BERKELEY — As the deadline arrived for comments to an environmental report on a Central California crude-by-rail project, a San Jose City councilman got the early jump, announcing his opposition in a news release Monday afternoon.
The Phillips 66 Company Rail Spur Extension Project would bring as many as 250 unit trains a year with 80 tank cars plus locomotives and supporting cars to a new crude oil unloading facility in Santa Maria from the north or from the south along tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad.
Likely itineraries for the crude oil supplies coming from out-of-state include the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along the eastern shore of San Pablo and San Francisco bays that also carry Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor and Coast Starlight trains.
“This will allow mile-long oil trains carrying millions of gallons of explosive, toxic crude oil in unsafe tank cars to travel through California every day,” reads a news release from San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra. “These trains will travel through the Bay Area passing neighborhoods in San Jose, including Kalra’s District 2 in south San Jose. This proposed plan threatens the residents and families along the rail routes and also threatens the environment and local water supplies.”
Kalra continues by urging San Luis Obispo County to reject the project, saying, “The safety of our community members, our health, and our environment, should not be taken lightly.”
In March, the Berkeley and Richmond city councils voted unanimously to oppose the transport of crude oil by rail through the East Bay.
As of early Tuesday, Berkeley had not communicated to this newspaper its comments to the environmental report. San Luis Obispo County as of early Tuesday had not published what is expected to be a voluminous body of comments from public agencies, advocacy groups and individuals.
On Tuesday, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said, “Having 60-car trains going through our town, as many as two a day, is an area of concern for anyone in the Bay Area because of the vulnerability of the rail cars and the problems that would ensue if one of them would explode.”
The Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery currently receives its crude oil supply via underground pipeline from locations throughout California, but with the decline in crude oil production in the state, it is looking to alternative supplies that would be delivered most practically by rail, according to the refinery website.
“The refinery currently uses trains to transport products, and refinery personnel have decades of experience in safely handling railcars,” the Santa Maria Refinery Rail Project page reads in part. “The proposed change will help the refinery, and the approximately 200 permanent jobs it provides, remain viable under increasingly challenging business conditions.
“Everything at Phillips 66 is done with safety as the highest priority.”