CBE Updates

[NEW BLOG POST]

Earth Day in East Oakland write up, read more here!

Bakersfield Crude Terminal is Operating Illegally

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District issued a sham permit.

EPA Cites Bakersfield Oil Train Terminal for Clean Air Act Violations

Federal Agency Says California Oil Train Terminal Is Major Air Pollution Source, Permit Invalid Without Significant Environmental Review

Monday May 4, 2015

Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084, mcaldwell@earthjustice.org  Eddie Scher, ForestEthics, 415-815-7027, eddie@forestethics.org

TAFT, Calif.— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited the Bakersfield Crude Terminal for 10 violations of the Clean Air Act, declaring the California crude-by-rail facility a major air pollution source that should have been subjected to rigorous environmental review during the permitting process.

The federal agency found that the terminal’s permit is invalid and that the facility lacks required pollution controls and emissions offsets, and that it is in violation of the Clean Air Act’s public notice and environmental review requirements.

In January Earthjustice and Communities for a Better Environment sued the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which issued the invalid permit, over the permitting process for the facility’s expansion — a process that was conducted without public review. Earthjustice is representing the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR), ForestEthics, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.

public records request revealed communications between San Joaquin Valley Air District officials and the project manager for the terminal that included advice from the officials about how the project could avoid public noticing and pollution controls. The Air District approved the massive expansion in a piece-meal permitting process that allowed one of the largest crude oil operations in California to expand largely out of public scrutiny.

“The EPA’s announcement declares the Air District’s permit a sham and that the Bakersfield terminal is operating illegally,” said Elizabeth Forsyth, an Earthjustice attorney. “Air District officials went out of their way to exclude the public from the process and speed the approval through, ignoring the environmental review required by state and federal law. We applaud EPA for stepping in and enforcing the Clean Air Act.”

The EPA’s action could subject the terminal to serious Clean Air Act fines, and should force the Bakersfield Crude Terminal to undergo the major source permitting required by the Clean Air Act.

“The EPA stepped in to protect California from this crude-by-rail facility’s dangerous air pollution,” said Vera Pardee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal intervention is urgently needed, because the Air District and Kern County officials have utterly failed to safeguard public health and the environment. They’re turning a blind eye to the air pollution and environmental risks, such as catastrophic explosions, that are linked to these massive trains full of volatile crude.”

“EPA’s notice of violation should serve as a wake up call to local authorities around the country who help polluters when they should be protecting public health,” said Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme oil campaign director. “Oil trains threaten 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone, plus millions more who live downwind of a refinery, downstream of where an oil train crosses a river, or in the Bakken and tar sands producing regions of North Dakota and Alberta, Canada.”

“In Kern County, with the worst air in the nation, the air district has harmed the health of the public by intentionally allowing this facility to violate the Clean Air Act,” said Tom Frantz with Association of Irritated Residents.

“Given the increased pollution and hazards from refining and transporting a lower quality crude, there is immediate need for a moratorium that halts new permits and construction of extreme oil infrastructure, not the opposite fast track permitting process that Air District officials put this massive crude by rail terminal on — and in secret,” said Roger Lin, attorney with Communities for a Better Environment.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement today is a significant step forward for Bakersfield and Kern County residents who bear all the burdens of volatile, accident-prone crude by rail transport and none of the benefits,” said Gordon Nipp, Bakersfield resident and Sierra Club Kern-Kaweah Chapter vice chairman. “This terminal wreaks havoc on our region’s already-compromised air quality and our communities now fear the risk of exploding trains.”

The agency also weighed in on the issue of vapor pressure of Bakken crude, declaring it unreasonable to underestimate the vapor pressure when permitting a crude-by-rail site and requiring vigorous monitoring and reporting of what crude oil is actually shipped. One way many of these facilities get around major source permitting is by cherry-picking the volatility of the crude oil being shipped, estimating the vapor pressure on the low end of the spectrum, which would keep emissions of volatile organic compounds under the threshold for triggering Clean Air Act review.

In addition to emitting volatile organic compounds from the offloading of crude oil, the facility endangers Bakersfield and other communities in California by increasing the amount of explosive crude oil transported by rail through the state. There have been multiple incidents of train derailments and explosions across the nation and in Canada. An oil train that derailed in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, destroyed most of the town center, burning more than 30 buildings to the ground and killing 47 people. Just this year there have been four derailments and explosions in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario involving oil trains.

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Moratorium on Extreme Oil is Urgently Needed

CBE advocates for emergency action on extreme oil infrastructure threat. Read our letter to Governor Jerry Brown, HERE and the follow-up information requested by the Office of the Governor, HERE.

Governor Sets Aggressive GHG Reduction Targets

CBE works closely with CEJA to release the following statement on Governor Brown’s Executive Order that establishes a greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030:California Environmental Justice Alliance | CEJA Applauds Governor Brown’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Executive Order; Calls for Increased Commitment to Environmental Justice

CBE Applauds Mayor Garcetti on Setting Aggressive Sustainability Targets

CBE Statement on Mayor Garcetti’s sustainability pLAn

Extreme Oil Moratorium is Needed

CBE calls on local, regional, and state officials in California to implement a Moratorium that halts new permits and construction of extreme oil* infrastructure.

California faces a crude source switch. The new oil the industry wants to refine here is fundamentally different, and its extraction, transport, and processing results in the most extreme pollution, safety hazard, and climate impacts of any petroleum known. A switch to this ‘extreme oil’ could result in severe and irreversible harm. Better alternatives are available—if we stop extreme oil before it becomes entrenched. Stopping extreme oil would allow alternatives that could reduce already-serious impacts of our energy system, create more and safer jobs, and meet our state’s climate targets, to be ramped up instead. For these reasons, an Extreme Oil Infrastructure Moratorium is necessary, feasible, beneficial, appropriate, and prudent policy for Californians.

*Terms used: In this policy statement extreme oil includes ‘heavy oil’ and ‘natural bitumen’ as those oils are defined by the USGS[i] (tar sands oil), oil produced using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or strip mining, and oil transported by extremely hazardous methods (i.e., via rail). Extreme oil infrastructure includes oil processing (refining), extraction (production), storage, and transport (port, pipeline, and rail facilities) equipment that enables the use of extreme oil.

Harm caused by extreme oil includes but is not limited to pollution, deaths, injuries, climate disruption and economic damage resulting from:

  • Increased frequency and magnitude of toxic spill, fire, explosion, and flare emission incidents impacting workers and residents in and near refineries, ports and rail lines;
  • Increased daily emissions of toxic and smog-forming air pollutants from refineries that switch to extreme oil as a greater portion of oil feedstock processed;
  • Severe and disparate impacts on low income communities of color and oil workers;
  • Increased greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction, upgrading and refining of bitumen and heavy oil and from fracking operations;
  • Contamination and destruction of aquatic habitat near rail lines when trains derail and release tar sands bitumen that sinks in the water and cannot be cleaned up; and
  • Undermining the achievement of climate protection targets and slowing the growth of sustainable energy in California through an unfair subsidy of extreme oil created by allowing its associated environmental, health, safety, and economic impacts.

Irreversible harm is imminent. The new and modified refining, fracking, port and rail spur equipment that could enable extreme oil in California is a huge capital commitment that would become entrenched for the equipment’s operational duration (≈ 30–50 years). This commitment is imminent; refinery, port, and rail infrastructure that could enable extreme oil is proposed in dozens of places throughout the state now.[ii] If it is built now this infrastructure could be used for decades, even if we keep using less and less gasoline in California, since the industry in California is rapidly switching to export its refined products overseas.[iii], [iv] Extreme oil threatens to cause imminent and irreversible harm.

Extreme oil is not needed. An extreme oil moratorium would allow refiners to use conventional crude oil while California continues its technically and economically feasible switch to power our cars with already-proven, currently available technologies[v] such as electricity generated from renewable sources of energy. Moreover, a global scientific consensus holds that we can only burn less than half of currently proven fossil reserves and still have a good chance of avoiding climate change so extreme it could be ‘incompatible’ with human societies and economies as we know them.[vi] Thus, we have both the means, and the societal-and-economic imperative, to leave more than half of the remaining oil resource in the ground. What we do not have is any overriding need to use the part of this resource that is extreme oil.

Extreme oil threatens California’s jobs recovery. Allowing extreme oil impacts here would make using more oil artificially cheap. The unfair subsidy would undermine less polluting energy and transportation alternatives that create more jobs, and slow efforts to make our economy less dependent on oil and less vulnerable to oil price shocks. This jobs threat is important: Government data show that oil refining creates fewer jobs per dollar revenue than any other sector in California’s economy,2, [vii] and ten of the last 11 U.S. recessions followed on sharply rising oil prices.2, [viii] The Moratorium would protect our jobs from this threat while allowing money that could otherwise go to extreme oil infrastructure to instead support cleaner, safer jobs in the badly needed upgrading of existing refineries’ dangerously old and polluting equipment.

California is crucial. The oil industry’s footprint in California accounts for 91% of crude production and 76% of refining capacity in the western continental U.S. (Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington).3 Extreme oil could cause more harm here than in neighboring states, and action here is crucial to prevent its climate impacts.

Emergency action is needed. This imminent threat of severe and irreversible harm warrants emergency orders directing state, regional, and local agencies to halt and suspend actions in furtherance of extreme oil infrastructure permits and construction.

 

Notes

[i] Meyer et al., 2007. Heavy oil and natural bitumen resources in geological basins of the world; US Geological Survey. Open-File Report 2007-1084; http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1084.

[ii] See CBE fact sheets; www.cbecal.org/resources/our-research.

[iii] See U.S. Energy Information Administration data; www.eia.gov/petroleum/data.cfm.

[iv] See San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan areas data in Brookings Inst., 2013; www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/export-nation.

[v] See Williams et al., 2011. Science. ScienceExpress; DOI: 10.1123/science.1208365.

[vi] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014. Fifth Assessment Report.

[vii] U.S. Bureau of the Census, various dates. See Economic Census data for ‘paid employees’ versus for ‘sales, shipments, receipts, revenue or other business done.’

[viii] See National Committee on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill & Offshore Oil Drilling, 2011. Deep Water: the Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Oil Drilling; Report to the President.

To download a PDF of CBE Calls for Extreme Oil Moratorium in California, click HERE.

[MEDIA ADVISORY & PRESS RELEASE]

TODAY: Long-Overdue Forced Shut-Down of Exide Technologies’ Vernon Facility Announced! Read our Media Advisory & Press Release.

Lawsuit filed TODAY to Stop Tar Sands in the Bay Area!

This morning CBE sued Phillips 66 and Contra Costa County based on the County’s omission of critical crude quality information and its failure to mitigate the significant environmental, public health and safety impacts from Phillips 66’s Propane Fuel Recovery Project before approving the project and issuing permits.

Read more in CBE’s press release [here] ; and see today’s filings [here].

[Media Advisory] CBE Demand Safety from Chevron in Richmond during refinery workers strike

Support Community and Workers health and safety.

Tactic to run plant with replacement workers threatens to worsen spill, fire, explosion and flaring hazards

What: Richmond City Council vote on resolution calling for full compliance
with safety rules and ‘safe and orderly shutdown’ during strike

Where: Community Services Building, Richmond City Hall, 440 Civic Center
Drive, Richmond CA 94804

When: Tuesday, February 17, 2015; the Council Meeting begins at 6:30 PM.
Background: Oil refineries are complex and custom-built. Knowing how to operate one oil refinery’s equipment does not mean one knows how to operate the equipment at another refinery safely, especially when something goes wrong.

When refinery workers walk off the job during a strike the safe thing for the company to do is cooperate with them in a safe and orderly shutdown of the refinery. That is what happened at the Tesoro Golden Eagle refinery near Martinez during the ongoing strike. But if the company keeps running the refinery using replacement workers who have not previously operated it, the likelihood of a serious chemical spill, fire, explosion or flare emission incident can increase greatly. Chevron’s statements and strike preparations suggest that it plans to keep running the Richmond refinery in this more dangerous way.
The dangerous tactic, by threatening to undermine worker rights, also threatens to undermine the ‘just transition’ to sustainable energy that is needed to meet California’s greenhouse gas targets.

Exactly when a stop-work action might occur at the Richmond refinery is unknown at this time but it is reasonably likely to occur soon.
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) supports the refinery workers strike. Please visit our web site at www.cbecal.org for more information about CBE’s position on this nationwide strike over worker rights, health and safety.

[Press Release] Next Generation of Climate Policies Released

New climate legislation promises to benefit and protect our communities. Press Release (below) and here. Also, check out the Senates website to find out more on the legislation.

February 10th 2015

NEW CLIMATE LEGISLATION PROMISES TO BENEFIT COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

Senators include low-income communities in plans for a greener California

SACRAMENTO – The California Senate released a sweeping package of bills aimed at addressing climate change today. The measures include creating a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, divesting California retirement funds from coal, increasing the amount of renewable energy in the state to 50%, reducing use of petroleum, and a study to explore green jobs within the clean energy sector. The announcement of the 4 bill package came from Senate pro Tem de León, Senator Pavley, Senator Hueso, and Senator Leno.

 

The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) joined Senators during the announcement, applauding their bold leadership and highlighting the need for this “next generation” of climate policies that benefit and protect low-income communities and communities of color, who are overburdened by the effects of air pollution and climate change.

 

Statements from CEJA and our member organizations

 

Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Low-income and immigrant Asian Americans in California know that climate change is a serious threat to their quality of life. Under Senator de León’s leadership, environmental justice communities are starting and will continue to benefit from climate policies that bring us closer to the core promises of AB 32: cleaner air for our children, more economic opportunities for our neighborhoods, and a healthier climate for our planet.

Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director

 

Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

We strongly support the Senate’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and look forward to working with them to emphasize the health and job-creating benefits of increased reductions directly from sources in California. Direct reductions will bring desperately needed air pollution reductions and good jobs, which are particularly important to communities in the Central Valley, who suffer from some of the worst air pollution and highest poverty levels in the country.

Caroline Farrell, Executive Director

 

Communities for a Better Environment

We are enthusiastic and applaud the leadership of Senator de León in proposing aggressive targets in reducing petroleum fuel usage in California.  We know that moving towards carbon-free transportation, promoting clean alternative options, and enhancing public transit is a win-win strategy that enhances public health and allows Californians to invest their money in their own state, as opposed to sending it out to oil companies.  We look forward to working with Senator de León and other elected officials and implementing agencies to make sure that low-income communities of color are given priority in these investment decisions, and communities most in need benefit significantly from this new green economy.

Byron Gudiel, Executive Director

 

California Environmental Justice Alliance

The California Environmental Justice Alliance supports the bold climate policies of the Senate leadership. Low-income communities and communities of color have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution for too long, and these policies will equitably reduce emissions in all communities while bringing good jobs to communities that most need them. California needs a strong renewable energy mandate to get to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 with a clear roadmap to transition off of fossil fuels.

Strela Cervas, Co-Coordinator

 

Media Contacts

Amy Vanderwarker, California Environmental Justice Alliance, (510) 504-8413

Parin Shah, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, (415) 286-7850

Sofia Parino, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (916) 716-2398

Bahram Fazeli, Communities for a Better Environment, (310) 251-1128

 

**MEDIA BACKGROUNDER**

 

9 Key Environmental Justice and Climate Policy Issues for 2015

With a new generation of statewide climate and renewable energy policies being drafted, the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) would like to share our analysis on some of the key environmental justice and climate issues that are critical to include in the policy proposals that are being formulated in the Legislature.

 

  1. Pass post-2020 greenhouse gas emission targets, as outlined in SB 32. The target should include short-lived climate pollutants and other co-pollutants.

 

  1. Ensure any post-2020 climate goals are achieved through direct emission reductions, with a focus on communities already overburdened with pollution.

 

  1. Transition California to 100 % renewable energy by 2050, with an interim target of 60% renewables by 2030.

 

  1. Bring small-scale renewable energy into the communities most impacted through a feed-in tariff.

 

  1. Create dedicated Environmental Justice staff at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Given the range and depth of environmental justice issues at stake within energy, air quality and statewide climate policy, both CPUC and CARB need dedicated staffing with sufficient authority to support implementation of Environmental Justice policies and ensure other policies address Environmental Justice needs.

 

  1. Increase climate investments in disadvantaged communities by, at a minimum, doubling the carve-out for disadvantaged communities within the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to 50%.

 

  1. End our reliance on fossil fuel in the transportation sector, including: reducing emissions from goods movement and freight, and aggressively enhance access to clean transportation alternatives and clean, affordable public transit, especially for low-income Californians. This can be accomplished through a wide range of equity measures including rebates, increased access to charging facilities, financing assistance programs, and car-sharing options.

 

  1. Codify the already established loading order at the California Public Utilities Commission. The state has already prioritized renewable energy, energy efficiency, conservation, and demand response. These strategies should be implemented aggressively over the development of new energy sources, such as natural gas power plants.

 

  1. Ensure energy efficiency programs create high-road, long-term, accessible jobs for communities who have suffered from chronic under and unemployment.

 

About the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA)

CEJA is a statewide, community-led alliance that works to achieve environmental justice by advancing policy solutions. We unite the powerful local organizing of our members in the communities most impacted by environmental hazards – low-income communities and communities of color – to create comprehensive opportunities for change at a statewide level. We build the power of communities across California to create policies that will alleviate poverty and pollution.

 

All together, we represent approximately 15,000 Latino, Asian Pacific American, and African American residents. Our members are:

  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice
  • Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • Environmental Health Coalition
  • People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights

 

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