League of Women Voters to host Benicia forum on refinery rules

Repost from the Benicia Herald

Benicia forum on refinery rules set

September 8, 2015 by Nick Sestanovich

Air District to have 2-hour ‘open house’ at Robert Semple Elementary on Sept. 17

Debate over the Valero Crude-by-Rail Project — now well into its third year — intensified last week after the release of the revised Draft Environmental Impact Report. But even as residents, businesses and others in the city continue to pore over that massive document, they will have the opportunity to learn more about newly drafted state rules for refineries at a forum here next week.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District will host a series of open houses at elementary schools in the refinery-heavy nexus of Benicia, Martinez and Richmond this month to present the agency’s four new and amended rules to reduce refinery emissions.

“This is part of an effort to reduce emissions from Bay Area refineries by 20 percent or as much as feasible by 2020,” Air District spokesperson Ralph Borrmann said Friday.

The four rules deal with limiting ammonia from fluid catalytic cracking units; broadening equipment leak standards to include all equipment that handles heavy liquids; reducing sulfur dioxide from coke calcining processes; and regulating cooling towers to reduce emissions of organic compounds, toxics and methane by being able to detect and fix leaks.

“The Air District passed a resolution almost a year ago to develop a strategy to reduce refinery emissions,” Borrmann said. “Bay Area refineries are among the most regulated in the country, if not the world, but these meetings are presenting the public with an ambitious approach to reduce emissions that are part of an aggressive approach to regulate refineries in our area.”

The open houses, Borrmann said, will not be lectures but rather forums for people to discuss and gather information. Tables will be set up with in-house experts so attendees can ask questions about the new rules, he said.

“We hope the communities and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to learn about air quality and have a role in the rule-making process,” he said.

The BAAQMD’s Benicia open house will be from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 17 at Robert Semple Elementary, 2015 East Third St.

The two other open houses will be Sept. 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Las Juntas Elementary School, 4105 Pacheco Blvd., in Martinez; and Sept. 28 from 6-8 p.m. at Lincoln Elementary School, 29 Sixth St., in Richmond.