Environment

More To Do With BAAQMD

Sure, it feels like Groundhog Day in September, déjà vu all over again. But, hey, climate justice activists are used to beating our heads against the wall. So when Jack Broadbent, Chief Executive Officer/Air Pollution Control Officer for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, tells us to abandon hope for capping refinery emissions because, well, the latest cap and trade bill -- we’re supposed to roll over and fade politely into the polluted Technicolor sunset, right?

Well, wrong.

For purposes of BAAQMD, the 2017-18 season opens on September 20th. Despite the questionable assertion Broadbent made at the August Board meeting—that everyone in Sacramento knows the general consensus was to remove “duplicative regulation” of greenhouse gases via the cap-and-trade extension bill (AB 398) -- we’ve been hearing the exact opposite. Highly placed friends in Sacramento wanted to make sure that BAAQMD’s cap on refinery emissions was protected under the new legislation.

Caps on refinery emissions prevent increases of emissions. They don’t actually reduce emissions. Therefore, they are not preempted by AB 398.  The RPA will be working to get caps on criteria pollutants and carbon dioxide back on the BAAQMD agenda where they belong. The original version of Rule 12-16 addressed both criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases and is now more relevant than ever.

Contribute to Defense of Richmond Pipeline Protesters

In the early morning of July 31, for the second Monday in a row, protesters locked themselves in front of the gates of Kinder Morgan’s Richmond facility, leaving tanker trucks stranded for hours while police and firefighters figured out how to detach the blockaders.


Kinder Morgan, one of North America’s largest oil infrastructure companies, is now attempting to triple the size of its pipeline that runs from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Pacific Ocean. The planned pipeline runs through the land of several First Nations, who are fighting to stop it. If completed, the project would deliver tar sands crude oil to ships for transport to refineries in Asia and the US West Coast, including the Bay Area. Increasing the refining of tar sands crude oil would not only further endanger the climate, but increase health and safety dangers to already polluted communities.

The action for two consecutive Mondays, organized by Diablo Rising Tide, was a show of solidarity with the First Nations fighting the pipeline. It was also part of the Bay Area’s fight against an influx of tar sands oil to local refineries.


Diablo Rising Tide is raising money to bail out those arrested. Contribute here. See a video of the July 31 action  and find out more info.

Stop Phillips 66 Tar Sands Tanker Expansion!

Phillips 66 hasn't heard of "buying locally": apparently they want Canada's toxic tar sands oil, and they're pushing for a permit that would more than double the number of ocean tankers they can use to get it. The Bay Area "Air Quality Management" District will decide if this could possibly have any negative impact (hint: it will). The district, whose board is made up of our elected officials, loves their rubber stamp, so we need a flood of comments to stop it.


The potential doubling of ship traffic comes on the heels of an Air District approval allowing an increase from 30,682 to 51,182 barrels per day in 2013, so the currently proposed increase of 78,818 would let them churn through 130,000 barrels every day -- over four times the level they were doing just a few years ago. Needless to say, pollution controls cannot keep up.


In addition to drastic changes in quantities coming across our bay and into our communities, it's quite possible the type of oil will be the heavy, dangerous kind coming out of Canada. Because it sinks it's very hard to clean, and chemicals it contains are especially dangerous to human health.


Deadline for comments is August 28
! Send an instant comment here, or skim through the short BAAQMD project description and email your thoughts directly to P66MarineTerminalPermitRevision@baaqmd.gov (potential impacts are on page 5-6; it's most helpful if you can reinforce or add to those based on your own knowledge or personal concerns).  

Trump Budget Would Eliminate Chemical Safety Board

Check out this new Opinion-Editorial in the New York Times, “A Dangerous Idea: Eliminating the Chemical Safety Board.” Steve Early points out one of the many ways in which Trump’s budget would be harmful for people and the planet.

RICHMOND, Calif. — The United States Chemical Safety Board is a federal watchdog with more bark than bite. It has five board members, a tiny staff of less than 50 and a budget of some $11 million a year. Its mission is to investigate fires and explosions in oil refineries and chemical plants…

Under President Trump’s 2018 fiscal year budget proposal, the agency, which opened in 1998, would be eliminated because its role is “largely duplicative” of efforts by other agencies, presumably the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. Both of those agencies would also experience cuts to reduce “over-regulation” of industry.

If the board is abolished, hundreds of thousands of people who live near chemical factories and refineries will be at greater risk. I came to appreciate the board five years ago, when its experts came here to my hometown to investigate a huge fire at the Chevron refinery at the end of my street.


To read the entire OpEd, click here.

Community Outcry Defends Landmark Emission Protections

 

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On June 21st, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) staff tried to "grandfather in" exceptions to the first-in-nation rule to regulate local refinery-emitted greenhouse gases. But a coalition that includes Communities for a Better Environment, Sun flower Alliance, the RPA, Sierra Club, 350 Bay Area, Center for Biological Diversity, Asian Pacific Environmental Network and many other groups from around the Bay Area brought more than 200 supporters, as well as local print and TV media, to the meeting, making it impossible for the last-minute changes to take place. 

As reported by CNA Community Organizer Alyssa Kang: Good news! The BAAQMD Board voted 13-6 to set aside the staff's eleventh hour proposed changes to Rule 12-16 (refinery emissions caps on greenhouse gases) that would have allowed increased refinery emissions by the oil industry and would result in pollution worse than current levels! We will need to mobilize again and continue to organize. The fight continues!

You can read more about this victory in this post from the Sunflower Alliance.

--Photo by Alyssa Kang

 

Critical Decision on Refinery Emission Caps

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We are coming up to a critical juncture in the four-year effort to set transparent, enforceable caps on refinery emissions.

At issue is Bay Area Air Quality Management District Rule 12-16, which would finally set facility-wide emission limits on greenhouse gases, particulates, and toxic sulfur oxide and nitrous oxide from refineries. Right now BAAQMD only regulates various parts of refineries, and if the District does not quickly put a facility-wide cap on emissions, oil refiners such as Chevron will be allowed to process dirtier, heavier crude (such as tar sands) that could increase overall refinery emissions by 40-100 percent region-wide.

Read more

Earth Day Present for Richmond Shoreline from US EPA Region IX

Baxter_Creek.jpgEnvironmental justice activists are celebrating a small victory in the long-standing struggle to clean up toxic pollution along the south Richmond shoreline: Last week, the US EPA called on the California Department of Toxic Substances to holistically manage numerous contaminated sites along the Richmond shoreline, and urged “an effective remediation of the area that would be fully protective of human health and the environment.”

The area, which stretches from the Marina Bay to Hoffman Marsh/ Central Avenue suffers from the toxic legacy of shipyards (Marina Bay), chemical manufacturing (by Stauffer Chemical, subsequently Zeneca), a mercury fulminate plant (on UC’s Richmond Bay Campus), a battery recycling plant (Liquid Gold), and a former industrial dump (Blair Landfill). The Blair Landfill site even has radioactive hot spots, which are also legacy of Stauffer/Zeneca pesticide manufacturing.

For over a decade, a group of tenacious volunteers, under the auspices of the Richmond South Shoreline Citizen’s Advisory Group, has been working to ensure the comprehensive clean up of the area. The toxic chemicals, vapors, and heavy metals chemistry is too complicated for most to understand, but the contamination affects everything from the mudskippers that live in Stege Marsh, to the crayfish in Baxter Creek, the offshore fish which locals eat, and the birds who use the former Stauffer Chemical evaporation ponds (“fresh water lagoons” of HA 2).

EPA’s letter is a welcome response to a community which has fought this legacy of environmental racism. The Citizens Advisory Group meets with the DTSC, the Responsible Party/s at 6:30 p.m. on the Second Thursday of the month (except June and December) in the basement meeting room of the Community Services Building  at Civic Center.  The public is welcome.

RPA Steering Committee member Tarnel Abbott lives less than ¼ mile from the site in the Panhandle Annex neighborhood, she is a member of the Richmond South Shoreline Citizen’s Advisory Group  along with City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin.

San Luis Obispo Stops Oil Trains

Months after Benecia rejected Valero's oil trains project, the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors voted this month to reject Phillips 66's proposed oil train offloading terminal. The project was denied with a 3-1 vote, with one supervisor recusing himself in a conflict of interest.

If built, the Phillips 66 oil trains terminal would have allowed more than 7 million gallons of crude oil to be shipped via rail to its local refinery each week, and made it possible for Phillips 66 to refine volatile and carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Canada. Tar sands crude, when prepared for transport, is thinned with an unstable blend of chemicals that have been known to explode in derailment incidents, which have become increasingly frequent in recent years.

Trains servicing the Phillips 66 project would have traveled from the north and south through hundreds of major California cities and smaller communities, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. These trains also would have jeopardized numerous ecologically sensitive areas including the San Francisco Bay and California's iconic central coast.