Air District Postpones New Refinery Regs After Sharp Criticism Over Transparency

June 25, 2017 10:00 am · 19 comments

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s staff and board of directors faced scathing criticism this week over a lack of transparency surrounding last-minute changes to a new regulation capping greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum refineries.

At their last meeting May 31, the board directed staff to move forward on Rule 1216, capping emissions of greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution – but since that time staff revised the rule several times in an
effort to make it “legally defensible” and “technically feasible,” according to district CEO Jack Broadbent.

The original proposal, put forward by Communities for a Better Environment, limit the future emission of greenhouse gases by analyzing a refinery’s emissions from a five year base-line period and capping them at seven percent over the highest annual measurement. It would have also limited other pollutants, including particulate mass 2.5, particulate mass 10, sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

“Staff cannot support this approach due to legal and technical issues,” district staffer Eric Stevenson said. “We tried to revise this so it would be legally defensible and technically feasible.”

The revised methodology before the board did not seek to regulate pollutants other than greenhouse gas emissions, basing the cap on a refinery’s mean emissions with exemptions or allowances for equipment that’s
already permitted but not yet fully utilized.

Some of the revisions were made less than 24 hours before the meeting, according to Greg Karras, chief scientist with Communities for a Better Environment.

Roughly 25 stakeholder groups and more than 40 individuals condemned the changes during public comment, but the first speaker was a representative from the office of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who
read from a prepared statement urging the board to postpone any decision on the matter to allow sufficient time for a full and transparent analysis of Rule 1216’s impacts.

Bob Brown, speaking on behalf of the Western States Petroleum Commission, said “we feel very strongly that 1216 is not the answer.”

He also expressed concern about regulatory rule making at multiple levels of government, and how Rule 1216 might affect statewide regulatory efforts.

“This is the fourth change since the May 31st version,” Brown said. “The district does not appear to have provided an updated EIR for public review and comment.”

“Don’t allow this historic agreement to be changed at the last minute by staff,” said Linda Hutchins-Knowles of Moms Out Front.

“It kind of feels like 1984,” Hutchins-Knowles said.

A number of public health officials expressed concern over the possibility for hundreds of premature deaths in the future due to greenhouse gas emissions, urging the board to adopt the version of Rule 1216 that was
presented on May 31.

Union leaders spoke to the possibility of job loss associated with new regulations, and one man went so far as to call for a criminal investigation of the district’s board and staff.

Board chair Liz Kniss initially gave commenters three minutes to speak, but later truncated that to two minutes, then 90 seconds. By the end of public comment individuals were allotted just 30 seconds to speak, leading
to several hostile exchanges.

Karras, with Communities for a Better Environment, said later that he had been instructed my staff to prepare a 10-minute presentation but was cut short due to the irregular procedural decision.

“This process has been incredibly troubling,” said Director Hillary Ronen, who also serves as a San Francisco County Supervisor. “I’ve never heard anything like it in many years of working in government.”

“I think it’s extraordinary that the Attorney general wrote a letter to this board expressing his concern about the process,” Ronen added. “I believe we’re going to have a legal problem if we go forward.”

Director Mark Ross, who also serves on the Martinez City Council, noted that he hadn’t heard any of the speakers during public comment speak in favor of the revised rule.

“We’re either very brave or very deaf,” Ross said.

In a 13-6 vote, they approved a motion to continue the matter to a date uncertain, essentially punting the decision to another meeting. Kniss estimated that would be at least two to three months away.

Cellophane June 25, 2017 at 10:20 AM

LOL, somebody’s bribe didn’t come through.

RealityTranslation June 25, 2017 at 10:47 AM

“In a 13-6 vote, they approved shuffling this decision to another date when The People aren’t actually paying attention, so job-killing and economy-hurting underground regulations with little to no oversight can more effectively be rammed down the throats of all involved parties.”

Bill Pickle June 25, 2017 at 11:15 AM

Who’s kidding who, here? Big oil does whatever it wants to do. In the meantime, don’t burn any wood in your fireplace!

Moya June 25, 2017 at 11:55 AM

Seems like we have bigger problems when this state, rather than turning down gas generators PAID other states to take power from our grid. So I hear.

WC resident June 25, 2017 at 12:00 PM

I thought the Trump administration had declared that greenhouse gasses don’t exist and so can’t be regulated?

WC June 25, 2017 at 12:09 PM

Yeah BAAQMD dummies. Let’s impose more BS regulations and jack the price of gas up.

BITE_ME June 25, 2017 at 1:34 PM

I should be able to buy 3 bicycles. Then transfer the “green” credits to my car. So it never has to be smoged.

Miriam June 25, 2017 at 1:40 PM

Regulations are meant to be implemented,, and are there for a reason.

KJ June 25, 2017 at 1:44 PM

Oh, goodie, another delay.

“Back in 2012, the Air District’s Board of Directors instructed its staff to develop a new regulation by the spring of 2015 (yes, we’re already two years behind that deadline!) as a backstop against increasing refinery emissions. That regulation, called Rule 12-16, would set transparent, enforceable limits (“caps”) on refinery emissions of greenhouse gases and four pollutants that cause particulate-matter air pollution: PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen oxide (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The emission caps would be set at 7% above existing emission levels of those pollutants at Bay Area refineries.

“After many delays by the Air District staff (under industry pressure) the Board committed to consider adopting proposed Rule 12-16 at a public hearing this May. We had hoped that they would live up to this commitment and not delay this rule any further, but as of this printing the timeline for adoption was up in the air.

“Time is of the essence: The longer we wait to establish a “cap”, the more time refineries have to complete large-scale infrastructure projects required to process tar sands [higher-emitting oil]. Any more delays will lock in these projects for decades, setting the course for higher emissions baselines once a cap is eventually put in place.”

Huh ? June 25, 2017 at 3:11 PM

Whatever happened to representative government? The state legislature as well as Congress has given up their law making power to agencies like these. It’s pathetic and dangerous because we have no recourse against these dictators and they can do whatever the hell they want.

Hmm ? June 25, 2017 at 5:01 PM

Would like to commend author of the article, Well Done.

To bad there are no reporters willing to do some deep digging to find the funding sources for these groups of supposed “grass roots” “concerned citizens”. Is not Rule 12-16 specifically and directly targeted at processing of Canada’s oil sands?

Remember all the hysteria over fracking?
‘Matt Damon’s Anti-Fracking Film Backed by OPEC Member’
“The film was produced “in association with” Image Media Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, as first reported by the Heritage Foundation. Abu Dhabi Media—which has never had a role in a major American film before—is wholly owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, a small but extremely wealthy federation of absolute monarchies along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf.”

An why were so many impressionable snowflakes against Keystone?
Who stood to make money if the pipeline wasn’t built?

“Warren Buffett, whom President Obama likes to cite as a fair-minded billionaire while arguing for higher taxes on the wealthy, stands to benefit from the president’s decision to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.
Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, which is among the railroads that would transport oil produced in western Canada if the pipeline isn’t built.”

Because Keystone was not built tank cars were used to ship that oil south Buffet owned BNSF it was reported made approximately $2 Billion per year in revenues shipping that oil south by rail.

So is this Rule 12-16 really about the environment or is it about keeping an additional major oil source off the market to keep prices high?
Have middle eastern oil producers created an issue, found willing and easily influenced shills once again ?

Sounds very much as if those “in charge” were counting on a slam dunk day glow meeting after which they would do a quick rubber stamp vote.
Do question the choice of Board chair. Reducing time for speakers ???
What ? Didn’t want to pay the babysitter overtime or was there something good on TV they didn’t want to miss. Arrogance of progressive liberal politicians is astounding.

Internet search of the name gives interesting results & Palo Alto Vice Mayor re-election.

At some point refinery owners will decide CA is no longer worth the hassle and reduce or curtail operations all together.
Then ya can try Huggin’ a tree to get ya down the road.

Hmm ? June 25, 2017 at 5:07 PM

REvision of first sentence
To bad there are no reporters from major the Bay Area media willing to do some deep digging to find the true funding sources for these groups of supposed “grass roots” “concerned citizens”.

Rolls w/Steel June 25, 2017 at 6:08 PM

Just register your GPS info for the bikes & your credits will appear on your Plenti account.

Moya June 25, 2017 at 6:54 PM

I hope other states treat CA like they are treated by CA. Then maybe those who vote Democrat will no longer be able to.

WhoDat? June 25, 2017 at 8:59 PM

No matter what the Air Board decide, you can bet the only folks who will be penalized for putting ANY pollution in the air will be the wood and pellet burners during the winter, including those with EPA certified clean appliances. The Board has a mandate from the CA politicians to meet Federal standards (and not lose Federal $$$), but won’t attack the problem by limiting all pollution sources, since that would disrupt commerce. Air quality does not get better on spare the air days, because they’re voluntary in the summer and in the winter, only one group (contributing less than 35 % of particulates) is restricted.

Huh? June 26, 2017 at 7:02 AM

Hold your nose everyone, im going to fart!

Strad June 26, 2017 at 5:16 PM

Credibility being questioned. Abuse of authority. This is why they don’t have respect.

Hmm ? June 26, 2017 at 8:23 PM

@WhoDat? Problem with wood pellet burning EPA certified clean appliance use is there is not a large unionized work force producing those wood pellets or EPA certified stoves here in CA giving LARGE campaign contributions to democrat politicians.

Does anyone think for even a split second CA state attorney general would have become involved if high dollar democrat campaign contributor jobs were not involved ? How many in state legislature get campaign contributions from unions?

Last CA state attorney general went after Exxon after they cut funding to clinton foundation as did 15 other state attorneys general and all were democrats. Exxon was made example of to other companies this is what happens if you cross us.
Exxon Pulls Funding From Clinton Foundation; So Hillary Does THIS

We The People don’t matter only those who give large campaign contributions matter to democrats.

Rebecca June 26, 2017 at 9:18 PM

Excellent article. Another note about this disturbing process: an environmental impact report was already completed for this rule, before the May 31 vote. Pretty outrageous to do an EIR with one set of numbers (cap at current levels) and then at the last minute switch to a different set of numbers to allow a huge increase!

Staff have had five years of discussion and several months of the EIR process during which they could’ve talked about these revisions instead of trying to sneak them in right before a vote.

BAAQMD’s board is made up of local elected officials (supervisors, mayors, city council members), but unelected employees have seized power. There’s no hope for a clean process until the board steps up to control its own staff.

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