SF Bay Area Refineries Face Hard Emissions Cap

1 Jun 2017

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District appears poised to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s five oil refineries, the area’s largest stationary source of carbon gases. The caps on individual refinery carbon emissions are to be the first in the state and nation.

“Today’s action by the Air District Board demonstrates local leadership, ensuring that refinery greenhouse gas emissions do not increase, providing a model for California and beyond,” Jack Broadbent, Air District executive officer, announced May 31.

The district’s Regulation 12, Rule 16 was reworked to help avoid increased air pollution at the refineries from processing dirtier crude oil, including tar sands from Canada.

Beginning in January of next year, emissions are to be capped on an individual facility basis (see table).

BAAQMD 12-16-Graph-2

California oil refineries are under the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program, under which they are given a substantial amount of free emission allowances. They are allowed to exceed their emissions allocation ceiling by buying credits from other businesses that don’t use them, such as power plants that operate minimally, and/or buy offsets from carbon reduction projects. The May 31 proposed revision to the district’s rule, expected to be approved at the district’s June 21 meeting, would prohibit Bay Area refineries—Chevron, Shell, Tesoro, Valero and Phillips 66—from buying emission credits and using offsets to increase their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Western States Petroleum Association says that the regional cap on refineries will push the production of crude oil elsewhere, and drive up the cost of fuel. The cap limits production, but not consumer demand, warned Bob Brown, WSPA spokesperson.

Daily demand for fuel in California includes 15.2 million gallons of gasoline and 8 million gallons of diesel fuel, according to the Board of Equalization, which collects taxes on sales.

After initially objecting to the proposal, the California Air Resources Board formally backed limiting refinery emissions.

“The action marks a dramatic turn in the long, hard fought struggle by community, environmental justice, climate, and environmental groups to prevent already-harmful refinery emissions from increasing,” a group of environmental justice activists stated April 6 in response to the ARB’s support.

The California Air Board backing is credited with getting the regional district to agree to cap refinery emissions to avoid higher emissions intensity and mass emissions.

Earlier, the Bay Area district proposed including criteria air pollutants under the refinery caps, but decided to limit those associated emissions in a subsequent rulemaking.

The Bay Area air regulators say this latest rule rewrite along, with a series of rules and air quality protective measures “are the most health-protective in the nation.” They note that in contrast to loss of climate protection momentum on the national level, “the Bay Area marches forward.”

The measure also will apply to two hydrogen production plants

Elizabeth McCarthy

 

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