Category Archives: Cancer

Texas quietly moves to formalize acceptable cancer risk from industrial air pollution

Public health officials say it’s not strict enough.

The Valero oil refinery near the Houston Ship Channel, part of the Port of Houston, on March 6, 2019 in Houston, Texas. | Photo by Loren Elliott / AFP via Getty Images.

Without public hearings, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is proposing to adopt its 17-year-old standard that scientists and public health officials say fails to account for cumulative air pollution.

Inside Climate News, by Dylan Baddour, October 13, 2023
State of Denial: Third in a series about Texas’ environmental regulators.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has quietly proposed maintaining a target cancer risk level for air pollution permits that scientists and public health officials consider inadequate to protect public health, especially for communities like those east of Houston that are exposed simultaneously to many sources of industrial emissions.

The move comes after a state commission on accountability last year found “a concerning degree of general public distrust and confusion focused on TCEQ,” and the Texas Legislature adopted directives this year instructing the TCEQ to transparently review and approve “foundational policy decisions” that had never been publicly approved, including “the acceptable level of health-based risk” used in pollution permitting.

In response, TCEQ proposed, without public hearings or additional study, to formalize its existing target cancer risk level of 1 in 100,000, meaning that only one excess case of cancer among 100,000 similarly exposed people would result from each individual pollutant from each individually permitted site.

The agency has been using that risk level since 2006, said a TCEQ spokesman, Richard Richter. He said TCEQ’s target “is reasonable from a regulatory perspective and is protective of human health.” It “insignificantly contributes to an individual’s lifetime cancer risk,” he said.

But by looking at each site and chemical separately, scientists and public health officials say, the assessment method drastically under-represents the actual risks faced by communities situated near industrial complexes, like the great conglomerations of fuming refineries and chemical plants that dot the Texas coast.

“TCEQ should be proactive and change their cancer risk to protect individuals living in high risk communities,” wroteLatrice Babin, executive director of Harris County Pollution Control Services, in official comments. She asked for a target risk level of one in 1 million.

“TCEQ is scrambling to adopt work from nearly 20 years ago with no analysis,” wrote a coalition of Texas environmental groups led by Air Alliance Houston.

The City of Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city and home to its largest petrochemical complex, has also asked the TCEQto tighten standards. Bill Kelly, Houston’s director of government relations, said TCEQ should “absolutely” lower its target cancer risk level.

Richter did not respond to a request for interviews with TCEQ’s politically appointed leadership, but said that the agency, to satisfy the Legislature’s directives on public participation, sent its proposal for a target risk rate, along with instructions on filing comments, to more than 3,300 email addresses on its toxicology listserv, which goes to subscribers from both industry and the general public. The proposal also appeared Sept. 1 on page 182 of the Texas Register, a weekly journal of state agency rulemaking.

In response, the TCEQ received more than 200 official comments asking the agency to lower its target risk level to one in 1 million. Just one response came in support of its proposed risk level: the Texas Chemical Council, a chemical industry lobbying group, wrote, “the proposed level is protective of public health.”

Target Risk Levels

The target risk level helps determine the volumes of carcinogenic emissions that industrial operators are allowed to release in Texas, seat of the nation’s oil, gas and petrochemical industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets the upper limit of cancer risk level from permitted air pollution at 1 in 10,000, and sets a target level at 1 in 1 million. Richter called the TCEQ’s target rate the “logarithmic center” of that range, and said it allows ample space for corrective action before permitted pollution sources exceed the EPA’s upper limit for cancer risk.

He said the agency has used its target risk level since 2006 when it formalized its guidelines for toxicity standards. Those guidelines attribute the figure to standards set by California in 1986. Those guidelines also produced a broad loosening of air pollution health standards in Texas, according to a 2014 investigation by Inside Climate News and the Center for Public Integrity.

Richter pointed to a 2010 survey of state air permitting policy by Michigan’s environmental regulator, which found that 20 U.S. states didn’t evaluate cancer-causing “air toxics” when permitting new pollution sources. Of the 28 that did, 14 states used target risk levels to set limits. Eight used 1 in 1 million, including California. Just one, Louisiana, used the upper end —1 in 10,000.

Two, Texas and Minnesota, used 1 in 100,000. (Georgia and Rhode Island used 1 in 1 million for some toxins and 1 in 100,000 for others.)

Cumulative Impacts of Pollution

That figure doesn’t represent the target cancer risk for entire states. It’s the target cancer risk resulting from each individual pollutant from each individually permitted facility. Where many facilities emit chemicals across vast industrial landscapes, scientists say, all those supposedly insignificant contributions can add up — or even multiply when they interact.

“These numbers often underestimate the true risk,” said Tracey Woodruff, director of the Environmental Research and Translation for Health Center at the University of California San Francisco.

That’s why, scientists say, tighter standards are needed to account for the cumulative impacts of pollution that disproportionately impact underserved and vulnerable populations.

“The old way of doing things is to look at one pollutant at a time, one emissions source at a time, but in reality no one is exposed to one pollutant at a time,” said Jill Johnston, director of the Environmental Justice Research Lab at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “There’s been a shift in moving towards cumulative risk characterization.”

The science isn’t new, said Wilma Subra, an environmental consultant in Louisiana who studied cumulative impacts of air pollution for the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in the early 1990s. But it has been difficult to incorporate into air permitting.

“Sometimes you have 20, 30, 40 or more chemicals, some of which have standards and some of which do not, all in the air and crossing the fenceline,” she said. “You can make statements that each of these chemicals are meeting the standard in the air, and you just ignore the cumulative impacts.”

TCEQ guidelines say the agency assesses cumulative risks from pollution in accordance with state and federal law. But outside experts say that’s not always what happens.

“Right now when it comes to air toxics, TCEQ looks at one air contaminant, one site. Each air contaminant is evaluated on its own coming from one site,” said one air permitting consultant who used to work for the TCEQ and requested anonymity to preserve his business relationship with the agency. “If you’re only looking at benzene at just one site, but you’re surrounded by refineries that have a high concentration of benzene liquids being stored, that may not be a comprehensive view.”

The mixture of different pollutants can drastically increase toxicity, according to Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a clinician scientist at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital and a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

The effect has been shown with tobacco, which is relatively easy to study, Lanphear said. Smoking tobacco can increase a person’s risk for lung cancer by a factor of 10, while exposure to arsenic can increase the risk by a factor of two. But the combination of smoking and arsenic exposure has been shown to increase risk by a factor of 25.

“There is a big multiplicative risk because you have two toxic pollutants that magnify the effect of each other,” he said. “That’s got huge implications if you’ve got lots of different chemical plants in a place like Houston.”

A playground at San Jacinto Elementary School, located in Deer Park a few miles from the highly industrialized Houston Ship Channel. On March 31, 2019, air quality inspectors from the Environmental Protection Agency recorded extremely high levels of benzene in the air as they drove past the elementary school. Residents were not warned about the pollution present in the community that day. | Mark Felix for The Texas Tribune / Public Health Watch.

With tobacco users, he said, it’s easy to measure individuals’ exposure and compare that with non-smokers. For the plethora of industrial air pollutants, gauging exposure and effects is much more complicated — and studying their combinations is even more so.

“It’s challenging, but the regulatory agencies should be doing it,” he said.

A Tradeoff of Costs

Short of modeling cumulative impacts for every new permit, agencies can lower their target levels to acknowledge that cumulative effects generally raise the overall cancer risk from emissions, scientists say.

The EPA’s risk assessment framework for air toxics permitting calls for “an ample margin of safety to protect public health.”

“I prefer a target risk of 1 in a million,” said David Ozonoff, chair emeritus for environmental health at Boston University.

When the cumulative effects of pollution are poorly understood, Ozonoff said, erring toward caution “is more in line with public health philosophy.” But it comes with an additional financial burden to the businesses that need air pollution permits to operate.

“The cost of more protection might be in terms of profits or jobs while the cost of less protection is in lives and suffering,” Ozonoff said. “The costs and the benefits usually accrue to different groups of people. One group gets the benefits and another group pays the costs.”

In Texas, public health advocates call the costs a reasonable burden to place on big industry, especially with major operators like ExxonMobil, which runs one the nation’s largest pollution sources east of Houston and posted a record $56 billion profit last year.

“I can’t throw trash over my fenceline. Why can industry throw trash over its fenceline?” said Jen Powis, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s gulf regional office in Houston. “Industry has the financing and the dollars to make it less with pollution control equipment.”

In their comments requesting a lower target risk level, the Texas environmental groups said TCEQ had not “provided any evidence that this would be cost prohibitive to applicants across the broad range of air permitting programs.”

The Texas Chemical Council, in its comments, said it “commends the TCEQ for its consideration of risk/benefit tradeoffs in establishing its [target risk levels] which make levels achievable.”

‘A Concerning Degree of General Public Distrust’ 

The standard is up for discussion in Texas because Texas Sunset Commission, which reviews each state agency every 12 years, found in its 2022 report on TCEQ “a concerning degree of general public distrust and confusion focused on TCEQ and its ability to effectively regulate in the public interest.”

Distrust, the report said, stemmed from a lack of transparency and of opportunities for public input. Many of TCEQ’s core policies, like its target cancer risk level tucked into its 347-page toxicology guidelines, are encoded in lengthy scientific documents that had never been publicly approved.

“This scientific information must ultimately be transformed into regulatory standards,” the report said. “Deciding the acceptable level of exposure and effects on the public… is a policy decision that governs what facilities may be built, what technology they must employ, and what level of safety monitoring must occur.”

It recommended that TCEQ “affirmatively and publicly adopt these policies” and “provide opportunities for the public to make comments before the commission on what those standards should be.” The Legislature adopted the recommendation as a directive this year.

Carolyn Stone, a 62-year-old community advocate who lives nearby Houston’s industrial sector and regularly engages with the TCEQ, didn’t find out about the proposed cancer risk level until late September, when local environmental groups began to spread the word. Her area of Channelview is in the 94th percentile of cancer risk from air pollution nationally according to EPA screening tools.

Stone, a retired office worker who runs a group called Channelview Health and Improvement Coaltion, said, “TCEQ has not sent me a flyer notifying me. And you would think that as a community in that high of a percentile, we would have been some of the very first they’d attempt to notify.”

The omission didn’t surprise her. She has lived in Channelview since 1981 and persistent frustration with environmental regulators finally moved her to start her group in 2019. In public meetings with the TCEQ, Stone has told the regulators that pollution from nearby facilities harms locals’ health, and she’s asked them to require better pollution control technology on applications for new pollution permits in the area.

“Their response is basically that the companies ran their tests and according to their tests, their actions won’t be above the limits,” she said. “I really haven’t had any positive interactions with TCEQ, I’m thoroughly disappointed in them.”

Alejandra Martinez of The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.

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.

Additional comments by environmental expert Dr. Phyllis Fox

By Roger Straw, April 19, 2016

Additional comments by environmental expert Dr. Phyllis Fox

The Benicia Independent is in receipt of an April 18, 2016 letter by Attorney Rachael Koss of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph and Cardozo, representing Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (SAFER).

The letter introduces an additional 9-page analysis by environmental expert Dr. Phyllis Fox, “ROG and Benzene Emissions from Unloading Rack Operations.”  (ROG refers to Reactive Organic Gases.)

Dr. Fox’s new study includes sections on “Railcar Fugitive Emissions At Unloading Racks” and “Other Unloading Emissions” along with several tables.

This letter was submitted to the City of Benicia within the last hour, and had not yet been posted on the City’s website at the time of this posting.

EXPERT REPORT ON LOCAL IMPACTS: Dr. Phyllis Fox rips Valero’s oil train proposal

By Roger Straw, April 5, 2016

The Benicia Independent is in receipt of the 92-page expert analysis of Dr. Phyllis Fox, submitted yesterday to the City of Benicia.  As of this posting, the report has not been posted on the City’s website.

The report focuses primarily on the many significant local impacts and risk factors.  This is highly important, in that the Council is being urged to ignore all of the crucial uprail factors of health and safety that have been identified.

City staff, paid consultants, the City’s contract attorney and Valero have all cited federal law that protects railroads from local or state regulation. Together, they claim that Benicia’s City Council may not deny or mitigate Valero’s plan based on anything beyond Valero’s small boundary.

Nearly a dozen opposing attorneys have testified to the contrary, asserting that Benicia has every right to deny a permit to a company like Valero that is NOT a railroad, and to condition any approval on local government and police powers to protect the health and safety of the community and those affected by impacts of the project.

Should the Council choose to ignore uprail impacts, Dr. Fox’s lengthy listing of local impacts will offer a clear path for a decisive vote to reject Valero’s proposal.  Taken together, the horrific uprail impacts alongside these daunting on-site health and safety impacts make a convincing case for denial.

Short of denial of the land use permit for the project, Dr. Fox has shown the many fatal flaws and inadequacies of the EIR.  She calls for it to be revised and recirculated yet again.

Dr. Fox’s table of contents and a significant excerpt follow. (Significant excerpt.) (Complete document.)

I. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

II. ON-SITE ROG EMISSIONS ARE SIGNIFICANT
……A. On-Site Fugitive Railcar ROG Emissions Are Significant
……B. Feasible Mitigation For On-Site Fugitive Railcar ROG Emissions
……C. Storage Tank ROG Emissions
…………1. Tanks Violate BAAQMD Rule 8-5
…………2. Feasible Tank Mitigation

III. ON-SITE TOXIC AIR CONTAMINANT EMISSIONS RESULT IN SIGNIFICANT OFF-SITE HEALTH RISKS

IV. PUBLIC SAFETY AND HAZARD IMPACTS ARE SIGNIFICANT
……A. The EIR’s Quantitative Significance Risk Assessment Is Incorrect and Unsupported
…………1. The Santa Barbara County CEQA Guidelines Are Misapplied
…………2. The Santa Barbara CEQA Guidelines Are Not Solely Applicable
…………3. The EIR’s Quantitative Risk Assessment Is Unsupported
……B. Off-Site Risks from On-Site Accidents Are Significant
…………1. Number of Injuries
…………2. Number of Fatalities
…………3. Feasible Mitigation
……C. The EIR Fails to Evaluate All Feasible Types of Accidents
……D. The EIR Fails to Evaluate All Feasible On-Site Accident Scenarios
…………1. Accidents During Train Maneuvering at Unloading Facility (Impact 4.7-3)
…………2. Accidents During Line Hookup And Crude Oil Transfer (Impact 4.7-4)
…………3. BLEVE (Thermal Tear)
……E. Accidents at Other Project Facilities Were Excluded
…………1. Crude Oil Pipeline
…………2. Crude Tank Farm
…………3. Access Road
……F. Factors Contributing to Hazard Impact Significance
…………1. The Location
…………2. Ignition Sources
…………3. External Events
…………4. Centroid Location
…………5. Other Rail Traffic

V. FLOODING IMPACTS ARE SIGNIFICANT
……A. Flooding Could Increase Hazards
……B. The Project Could Increase Flooding
……C. Flood Mitigation
……D. The EIR Fails to Address Benicia General Plan Requirements

SIGNIFICANT EXCERPT (footnotes removed here):

[Benicia’s] Community Development Director (CDD) concluded “the Project’s on-site impacts are mitigated to a less than significant level and all the findings can be made to approve the Use Permit.” Thus, Staff recommended that the City Council overturn the Planning Commission’s denial, certify the FEIR, and approve the Use Permit (3/9/16 CDD Memo).

SAFER requested that I review the CDD’s conclusions, focusing on on-site impacts. My analysis of the record and additional analyses, documented below, indicate that the Project will result in significant on-site impacts that have not been disclosed in the EIR. These include:

• Significant on-site emissions of reactive organic gases (ROG) from railcar fugitives;
• Significant on-site ROG emissions from change in service of existing crude oil storage tanks;
• Significant cancer, chronic, and acute health impacts from benzene emitted from railcar fugitives;
• Significant off-site injury and fatality impacts from on-site accidents;
• Significant off-site flooding impacts from on-site infrastructure and railcars; and
• Significant off-site injury and fatality impacts from on-site accidents caused by seismic shaking.

Thus, the EIR must be revised to disclose these impacts, impose all feasible mitigation, and be recirculated.