Thursday, October 24, 2013
Refinery pollution monitering
"Refineries should maintain community monitors"
2013-10-24 from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/editorials/article/Refineries-should-maintain-community-monitors-4924242.php]:
The Chevron Richmond oil refinery fire in August 2012 woke up the Bay Area to the fact that we know more about tailpipe emissions than refinery pollution because Clean Air act rules focus on auto exhaust. But that is changing as air quality regulators inch toward new refinery rules.
As those rules are developed, it will take vigilance and work on the part of all Bay Area communities to ensure the broad concerns of public health are reflected in those rules.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is crafting a refinery emissions tracking rule, with a proposal expected to go to the board this summer and final regulations in effect sometime in 2016. Refinery communities - Richmond, Benicia, Rodeo, Martinez - are keenly interested in how and how soon this effort plays out, but the entire region wants to know what's in the air.
At the moment, efforts to sniff out what is wafting into the region's skies from its five major oil refineries are under way but slowly.
The air district maintains its own monitors at each of the region's refineries, but it only looks at two chemicals. Exposure to other petroleum-associated chemicals have effects on human health, but the air rules don't address those contaminants.
Under legal agreements, refinery operators have purchased equipment in Richmond, Benicia and Rodeo to monitor a broader range of chemicals and provide that information in real time to the public. Chevron, working with a third-party contractor, has installed three fence line stations as of April and the first of three stations in neighborhoods last month. The project, agreed to in 2010, lagged until the 2012 fire, which sent thousands of residents to the hospital with breathing problems, prompted the city and Chevron to speed up.
Benicia's equipment is currently unused.
Hopefully, the monitors will give trend data. Data gathered after an incident - such as Richmond's efforts to analyze particulate fallout from the fire - is only meaningful if compared to a baseline.
The air district can't impose policies or fines based on data collected by these community monitors, just on infractions caught by its own equipment as was Valero's Benicia refinery this week.
The air district can require refineries to maintain community monitors to gather data to regulate refinery emissions. As it works out the details of its new emissions tracking rule, it should.
Air quality monitors -
Real-time data from air monitors along the fence line of Chevron's Richmond refinery is available at www.fenceline.org/Richmond