Category Archives: Fence line monitoring

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.

    Bay Area Air Board emissions plan draws response from Valero

    Repost from The Benicia Herald
    [Editor: The Benicia Herald is one of very few news outlets to cover the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s far-reaching  and highly significant December 17 initiative on refinery emissions.  The first Herald article just covered the facts, and oddly, is not posted on the Herald’s website.  As a follow-up to that story, our local newspaper either sought out comments from the Refinery or responded to Valero’s overture, not sure which.  Either way, we were treated on Christmas Eve to a front page Valero Benicia promotion of its wondrous efforts to control its emissions, and the supposedly small part Bay Area refineries play in contributing to greenhouse gases.  Note especially Valero’s resolve to “participate in any new rulemaking to ensure rules are reasonable and cost effective.”   Reasonable rules would surely protect community health and safety, no?  And according to whose costs should regulatory effectiveness be weighed?   For other reports on the Air District initiative, see The Contra Costa Times, and the Oil & Gas Journal. See also primary documents: BAAQMD 12/17 agenda, (p. 73), and  REPORT: Bay Area Refinery Emissions Reduction Strategy (PDF) .  – RS]

    Emissions plan draws response from Valero

    Refinery official: ‘Proud’ to contribute to better air quality
    By Donna Beth Weilenman, December 24, 2014

    The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is hoping its new five-component strategy will reduce emissions from refineries in it geographic area.

    The district’s Refinery Emissions Reduction Resolution, approved Oct. 15, sets a goal of 20-percent reduction in refinery emissions — or as much as is feasible — during the next five years.

    The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.

    The announced strategy would show the Air District how to achieve that goal.

    “Our new Refinery Emissions Reduction Strategy continues and reaffirms the air district’s commitment to significantly decrease harmful air pollution in our communities,” said Jack Broadbent, the district’s executive officer.

    “This strategy will ensure that refineries are taking the strongest steps to cut emissions and minimize their health impacts on neighboring residents and the region as a whole.”

    But refineries are just one industry that contributes to the San Francisco Bay Area’s air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, according to an official at Valero Benicia Refinery.

    “By the district’s own data, Bay Area refineries make up only a small segment of overall emissions in the Bay Area air shed,” said Chris Howe, the refinery’s director of health, safety, environment and government affairs.

    “These emissions have continued to decline over the last two decades,” Howe said, data which the Air District also acknowledged.

    “We are proud of the significant contributions our refinery has made and will continue to make to improve air quality, especially with the installation of our flue gas scrubber in 2011,” Howe said, citing a major component of the Valero Improvement Project.

    In addition, he said, “We will continue to participate in any new rulemaking to ensure rules are reasonable and cost effective when weighed against the many options the district has to regulate emissions in our air basin.”

    Broadbent said the Air District’s announced strategy sets overall goals of a 20-percent reduction in both criteria pollutants from refineries and in health risks to area communities, both within the next five years. That is the strategy’s first component.

    To do this, the Air District plans to investigate significant sources of those pollutants at the refineries themselves, and to examine a variety of additional pollution controls at those sources, he said. That’s the second component.

    He said this would be done under the district’s focused Best Available Retrofit Control Technology program.

    “Rulemaking is already under way to reduce sulfur dioxide from coke calciners and particulate matter from catalytic cracking units,” Broadbent said.

    “Several other rules to reduce refinery emissions will be developed in 2015.”

    The strategy’s third component would be the Air District’s approach to reduce health risks from toxic air pollution, Broadbent said.

    He said it would begin with requirements to reduce toxic emissions from such refinery sources as cooling towers and coking units.

    Site-wide health risks would be assessed, and sources for further emissions controls would be identified, with an eye toward health benefits, he said.

    A fourth component would be evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions at the refineries and their reductions as a result of the cap-and-trade system put in place under Assembly Bill 32.

    That bill, signed into law Sept. 27, 2006, requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regulations and market mechanisms to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

    CARB adopted a cap-and-trade program Dec. 17, 2010, allowing some emitters to buy credits at quarterly auctions for additional emissions.

    Under the Air District’s strategy, refinery performance would be compared to third-party standards for best practices, with analysis of potential further opportunities for reductions, Broadbent said.

    The fifth component concerns continuous improvement in emission reductions, for which refinery operators would be required on a periodic basis to evaluate the sources of most of their emissions to determine if more controls are needed.

    Broadbent said the Air District would develop its package of rules in the coming year, and would be working with members of the public as well as refinery industry representatives to make any modifications in the proposed rules and to use the strategy to reach those stated goals.

    In addition, the Air District will prepare its Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking rule that requires updated health risk assessments, additional fence-line and neighborhood monitoring capacity and the compiling of an annual emissions inventory.

    Simultaneously, the Air District will write a companion rule to set emissions thresholds and mitigate potential increases at refineries, Broadbent said.

    Those rules are expected to be sent to the Air District’s board for adoption in 2015.

    The San Francisco Bay Area’s five major oil refineries, including Valero Benicia Refinery, produce air pollution and greenhouse gases in the region, Broadbent said, and “these are already subject to more than 20 specific Air District regulations and programs, and their overall emissions have been steadily decreasing.”

    The Air District’s website is www.baaqmd.gov.

      California Groups Tell EPA: Set Stronger New Standards for Oil Refinery Air Pollution

      Repost from EarthJustice

      California Groups Tell EPA: Set Stronger New Standards for Oil Refinery Air Pollution

      Focus on need for the EPA to do more to protect communities’ health

      July 16, 2014 
      Conoco Phillips Refinery in Wilmington, CA
      Los Angeles, CA — California environmental and community groups—including families living near oil refineries—today provided powerful testimony about why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must strengthen protections from hazardous air pollution.The statements were made during a day-long public hearing in Wilmington, Calif., which the EPA held as part of its 60-day public comment period on proposed standards that would strengthen emissions and monitoring requirements for the country’s nearly 150 oil refineries.In advance of the hearing, Jane Williams, director of California Communities Against Toxics, said:

      “The EPA’s proposal is an improvement over the status quo. However, it does not go far enough to reduce the harmful, toxic air that our children are exposed to. More must be done to reduce hazardous pollution spewed by the nation’s oil refineries to prevent cancer, breathing problems and other illnesses in our children.”

      Although the proposed standards—to be finalized in April 2015—reduce hazardous air pollution by 5,600 tons each year and reduce cancer risk for millions of Americans, community leaders who have been working for decades for stronger protection say the standards fall short of the Clean Air Act mandate that all sources must follow at least, the average, emission control achieved by the cleanest refineries.

      The proposed standards that were published in the federal register last month resulted from a consent decree resolving a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of environmental groups in California, Louisiana, and Texas that argued that EPA missed its deadline under the Clean Air Act to review and update toxic air standards for oil refineries by more than a decade.

      The proposed standards, include a fence line monitoring requirement for the first time, which would require refineries to measure the toxic air contaminant benzene at the property line as it goes into the local community’s air. In addition, if benzene exceeds the new action level EPA proposes to establish, the federal agency would require a plan for corrective action.

      In addition, the proposed standards would require tighter controls on emissions from storage tanks and other parts of refineries that are major contributors to toxic air pollution (such as delayed coker units) along with controls and monitoring requirements on flaring or the burning of waste gas, which is, too often, used routinely and which creates harmful new pollution.

      The proposed standards also finally remove unlawful loopholes that previously allowed refineries to escape scot-free when they violated the air standards.

      For EPA’s new standards to provide much-needed protection for communities on the ground, environmental groups are calling for stronger fence line monitoring requirements that would mandate the use of the best current technology to give neighborhoods a real-time, continuous measure of pollution, not just a snapshot or long-term average that masks peak exposure levels.  The standards also must require accessible public reporting and enforceable corrective action so refineries will quickly fix violations. In addition, groups want to see a hard limit on flaring to ban its routine and unnecessary use and to assure refineries minimize flaring in all other circumstances, as well as tighter controls on emissions from other parts of refineries.

      Cynthia Babich, of Del Amo Action Committee said she is most focused on the real world health impacts of refineries’ pollution when considering this proposal. “The EPA must do a health evaluation using the most current scientific methods, instead of ignoring dangerous health risks our communities face,” said Babich.

      “People who live near refineries are often surrounded by multiple sources of contaminants from other polluters besides refineries, like chemical plants. And in view of this and the greater risk to our most vulnerable children, EPA should find the current, high level of health risk to be unacceptable and set stronger emission limits,” she said.

      Jesse Marquez, of Coalition For A Safe Environment, said his organization supports EPA’s proposal to make flares more efficient when they are used, and also calls on the EPA to limit flared emissions by setting a hard cap on flaring that will ban its everyday use.

      “The oil industry claims emissions have been decreasing for decades but we found that flared emissions at the four refineries in the Wilmington area increased every year between 2000 and 2011,” Marquez said. “We must have stricter standards to end all unnecessary flaring and improve our air quality.”

      Although the oil industry is objecting to the new proposed standards, community groups’ testimony illustrated today how important it is for EPA to reduce toxic air pollution and decrease the unacceptable extra health threats millions of Americans currently face just because they live near refineries. EPA predicts its current proposal will take about 5,600 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, associated with leukemia and other devastating forms of cancer, out of the air.

      Lisa Garcia, Earthjustice’s Vice President of health, said: “It is imperative that we fight industry’s unfounded attempts to weaken EPA’s attempt to strengthen health protection, and, instead, do all we can to protect everyone—especially fence line communities and those that are overburdened—from the unacceptable harm caused by oil refineries’ pollution. We must stand behind EPA’s efforts to set strong new hazardous air pollution standards, just as the Clean Air Act requires it to do.”

      Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project said: “EPA’s analysis shows that the proposed emission controls are worthwhile and will have negligible impact on the bottom-line of these companies, many of which report multi-billion dollar profits every year. The communities affected by refinery pollution cannot continue to pay for this pollution in the form of medical bills and missed school and work days, which add up to tens of millions of dollars every year.”