Tag Archives: Refinery emissions

Air District launches new air monitoring station in Benicia

[BenIndy: This information is at the bottom of the release, but it’s worth repeating top and center. You can view data from the Benicia-Fitzgerald air monitoring station (BFAMS) on the Air District website by Air Quality Index level and by pollutant concentration level. If you go to those pages, scroll down to the “Eastern Zone” section to check on BFAMS’s data. More info on the effort to expand air monitoring in communities near refineries can be found here. A brief BenIndy overview of the site with screenshots follow this release. To be totally transparent, the BenIndy has unilaterally assigned the station acronym of BFAMS  as it’s currently unclear if there’s an official acronym.]

July 18, 2024, 10:01 AM

SAN FRANCISCO – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is announcing a new air monitoring station in Benicia as part of the agency’s efforts to establish or expand air monitoring stations in areas where large sources of pollution may contribute to localized pollution sources that are not captured by the Air District’s existing network.

The additional data generated by community monitors, like the Benicia air monitoring station, will provide refinery frontline communities with real-time, local-scale air pollution data, reflecting day-to-day cumulative air pollution levels. This data also supports analysis of air quality trends and other air quality assessments.

“This new, state-of-the-art air monitoring station in Benicia is a major step forward in assessing and addressing refinery emissions in a community impacted by those emissions” said Dr. Philip Fine, executive officer of the Air District. “The station will provide crucial data to better respond to incidents and to inform our plans to better protect residents. It is one of many tools the Air District is employing to improve air quality in communities near large pollution sources such as refineries.”

“This new Benicia air monitoring station is a vital addition to our community, providing us with the detailed, real-time data needed to understand and address our air quality concerns,” said Steve Young, Benicia mayor and member of the Air District Board of Directors. “It’s a step in the right direction for ensuring the health and safety of Benicia’s residents.”

The Air District is prioritizing communities with petroleum refineries and large renewable fuels manufacturing facilities, such as Benicia. The new station, the Benicia-Fitzgerald air monitoring station, is located near East 2nd and East J Street in Benicia.

The Benicia-Fitzgerald air monitoring station provides real-time data on the following pollutants: particulate matter, or PM2.5, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and black carbon.

While the Air District operates numerous ambient air monitoring stations across the Bay Area, the data from those stations does not reflect pollutant concentrations in every neighborhood. In addition, exposure to pollution varies from place to place and some communities near large industrial facilities bear a disproportionate burden from emissions or other forms of air pollution.

Data from the Benicia-Fitzgerald air monitoring station can be viewed on the Air District website by Air Quality Index level and by pollutant concentration level. More info on the effort to expand air monitoring in communities near refineries can be found here.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area. Connect with the Air District via X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.


Notes on BFAMS from BenIndy:

So what does this new beast look like? Let’s take a look. The following screenshots were taken around 7 pm on July 18, 2024. They are here for illustrative purposes only.

 

  • This screenshot from BAAQMD’s Air Quality Data webpage shows the Benicia-Fitzgerald Air Monitoring Station’s (BFAMS) readings of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), helpfully indicating elevated levels with yellow.

 

  • Users can click the Pollutants button to toggle the display to check on other pollutants.

 

  • The pollutants BFAMS is monitoring include Ozone, Fine Particulate Matter, High Conditions, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, and Sulfur Dioxide. Clicking the pollutant you are interested in will change the display to show those readouts specifically.

 

  • Per BAAQMD’s explainers, “High Conditions displays the highest overall AQI value estimate for each hour, and in the right-hand column the highest AQI for the day, which will usually be for ozone in the summertime and PM2.5 in the wintertime.”

This is a wonderful tool for a refinery town.

Reminder! Zoom in tonight at 7pm for an Air District panel on refinery violations and ‘community payback’

[Note from BenIndy: A quick reminder, shortened a bit from the first posting. This meeting is free and open to all, regardless of Party preference or city of residence. This should be a fascinating discussion.]

Smoke from the Valero Benicia refinery wafts over residential neighborhoods  during a 2017 incident. | Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

From Progressive Dems of Benicia Meeting Notice, sent April 2, 2024:

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), or “the Air District,” is our local regulatory agency when it comes to air pollution.  It’s been around for decades, but its mission and activities are a mystery to many.  Luckily, our amazing panel of Air District representatives will be on hand to guide us through what it does, how it does it, and what it’s working on to keep Bay Area residents healthy and safe.

Air District Panel

We are pleased to share that our panel will include BAAQMD’s Executive Officer/Air Pollution Control Officer, Dr. Philip Fine, formerly a presidential appointment to the EPA and the South Coast Air Management Quality District; Deputy Executive Officer of Public Affairs; BAAQMD Board of Directors member and Benicia Mayor Steve Young; and BAAQMD’s Community Advisory Council Co-Chair Ken Szutu, who also founded the  Citizen Air Monitoring Network in Vallejo before serving as its director.  We also expect that other staff members of the Air District will join us.

Zoom Details

Topic: PDB General Meeting
Time: April 9, 2024 07:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86273821941?pwd=WktDazJLaTJHVTBPNWd3dzlXaGd2Zz09
Meeting ID: 862 7382 1941
Passcode: 528756

 

One tap mobile
+16699006833,,86273821941#,,,,*528756# US (San Jose)
+16694449171,,86273821941#,,,,*528756# US

For more information, check out the Progressive Democrats of Benicia’s website.

Benicia Dems hosting Tues., Apr. 9 Air District Zoom panel on refinery violations and ‘community payback’

[Note from BenIndy: This is a fantastic opportunity to learn from Air District insiders what the District does, how it does it, and what might be next. This is a free public meeting open to all, regardless of party preference or city of residence.]

Smoke from the Valero Benicia refinery wafts over residential neighborhoods  during a 2017 incident. | Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

From Progressive Dems of Benicia Meeting Notice, sent April 2, 2024:

Dear members and supporters—

We’re delighted to share more information about our April 9th meeting at 7pm, which we revealed last week will focus on the quality of our air – a hot topic given the warming weather and the recent Level-3 Incident at a local refinery. (The picture here is not from that incident, it is from a 2017 incident; click the image to be redirected to a YouTube news report.) 

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), or “the Air District,” is our local regulatory agency when it comes to air pollution.  It’s been around for decades, but its mission and activities are a mystery to many.  Luckily, our amazing panel of Air District representatives will be on hand to guide us through what it does, how it does it, and what it’s working on to keep Bay Area residents healthy and safe.

Air District Panel

We are pleased to share that our panel will include BAAQMD’s Executive Officer/Air Pollution Control Officer, Dr. Philip Fine, formerly a presidential appointment to the EPA and the South Coast Air Management Quality District; Deputy Executive Officer of Public Affairs Viet Tran; BAAQMD Board of Directors member and Benicia Mayor Steve Young; and BAAQMD’s Community Advisory Council Co-Chair Ken Szutu, who also founded the  Citizen Air Monitoring Network in Vallejo before serving as its director.  We also expect that other staff members of the Air District will join us.

Zoom Details

Topic: PDB General Meeting
Time: April 9, 2024 07:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86273821941?pwd=WktDazJLaTJHVTBPNWd3dzlXaGd2Zz09
Meeting ID: 862 7382 1941
Passcode: 528756

 

One tap mobile
+16699006833,,86273821941#,,,,*528756# US (San Jose)
+16694449171,,86273821941#,,,,*528756# US

For more information, check out the Progressive Democrats of Benicia’s website.

Air District debates public health vs. Big Oil profits – delays decision on refinery pollution controls

Bay Area air quality board delays vote on anti-pollution rules

San Francisco Chronicle, by Joe Garofoli, June 2, 2021
The Shell refinery on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Martinez, Calif. At Shell refinery in Martinez, “some equipment was temporarily affected by the quake” on Monday, according to a spokesman. Paul Kuroda/Special to The Chronicle

After hearing five and a half hours of public commentary, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District postponed its scheduled vote Wednesday on whether to require refineries to install technology that would greatly reduce the amount of pollution they emit.

Board chair Cindy Chavez asked the board to reschedule its vote so the panel could have a “thoughtful discussion” of the proposals before it. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on June 16.

The issue before the board involves fluid catalytic cracker units, commonly known as “cat crackers,” which are a major source of industrial pollution. The proposal would require refineries to install technology that reduces particulate emissions from the units by 70 percent, according to the air district.

A district analysis predicts that the new standards would have positive health impacts — particularly for low income communities of color that surround the Bay Area’s refineries and have borne the brunt of their environmental impact. In Richmond, the asthma rate is twice the state average.

The district has calculated that exposure to particulate matter from the Chevron refinery in Richmond increases mortality in the region by up to 10 deaths per year, while the PBF Energy refinery in Martinez adds up to six deaths per year.

The proposed changes to the Chevron plant alone could result in up to $27 million in health cost savings to those living nearby, according to an air district analysis, based on fewer days missed from work, fewer respiratory ailments and other health impacts.

Environmentalists pointed out that the technology has been widely used for years across the country, including in oil-friendly states like Texas.

“It’s hard to believe regulators in Texas 15 years ago valued their constituents’ lives more than Bay Area representatives do,” Jed Holtzman, a senior policy analyst with the environmental organization 350 Bay Area, told the board Wednesday. “So this should not be a complicated decision for you.”

Yet the refineries — backed by allies in organized labor who work at the plants — insisted that the cost to install the technology would be prohibitive, making the plants uncompetitive and leading to massive job losses.

The $800 million cost of implementation would “force us to close the Martinez refinery,” Timothy Paul Davis, PBF Energy Western Region president, wrote to the air district in April. That would put 600 full-time employees out of work, plus another 2,000 members of the local building trades union who work on other projects at the plant, said Kevin Slade of the Western States Petroleum Association, an industry group.

The air district found Davis’ estimate to be grossly inflated, estimating that it would cost just $255 million to make the changes at the PBF Martinez refinery and $241 million for the Chevron refinery in Richmond. The district found that the oil companies could pay for the cost of the upgrades by a one or two-cent per gallon fuel increase. Other speakers Wednesday were skeptical that PBF would shutter a refinery that it just bought in 2019 from Shell Oil for $1 billion.

Dozens of local union members and leaders — among the 198 people who addressed the board Wednesday — said they feared losing their jobs if the technology were mandated.

Andrew Scheiber, a Benicia resident who used to work for a refinery, was among the speakers skeptical that plant workers could find a “just transition” to another line of work should the refineries cut jobs.

“This ‘just transition’ everybody loves to talk about doesn’t exist,” Scheiber said. There are few other kinds of jobs that involve similar skill sets “and when they do come up there are hundreds if not literally thousands of applicants.”

A letter to the board signed by the leaders of six Bay Area building trades unions said: “Union members — your constituents — living and working in the Bay Area depend on these refinery jobs to raise their families well, put food on their tables, put their kids through college, and live a successful and fulfilling life.”

An alternative analysis conducted by UCLA’s Lufkin Center for Innovation found that new technology wouldn’t kill jobs, but rather create thousands more.

The UCLA report, conducted in conjunction with Communities for a Better Environment and the environmental research firm Inclusive Economics, found that installing the wet gas scrubbers would yield “thousands of engineering, construction, and other installation jobs, upwards of 4,600 jobs between the two refineries.”

“Our lungs can’t any longer,” said Zolboo Namkhaidorj, Richmond Youth Organizer for Communities for a Better Environment, after the meeting, urging the air district to approve the cat cracker rule.

“Refineries have mounted a massive misinformation campaign to sink this rule, threatening our communities with false doomsday scenarios,” Namkhaidorj said. “Shame on them, after decades of spewing pollution that has cost local Black, indigenous, and people of color families their health and livelihoods.”

Bonnie Lockhart of Oakland was one of several speakers Wednesday who questioned seeing the issue as one of workers versus greens.

“Why are we framing this decision as jobs versus the environment, when it’s really health versus corporate profits?” Lockhart asked.

Instead of suggesting that the only way to pay for the cost of the upgrades would be through layoffs or higher gas prices, Lockhart questioned why the discussion wasn’t focused on “the obscene profits” of the fossil fuel companies and the high salaries of its CEOs.

Her suggestion to the oil companies and their top executives: “Don’t buy a yacht this year.”


Joe Garofoli is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer.