Category Archives: Regional regulation

CA State Senator seeks higher fines for illegal refinery emissions

Press Release from CA Senate District 3, Rep. Bill Dodd

Sen. Dodd seeks higher fines for illegal refinery emissions

Friday, February 16, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) introduced a new bill to help deter harmful emissions from oil refineries. The bill would increase fines for serious violations of emissions standards that sicken people or force shelter-in-place orders.

“There are already fines on the books for illegal refinery emissions, but the most common fine hasn’t been increased since Richard Nixon was in the White House,” said Senator Dodd. “When people are sickened by refinery emissions or forced to shelter-in-place, there should be stiffer penalties. My bill reinforces that oil companies should take proactive steps to avoid violations in the first place.”

Dodd’s bill, SB 1144, would triple existing fines for violations of emissions standards if the violations cause a health problem or impact over 25 people. Existing law doesn’t allow increased penalties for violations that injure nearby residents or for refineries with multiple violations. Currently, the maximum amount for the most common level of fines is $10,000 and hasn’t been adjusted since 1974.

Dodd’s bill would set the new fine at $30,000, and if refineries are found negligent, the amount would go up to $75,000 per day. In instances where a refinery fails to correct a known violation or intentionally violates standards, the violations would be even greater. For serial offenders with multiple serious violations within 36 months, the fines could be as much as $500,000 per day.

“Representing communities that house several refineries, I want to encourage the industry to be proactive in meeting their duty to neighboring residents,” said Senator Dodd. “This measure isn’t a silver bullet for addressing safety, but it certainly provides greater incentive to act responsibly.”

Senator Dodd’s district includes the majority of the Bay Area’s refineries. In September 2016, numerous Vallejo residents were sickened by a refinery incident that triggered over 1,500 complaints. The state’s Office of Emergency Services reported that area hospitals and medical facilities treated 120 patients for headaches, nausea, dizziness, and burning of the eyes, nose and throat. The Bay Area Air Quality Management issued a notice of violation to the refinery in Rodeo for that incident.

The funds from the fines in Dodd’s bill would be available to support more robust monitoring and enforcement. The bill is expected to come up for a committee vote next month.

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Related imageSenator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa Counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.
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    DAVIS ENTERPRISE: Area agencies oppose Valero oil train petition

    Repost from the Davis Enterprise

    Davis joins regional agencies in opposing Valero oil train petition

    By Felicia Alvarez, July 10, 2016

    In the latest addition to the turbulent saga of Valero Refining Company’s proposal to expand a crude oil-by-rail train route through the Sacramento-Davis region to a refinery in Benicia, the City of Davis, Yolo County, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments have submitted formal letters opposing the Valero’s latest moves to approve the project.

    The local agencies are joined by a formidable coalition opposing Valero’s project, including State Attorney General Kamala Harris, the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, and a number of air quality management districts.

    The letters oppose Valero’s most recent steps to push through the crude-by-rail proposal and expansion of their Benicia refinery.

    Last February saw the Benicia Planning Commission unanimously vote down the project’s environmental impact report. Valero decided to take it to the federal level, petitioning the Surface Transportation board for a federal preemption [by] the railroads.

    Preemption would allow the company to expand its operations to transport oil through Davis along Interstate 80 toward the refinery in Benicia. It would also include routes that travel to San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield, and several other projects in Oregon and Washington.

    The route of the most local concern would see 100-car trains travel through Old East Davis, downtown Davis, and the south end of UC Davis each day.

    Last Friday, the City of Davis delivered its own letter to the Surface Transportation Board opposing Valero’s proposal. The city signed alongside Yolo County, Oakland, Berkeley and SACOG.

    Fighting to maintain local control of planning and zoning management of the proposal in the interest of public safety, the letter states:

    “Valero’s complaints do not actually pertain to rail operations at all. They pertain to the operations of oil refineries within California, refineries that wish, for their own financial benefits, to be exempted from compliance with state and local environmental and planning laws.”

    The local agencies go on to argue that granting preemption is outside of the role of the board to rule on an oil refinery’s obligations.

    The Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District decried Valero’s petition as well, drafting a letter alongside the Butte, Sutter, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta and Bay Area air quality management districts. 

    The letter points to the project’s revised draft environmental impact report, which lists the additional air quality impacts that would be felt across multiple air districts if additional railcar trips were made across the region.

    ” … federal preemption prohibits the mitigation of project emissions either directly from locomotives or indirectly through the purchase of emission offsets,” the letter states, adding that this is what prompted the air quality districts to oppose the petition.

    Yolo Solano AQMD’s letter goes on to echo the city’s argument that Valero is not a rail carrier, and therefore is not eligible to receive a preemption on the railroads from the Surface Transportation Board.

    The Benicia City Council is slated to give the oil train proposal another hearing in September.

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      Chevron fined for air pollution at Richmond refinery

      Repost from SFGate

      Chevron fined for air pollution at Richmond refinery

      By Kurtis Alexander, August 11, 2015 2:42 pm

      Chevron has agreed to pay $146,000 in fines for spewing pollutants into the air at its refinery in Richmond, air quality regulators said Tuesday.

      The penalty stems from 22 citations from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District mostly for discharging unhealthy levels of hydrogen sulfide and other harmful compounds through flaring, the process of burning off excess gas, common at industrial sites.

      The refinery was also cited for excess carbon monoxide coming out of its furnace.

      “Even though the incidents were minor and did not result in any significant impacts to people or the environment, we take these matters seriously, and have taken preventative measures to avoid similar situations from occurring in the future,” said Leah Casey, a spokeswoman for Chevron Corp., in an e-mail to The Chronicle.

      The notices of violation were sent to Chevron between 2012 and 2014. The fines will support the air district’s enforcement work.

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        Author of the 9/11 Rail provisions: Rail security requires local oversight of Bakken trains

        Repost from Government Security News

        Rail security requires local oversight of Bakken crude shipments

        By Denise Rucker Krepp, 2014-09-09

        The District of Columbia Council uncovered a serious homeland security flaw this week that should raise red flags for mayors and town managers around the country. In the nation’s capitol, local transportation officials aren’t conducting oversight over CSX and the goods it transports through the city. Similarly, officials are unfamiliar with the rail carrier’s security policies. DC transportation officials, as traditionally classified by the federal government, aren’t rail stakeholders with a need to know this information.

        Rail stakeholders, as defined by the Transportation Security Administration, are class 1 freight railroads (CSX, Norfolk Southern), Amtrak, and regional and short line railroads. Members of these companies advise TSA on rail security matters and TSA provides them with security information. This relationship is further solidified in TSA’s strategic plan. The exclusive club does not include first responders nor local representatives from the communities through which the rail carriers transport goods.

        By not including cities and towns as part of their stakeholder group, TSA has weakened the nation’s rail security system. Mayors and town managers control the first responder assets that will be used when the next Lac Megantic or Lynchburg occurs. TSA, however, as DC transportation officials told the DC Council this week, doesn’t require local officials to review rail security plans covering their jurisdiction. Absent a comprehensive review, they won’t know if their assets are sufficient to respond to a significant accident.

        TSA’s definition of rail stakeholder was upended this summer when Secretary of Transportation Foxx mandated that rail carriers share information regarding Bakken crude with local officials.  For the first time, a federal department broadened the definition to include first responders and emergency managers. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act included information sharing requirements but TSA never followed through with them.

        The lack of knowledge is problematic because local officials approve rail permits for projects like the proposed Virginia Avenue Tunnel project in DC. These officials however, have not include homeland security threat information in their permit analysis. They couldn’t. Local officials didn’t have this information before Secretary Foxx’s order. Thankfully, his order will increase the flow of information to local officials and will enable them to finally complete a more thorough analysis before making critical permitting decisions.

        It’s my hope that Secretary Foxx’s order will be formalized by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS indicated in its Spring 2014 unified regulatory agenda, that TSA will be drafting regulations concerning rail security plans and other measures outlined in the 9/11 Act. These regulations will firmly establish the federal government’s expectations and one of these should be the inclusion of state and local officials in the decision making process.

        Denise Rucker Krepp is an attorney, transportation and energy consultant, former special counsel to DOT and the U.S. Congress, and author of the 9/11 Rail provisions.
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