State Calls for Improved Air Quality Monitoring at California Refineries
For immediate release
SACRAMENTO— State and local air quality officials today released a draft report outlining a range of recommended actions to improve air monitoring at the state’s oil refineries, and strategies to better inform surrounding communities during incidents at refineries that result in increases in pollution or toxic releases.
The draft report, the latest product of an initiative set in place by Governor Brown in 2013 to address refinery safety and emissions, is jointly authored by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA), which represents all 35 of the state’s local air districts. CARB staff will work with the air districts and local response agencies to present this draft report to community members at a series of public safety meetings throughout the State to be scheduled for early fall.
“Many communities in the vicinity of major refineries live in fear of exposure to airborne pollutants during a major refinery incident, as well as during normal operations,” CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey said. “Air monitoring and modeling advancements can provide the public, emergency responders and environmental health agencies enhanced information for decision making to better protect communities. The recommendations in this report also provide a valuable resource for implementing AB 617. Working together to achieve the recommendations, industry and government can better protect the public and address their concerns.”
AB 617, authored by Assembly Member Cristina Garcia and signed into law by Governor Brown on July 26, 2017, sets out requirements for significantly enhanced community-level air monitoring, emissions reporting and mitigation programs to be implemented by CARB and local air districts in California’s most impacted communities. This report’s recommendations will help inform AB 617 air monitoring efforts and set the stage for enhanced interagency air monitoring and communication, better public information and outreach, and overall improved public health surrounding refineries throughout California. These recommendations may also serve as a model for improving air monitoring at other industrial facilities throughout the state.
The report broadly lays out a four-part approach:
- Expand air monitoring within refineries, at the fence line and in nearby communities;
- Improve modeling techniques to better predict impacts of pollution and incidents at refineries;
- Provide real-time information about air quality near refineries to emergency response agencies and the public; and
- Improve state and local coordination through a newly established interagency Refinery Monitoring Working Group.
The report recommends that first responders have access to improved air monitoring tools and data, and are thoroughly trained to apply them. It takes into account the refinery chemicals of highest concern as identified in a companion report released this week by the State Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). In addition to improving rapid detection and communication of potentially hazardous releases to responders and the public, the proposed air monitoring system improvements will provide valuable information to better understand and help reduce risks associated with long-term community exposure to ongoing routine and unplanned refinery air releases.
The report calls for establishing a new Refinery Monitoring Working Group, comprised of staff from CARB and local air districts. The working group would assist the refineries, air districts, local emergency response agencies, CARB and community-based organizations in implementing the report’s recommendations. The working group would be charged with developing guidelines that air districts, in turn, would use in requiring refineries to expand air monitoring networks and making the data available to emergency responders and the public.
This report is the latest step the state is taking to address refinery safety. The initial action was Governor Brown’s creation of the Interagency Refinery Task Force (IRTF), established in response to concerns raised in the aftermath of a major fire in August 2012 at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond. The goal of that task force was to improve the coordination of refinery safety and compliance efforts, and enhance preparedness for future incidents.
The IRTF includes representatives from federal, state and local agencies including CARB and four air districts with refineries in their jurisdictions (Bay Area Air Quality Management District, South Coast Air Quality Management District, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District).
In support of IRTF goals, CARB and CAPCOA agreed to jointly assess existing emergency air monitoring capabilities and to identify potential improvements to refinery air monitoring systems. In July 2013, CARB and CAPCOA released the Project Plan, a roadmap document that described a four-step process to achieve air monitoring and emergency response objectives for California’s refineries. The first report in that process included a detailed inventory of air monitoring and emergency response capabilities for each major refinery in May 2015.
The full report and related documents are available.
OEHHA’s report is available at: https://oehha.ca.gov/air/analysis-refinery-chemical-emissions-and-health-effects
The Interagency Refinery Task Force plans to schedule a series of public safety forums later in the fall to present the report and gather public input. Information on these forums will be posted at: https://calepa.ca.gov/refinery/