CBE & Coalition Demand Limit on Oil Refinery Emissions: Air District to Discuss GHG emission caps

(Updated: July 13, 2015)  As we build power for a healthy community and environment we’ve fought at the air district for years. However, under pressure from Big Oil and their lawyers, BAAQMD (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) staff have exhibited complacency towards the climate crisis and disregard for low income communities of color across the bay.

BAAQMD HQ; Milton Feldstein Building (source: Google maps)

There are some extremely dangerous levels of GHG and co-pollutant emissions that the five Bay Area refineries spew every day and it’s no different in the hearing room. You can almost choke on all the toxic influence these companies emit at every BAAQMD proceeding. BAAQMD has heard from CBE and our partners urging them to cap GHG emissions from the biggest refining center on the West Coast, but the BAAQMD board, in charge of protecting air quality, refused to admit it is their job until now. We challenged them to take a stand against dirty polluters and after several hearings and hours of robust discussion the board blinked first.

We won our demand and got BAAQMD Staff *to develop* for future Board consideration, enforceable numeric emission limits that prevent increased refinery GHG emissions. “We may see a proposed cap from Board staff by the next BAAQMD Board of Directors meeting on July 22 nd, but they could again defer such vital protections and again kick the can down the road, if the BAAQMD board does not feel the urgency,” warns long time CBE Northern CA program Director, Nile Malloy. According to some board members, hard work by coalition allies and public support turned this around. A few Board Members even took the time to thank us for engaging on the issue of GHG emissions from refineries. Of course, there have always been emissions at refineries linked to climate disrupting pollutants, however, “they have never been capped, and will only increase with the refining of a lower quality oil feedstock , such as crude brought by rail to the Bay Area,” warns Roger Lin, Staff Lawyer at CBE. A cap on emissions from refineries and all sources of fossil fuels is essential for our local effort to protect the health of our communities and the global effort to cut GHG emissions to stave off the worst of climate change: a fact the BAAQMD staff would not admit to until we left them with no other recourse. With the support of other board members, we got Air Pollution Control Officer Broadbent and his lawyer Brian Bunger to admit they have legal authority to set the cap (Finally! They had denied and danced around this fact for months if not years before.) Together, we also got staff on record saying its proposal to require the best technology to control pollution from crude slate changes would be retroactive, but this decision along with the cap on GHGs all depends on the BAAQMD Board of Directors, the ultimate decision making body of BAAQMD.

The fact of the matter is, pollution from Bay Area refineries is responsible for decades of toxic emissions and without limiting GHG emissions, they are poised to seal our climate fate; they’re banking on it. Moreover, setting a cap would also control unregulated “co-pollutants” that are emitted together with GHGs and harm local communities.  That is why, when the time comes, we must show up in full force at BAAQMD (939 Ellis St. San Francisco, CA 94109) and urge the Board to cap GHGs emissions. Together with our lawyers and scientists, we must pressure BAAQMD to make the right decision from now until July 29th, the next BAAQMD hearing (final) and turn out in large numbers. Whether you are a front line community member being polluted by Chevron, a Climate activists fighting tar sands or fracking, or a union worker who wants the chance to work in a safe place that contributes to climate solutions, capping emissions at refineries will get us closer to our clean energy future. This is what we call a “Just Transition: Stopping the bad, promoting the good, and changing the rules.” (Source: “Richmond Just Transition Framework”) Join us this summer to be a part of this transformative moment.

For more information on getting involved please contact our Richmond Organizer, Andres Soto. [E-mail: andres@cbecal.org]Andres Soto [email: andres@cbecal.org]