Category Archives: Toxic pollutants

Valero’s secret output level – 65% of permitted output

By Roger Straw, August 5, 2016

A letter by Kathy Kerridge appeared in the print edition of today’s Benicia Herald. Kerridge clarified statements made many times in recent months regarding Valero’s recent product output as approximately 65% of the refinery’s capacity.

The refinery does not disclose its current operating output, claiming that it is a trade secret.  Kerridge discloses the source for the public knowledge on this.

First a little background: When Commissioner Steve Young questioned Valero executives at the Planning Commission hearing on Feb 8, the transcript has “(No audible response.)” See p. 184. And when Young asked Valero environmental engineer Don Cuffel about this at the Planning Commission on Feb 9, Cuffel’s response was clearly evasive – see page 49-50 of the transcript.

The significance, as Kerridge points out below, has everything to do with Valero’s ability to increase air pollution and even (if permitted) to expand its operations to overseas oil export, if the City were to approve Valero’s Crude by Rail proposal.

Kerridge’s letter follows.  (I have added live links to the sources. I have also excised references to Benicia’s whack-a-mole critic, whose repetitive nonsense is not worth repeating on these pages.)


Letter to the Editor, Benicia Herald, by Kathy Kerridge

HERE IS A SOURCE
August 5, 2016

Dear Editor,

In last Sunday’s paper and in other recent letters [a critic] has been quite upset over the claim that Valero is operating at 65% capacity. He has repeatedly attacked [candidate for City Council] Steve Young over this and most recently attacked me demanding my source for the fact that Valero is operating at less than full capacity. Well here is the source: a report done by Applied Developments Economics, Inc. for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Here is a link to the report: Socio-Economic Analysis of Proposed Regulation 12, Rule 15: Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking and Regulation 12, Rule 16: Petroleum Refining Emissions Limits and Risk Thresholds.  Look for Table 7 on page 15.

Applied Development Economics reported that Valero is refining 114,443 barrels of crude a day. Valero’s VIP permit in 2003 allowed for an annual average of 165,000 bpd, (with maximum daily permitted level set at 185,000 bpd.) Please see Valero’s permit for that. 114,444 divided by 165,000 equals 69%. Of course if you looked at the maximum daily capacity they are operating at 62% capacity. The average of the two is 65% just what Steve Young has been saying.

Why does this matter?

It matters because the Crude by Rail project will bring in heavy tar sands crude which emits much more reactive organic gases, more toxic air contaminates, benzene and heavy metal pollution. Bakken crude, which they also want to bring in could also result in more pollution. See the reports by Dr. Fox in response to the Crude by Rail DEIR filed 9-15-2014 and report by Greg Karras, senior scientist for CBE, filed 9-15-2014 with the city.

So if Valero operated at its permitted levels with more toxic crude we would see an increase in our local air pollution, particularly since there are no overall plant limits on these emissions at this time, and there may never be. This could cause real health impacts especially to students at Robert Semple school. The air district has been looking at this problem for several years and may never enact a numeric limit. Please see the Air District agendas for the last several years, proposed rule 12-16.

Let me add a few more words about accuracy. In a letter to the editor on July 5 [a critic] stated that Benicia’s opt out rate for Marin Clean Energy was “22% – three times higher than any other city.” He did not state a source. Given that in Benicia the opt out rate is 21% and the overall average for all cities opt out rate is 21%, according to Marin Clean Energy it appears that [the critic] has gotten his facts wrong. What else has he gotten wrong in his letters? I don’t have the time or energy to fact check every statement he makes, but I do look at the source.

Kathy Kerridge JD
Benicia

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    CA Crude by Rail, from the Bakken Shale and Canada’s Tar Sands to California Refineries

    Repost from FracTracker
    [Editor:  Although the Map of CA Crude by Rail Terminals needs to be updated with information about Valero Benicia’s proposed crude by rail terminal, this is a highly recommended, carefully researched report out of the Center for Science, Technology and Society, Drexel University.  – RS]

    CA Refineries: Sources of Oil and Crude-by-Rail Terminals

    By Kyle Ferrar and Kirk Jalbert, May 23, 2016

    Refineries in California plan to increase capacity and refine more Bakken Shale crude oil and Canadian tar sands bitumen. However, CA’s refinery communities that already bear a disparate amount of the burden (the refinery corridor along the north shore of the East Bay) will be more impacted than they were previously. New crude-by-rail terminals will put additional Californians at risk of accidents such as spills, derailments, and explosions. Additionally, air quality in refinery communities will be further degraded as refineries change to lower quality sources of crude oil. Below we discuss where the raw crude oil originates, why people are concerned about crude-by-rail projects, and what CA communities are doing to protect themselves. We also discuss our GIS analysis, showing the number of Californians living within the half-mile blast zones of the rail lines that currently are or will be supported by the new and existing crude by rail terminal projects.

    Sources of Raw Crude Oil

    Predictions project that sources of raw crude oil are shifting to the energy intensive Bakken formation and Canadian Tar Sands. The Borealis Centre estimates an 800% increase of tar sands oil in CA refineries over the next 25 years (NRDC, 2015). The increase in raw material from these isolated locations means new routes are necessary to transport the crude to refineries. New pipelines and crude-by-rail facilities would be necessary, specifically in locations where there are not marine terminals such as the Central Valley and Central Coast of CA. The cheapest way for operators in the Canadian Tar Sands and North Dakota’s Bakken Shale to get their raw crude to CA’s refinery markets is by railroad (30% less than shipping by marine routes from ports in Oregon and Washington), but this process also presents several issues.California’s once plentiful oil reserves of locally extracted crude are dwindling and nearing depletion. Since 1985, crude extraction in CA has dropped by half. Production from Alaska has dropped even more, from 2 million B/D (barrels per day) to around 500,000 B/D. The 1.9 million B/D refining capacity in CA is looking for new sources of fuels. Refineries continue to supplement crude feedstock with oil from other sources, and the majority has been coming from overseas, specifically Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This trend is shown in figure 1:

    Crude oil supply sources to CA refineries

    CA Crude by Rail

    More than 1 million children — 250,000 in the East Bay — attend school within one mile of a current or proposed oil train line (CBD, 2015). Using this “oil train blast zone” map developed by ForestEthics (now called Stand) you can explore the various areas at risk in the US if there was an oil train explosion along a rail line. Unfortunately, there are environmental injustices that exist for communities living along the rail lines that would be transporting the crude according to another ForestEthics report.

    To better understand this issue, last year we published an analysis of rail lines known to be used for transporting crude along with the locations of oil train incidents and accidents in California. This year we have updated the rail lines in the map below to focus on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Union Pacific (UP) railroad lines, which will be the predominant lines used for crude-by-rail transport and are also the focus of the CA Emergency Management Agency’s Oil by Rail hazard map.

    The specific focus of the map in Figure 2 is the five proposed and eight existing crude-by-rail terminals that allow oil rail cars to unload at the refineries. The eight existing rail terminals have a combined capacity of 496,000 barrels. Combined, the 15 terminals would increase CA’s crude imports to over 1 million B/D by rail. The currently active terminals are shown with red markers. Proposed terminals are shown with orange markers, and inactive terminals with yellow markers. Much of the data on terminals was taken from the Oil Change International Crude by Rail Map, which covers the entire U.S.

    Figure 2. Map of CA Crude by Rail Terminals

    View Map Fullscreen | How Our Maps Work | Download Rail Terminal Map Data

    Additional Proposals

    The same type of facility is currently operating in the East Bay’s refinery corridor in Richmond, CA. The Kinder Morgan Richmond terminal was repurposed from handling ethanol to crude oil, but with no public notice. The terminal began operating without conducting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) or public review of the permit. Unfortunately, this anti-transparent process was similar to a tactic used by another facility in Kern County. The relatively new (November 2014) terminal in Taft, CA operated by Plains All American Pipeline LLC also did not conduct an EIR, and the permit is being challenged on the grounds of not following the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

    EIRs are an important component of the permitting process for any hydrocarbon-related facility. In April 2015 in Pittsburg, for example, a proposed 50,000 B/D terminal at the WesPac Midstream LLC’s railyard was abandoned due to community resistance and criticism over the EIR from the State Attorney General, along with the larger proposal of a 192,000 B/D marine terminal.

    Still, many other proposals are in the works for this region. Targa Resources, a midstream logistics company, has a proposed a 70,000 B/D facility in the Port of Stockton, CA. Alon USA has a permitted project for revitalizing an idle Bakersfield refinery because of poor economics and have a permit to construct a two-unit train/day (150,000 B/D) offloading facility on the refinery property. Valero dropped previous plans for a rail oil terminal at its Wilmington refinery in the Los Angeles/Long Beach port area, and Questar Pipeline has preliminary plans for a  rail oil terminal in the desert east of the Palm Springs area for a unit-train/day.

    Air Quality Impacts of Refining Tar Sands Oil

    Crude-by-rail terminals bring with them not only the threat of derailments and the risk of other such accidents, but the terminals are also a source of air emissions. Terminals – both rail and marine – are major sources of PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). The Sacramento Valley Railroad (SAV) Patriot rail oil terminal at a business park on the former McClellan Air Force Base property actually had its operating permit withdrawn by Sacramento air quality regulators due to this issue (read more). The terminal was unloading and reloading oil tanker cars.

    FracTracker’s recent report, Emissions in the Refinery Corridor, shows that the refineries in this region are the major point source for emissions of both cancer and non-cancer risk drivers in the region. These air pollution sources get worse, however. According to the report by NRDC, changing the source of crude feedstock to increased amounts of Canadian Tar Sands oil and Bakken Shale oil would:

    … increase the levels of highly toxic fugitive emissions; heavy emissions of particulate, metals, and benzene; result in a higher risk of refinery accidents; and the accumulation of petroleum coke* (a coal-like, dusty byproduct of heavy oil refining linked to severe respiratory impacts). This possibility would exacerbate the harmful health effects faced by the thousands of low-income families that currently live around the edges of California’s refineries. These effects are likely to include harmful impacts to eyes, skin, and the nervous and respiratory systems. Read NRDC Report

    Petroleum coke (petcoke) is a waste product of refining tar sands bitumen (oil), and will burden the communities near the refineries that process tar sands oil. Petcoke has recently been identified as amajor source of exposures to carcinogenic PAH’s in Alberta Canada (Zhang et al., 2016). For more information about the contributions of petcoke to poor air quality and climate change, read this report by Oil Change International.

    The contribution to climate change from accessing the tar sands also needs to be considered. Extracting tar sands is estimated to release on average 17% average more green-house gas (GHG) emissions than conventional oil extraction operations in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of State. (Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change on a global scale.) The refining process, too, has a larger environmental / public health footprint; refining the tar sands to produce gasoline or diesel generates an average of 81% more GHGs (U.S. Dept of State. Appendix W. 2015). In total this results in a much larger climate impact (NRDC, NextGen Climate, Forest Ethics. 2015).

    Local Fights

    People opposed to CA crude by rail have been fighting the railway terminal proposals on several fronts. In Benicia, Valero’s proposal for a rail terminal was denied by the city’s Planning Commission, and the project’s environmental impact report was denied, as well. The city of Benicia, however, hired lawyers to ensure that the railway projects are built. The legality of railway development is protected regardless of the impacts of what the rails may be used to ship. This legal principle is referred to as “preemption,” which means the federal permitting prevents state or local actions from trying to limit or block development. In this case, community and environmental advocacy groups such as Communities for a Better Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Stanford-Mills Law Project all agree the “preemption” doctrine doesn’t apply here. They believe preemption does not disallow the city or other local governments from blocking land use permits for the refinery expansion and crude terminals that unload the train cars at the refinery.

    The fight for local communities along the rail-lines is more complicated when the refinery is far way, under the jurisdiction of other municipalities. Such is the case for the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery, located on California State Highway 1 on the Nipomo Mesa. The Santa Maria refinery is requesting land use permits to extend track to the Union Pacific Railway that transits CA’s central coast. The extension is necessary to bring the rail cars to the proposed rail terminal. This project would not just increase traffic within San Luis Obispo, but for the entirety of the rail line, which passes directly through the East Bay. The project would mean an 80-car train carrying 2 million gallons of Bakken Crude would travel through the East Bay from Richmond through Berekely and Emeryville to Jack London Square and then south through Oakland and the South Bay.  This would occur 3 to 5 times per week. In San Luis Obispo county 88,377 people live within the half-mile blast zone of the railroad tracks.

    In January, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department proposed to deny Phillips 66 the permits necessary for the rail spur and terminals. This decision was not easy, as Phillips 66, a corporation ranked Number 7 on the Fortune 500 list, has fought the decision. The discussion remained open with many days of meetings, but the majority of the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission spoke in favor of the proposal at a meeting Monday, May 16. There is overwhelming opposition to the rail spur project coming from 250 miles away in Berkeley, CA. In 2014, the Berkeley and Richmond city councils voted to oppose all transport of crude oil through the East Bay. Without the rail spur approval, Phillips 66 declared the Santa Maria refinery would otherwise transport oil from Kern County via 100 trucks per day. Learn more about this project.

    GIS Analysis

    GIS techniques were used to estimate the number of Californians living in the half mile “at risk” blast zone in the communities hosting the crude-by-rail lines. First, we estimated the total population of Californians living a half mile from the BNSF and UP rail lines that could potentially transport crude trains. Next, we limited our study area to just the East Bay refinery corridor, which included Contra Costa and the city of Benicia in Solano County. Then, we estimated the number of Californians that would be living near rail lines if the Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery crude by rail project is approved and becomes operational. The results are shown below:

    1. Population living within a half mile of rail lines throughout all of California: 6,900,000
    2. Population living within a half mile of rail lines in CA’s East Bay refinery communities: 198,000
    3. Population living within a half mile of rail lines along the UP lines connecting Richmond, CA to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery: 930,000

    CA Crude by Rail References

    1. NRDC. 2015. Next Frontier for Dangerous Tar Sands Cargo:California. Accessed 4/15/16.
    2. Oil Change International. 2015. Rail Map.
    3. Global Community Monitor. 2014. Community Protest Against Crude Oil by Rail Blocks Entrance to Kinder Morgan Rail Yard in Richmond
    4. CEC. 2015. Sources of Oil to California Refineries. California Energy Commission. Accessed 4/15/16.
    5. Zhang Y, Shotyk W, Zaccone C, Noernberg T, Pelletier R, Bicalho B, Froese DG, Davies L, and Martin JW. 2016. Airborne Petcoke Dust is a Major Source of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Environmental Science and Technology. 50 (4), pp 1711–1720.
    6. U.S. Dept of State. 2015. Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Keystone XL Pipeline. Accessed 5/15/16.
    7. U.S. Dept of State. 2015. Appendix W Environmental Impact Statement for Keystone XL Pipeline Appendix W. Accessed 5/15/16.
    8. NRDC, NextGen Climate, Forest Ethics. 2015. West Coast Tar Sands Invasion. NRDC 2015. Accessed 4/15/16.

    ** Feature image of the protest at the Richmond Chevron Refinery courtesy of Global Community Monitor.

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      BERKELEY MAYOR TOM BATES: Letter opposing Valero Crude By Rail

      By Roger Straw, April 18, 2016

      BERKELEY MAYOR TOM BATES: Letter opposing Valero Crude By Rail

      The Benicia Independent is in receipt of a letter sent today to the City of Benicia by Berkeley, CA Mayor Tom Bates.  Mayor Bates writes in opposition to certification and permitting of Valero’s proposal.

      Here is the complete text of Mayor Bates’ one-page letter:

      Berkeley_logo
      Office of the Mayor

      April 18, 2016

      Mayor Elizabeth Patterson City Council Members Tom Campbell, Mark Hughes, Alan Schwartzman, Christina Strawbridge Principal Planner Amy Million City of Benicia Benicia, California

      Dear Mayor Patterson; Council Members Campbell, Hughes, Schwartzman, Strawbridge; and Ms. Million:

      I ask you to uphold the Benicia Planning Commission’s decision to withhold certification from the Valero Refining Company’s Crude-by-Rail project. I believe the risks of this dangerous rail spur far outweigh possible benefits.

      I agree with Attorney General Kamala Harris and environmental and community groups and that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act does not prevent the City from assessing the transportation and public-safety risks when considering the project under its land-use authority.[1] The issue is one of local land use not pre-empted by federal regulation.

      Another chief reason for not approving the project is that the CEQA analysis did not assess all of the project’s potential environmental impacts, including its impacts on other cities.[3] Allowing up to two 50-car trains of crude oil a day to come into the Valero refinery exposes Benicia and other communities to major safety risks, especially given the history of train derailment in recent times, both nationally and internationally.[2] An oil spill could be catastrophic to the local environment and waterways. Moreover, the transport of crude oil will emit toxic pollutants not adequately assessed in the environmental review, thus contaminating the air breathed by your residents and those of other communities as well.

      The Berkeley City Council has reviewed the issue of transporting crude oil on the freight lines in the East Bay and has gone on record in unanimous opposition to such transport because of the unacceptable level of hazardous risk, including to Berkeley. The Union Pacific tracks are embedded in our West Berkeley community where people live, work and go to school.

      I ask that you not approve this rail spur until the volatile organics are removed from these crude oil shipments and the railroads are upgraded to modern standards to handle such shipments.

      Sincerely,
      Tom Bates, Mayor


      [1] http://beniciaindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/AttyGenl_Kamala_Harris_Comments_Received_April_13-14_2016.pdf
      [3] http://beniciaindependent.com/topics/final-draft-environmental-impact-report-feir/
      [2] http://ww2.kqed.org/science/2014/07/11/benicia-extends-public-comment-period-on-bay-area-crude-by-rail/

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