Breaking news: Air District staff has agreed to include both its own proposed Rule 12-16 and our Community/Worker proposal for further discussion at the December 16th meeting. Consequently no vote will be taken on Rule 12-16 at this meeting.
We must continue to demonstrate broad community support with strong turnout and incisive comments. Arrive early by at least 9:00 a.m. Once again, the oil industry's going to pack the house as they did on November 30th.
December 16 was to have been the adoption hearing on Air District Staff's deeply flawed refinery emission regulations. For months we have been bitterly disappointed that voting members of the Board were promised, and repeatedly denied, any real opportunity to consider a viable alternative to proposed regulations—a counter-proposal that would actually cap greenhouse gases and their co-pollutants and keep tar sands out of the Bay Area.
There is no real certainty that our proposal will actually be put on equal footing with proposed regulations. But the adoption vote has been averted, and we have a little more time to make our case.
Please come prepared to deliver two-minute testimony. This is our very own KXL 2.0., a crucial fight for environmental and climate justice.
Background: 20% reduction of refinery emissions by 2020
A little over a year ago, we were overjoyed when the 22-member Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board unanimously passed a resolution directing staff to draft rules to govern the contents, levels and tracking of refinery emissions. The resolution required (a) emission inventories and fenceline monitoring improvements; (b) a companion rule setting caps for each of the refinery-emitted pollutants, from carbon pollution to benzene; and (c) a 20% reduction of refinery emissions by 2020, or at least proof that "Best Available Control Technologies" are in use, showing a good-faith attempt to reach the 20% reduction level.
Since then, Air District staff has drafted a series of proposals that, if implemented, would fail to achieve the 20% by 2020 goal. Community frustration has been riding high as staff pitched arguments about the illegality of regulating GHGs locally (in deference to state cap-and-trade), canceled meetings, promised workups which they then failed to deliver, and insisted on the primacy of further study and a gradual, incremental approach. Rather than mapping a reliable path to 20% remission reductions within four years, they even called for increasing toxic emissions before decreasing them. That is, they cited the refineries' "right to emit" at maximum physical capacity, with mandated reductions based on that theoretical maximum. We were outraged, and the Board seemed increasingly confused by the wandering focus and successive retractions. The strong political will that produced the 2014 resolution seemed to weaken and vanish.
All along, the fossil fuel industry has been meeting with BAAQMD staff behind closed doors and flooding public hearings, repeating a threat to take legal action over any possible "taking of their vested rights." What's at stake is the ongoing transition to "price-advantaged" (in the industry's lingo), dirtier "extreme" crudes, which are more profitable but more polluting to refine. These are increasingly what the oil industry has to work with, now that the higher quality, easier-to-access reserves are disappearing. Enter tar sands mining and hydraulic fracturing, ravaged earth and poisoned communities, the climate clock ticking faster.
What do BAAQMD and KXL have to do with each other?
We were appalled when dangerous oil trains bearing explosive fracked crude began arriving in the Bay Area, with BAAQMD's full permission. And our sense of betrayal only increased when the Air District permitted the Phillips 66 Propane Recovery project 8 months ago, despite ample evidence exposing this as a tar sands project, with enormous hazards on the extraction, transportation and refining ends. The tar sands threat didn't go away when Obama rejected the Keystone pipeline. Tar sands don't require pipelines to arrive at refineries up and down the West Coast, where they are being diverted: they are entering the Bay Area via barge, tanker and train. This is why we see our struggle for stringent emission regulations as our own regional KXL 2.0. But with enough pressure to put a sufficiently robust, health-protective regulatory framework in place, a tsunami of tar sands into our Bay Area refineries could be prevented. The Keystone fight taught us that if we hang in there long enough we can win. And if we exert enough pressure, in sufficient numbers, we can energize the Board to take a strong, inspired stand against staff backpedaling. We have just enough time to turn this around.
Why enforceable refinery-wide numeric caps on greenhouse gases and their co-pollutants?
Oil refining is the largest industrial emitter of greenhouse gas and deadly particulate matter in the Bay Area, and yet local refineries have no facility-wide limits on these emissions. GHG and PM emissions are increasing, and plans to process dirtier and more dangerous grades of “extreme” crude will increase these emissions even more. Thus we demand that the Air District suspend all permitting for new refinery projects until numeric emission limits are in place—limits that include GHGs.
But doesn’t our California cap-and-trade program already regulate GHGs, eliminating the need for local regulation? We say no: cap-and-trade covers a fraction of statewide GHG emissions. And it allows frontline communities to be poisoned by particulate matter and other GHG co-pollutants while refineries trade pollution credits. Please stand up for your friends and neighbors on the refinery corridor, and for environmental and climate justice. Show up on December 16th and tell Air District staff they must do better.
Our demand is simple
We say no adoption until they get it right! No compromise with our health or climate.
Oil and our Air Officials, fact sheet, Communities for a Better Environment (pdf)
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