Emission caps on pollution from oil refineries—greenhouse gases, toxic gases (NOx and SOx), and dangerous particulate matter are crucial not only for protecting our health and safety and the planet, but for preventing the Bay Area from becoming a major outlet for tar sands crude oil. Refining tar sands crude produces much higher levels of both health-harming air pollution and greenhouse gases. With a cap on refinery emissions in place, a tsunami of tar sands into Bay Area refineries could be effectively prevented.
The Refinery Emissions Cap (Rule 12-16) is so important to Air District Staff, they tried to suppress public comment at the Nov 16th Board of Directors meeting. They placed their status update as the very last item on the agenda, after yet another lengthy “secret” closed legal session. But a strong community turn-out side-stepped these crude efforts by signing up for public comment on BOTH the closed legal sessions and the report back, allowing us to speak before the closed session. The Board helped further by moving the closed session to the front of the agenda to support public comment.
Community speak-out was highlighted by video commentary from Richmond youth. Those who couldn’t take off work or school to attend mid-day meetings finally had a voice! Many speakers noted the hypocrisy of staff reporting on the many “Community Workshops” they have held to get public input on these rules. The only workshop on the emissions cap was cancelled – all the reported workshops were advertising for the staffs proposed Rule 11-18 on Health Risk Assessments (HRA’s).
On the 16th, our legal team destroyed the myth that state climate policy, requires letting refineries pollute even more as long as they offset pollution outside of front-line communities. Scientists and technical experts tore into staff’s false claims that refinery emissions have no local impacts. Dozens spoke for protecting the health of our communities and climate from greater toxic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from energy intensive refining of dirty tar-sands crude stock.
The refineries took on a new strategy of challenging the “unpredictability” of Rule 11-18. The decade long Health Risk Assessment process will ultimately require adoption of Best Available Retrofit Control Technologies (BARCT) to reduce health impacts. The refinery speakers are now demanding completion of all this process PRIOR to adopting rules, so that they can know in advance where they will require implementation of BARCT. Such demands will clearly make Rule 11-18 impossible to implement in anything resembling a timely manner.
This clearly makes the separation of the emissions cap (Rule 12-16) and the HRA process (Rule 11-18) even more vital to our health, safety and climate.
That is the agenda for the final Board of Directors meeting of 2016. Thanks to Rebecca Kaplan, last July the Board committed to a December check-in. If rule 11-18 is slowing progress, they promised a vote on separating the Environmental Impact Reports. Now is the time to come and demand a separation vote!