Refinery Emergency Air Monitoring Assessment Report, Objective 2: Evaluation of Air Monitoring Capabilities, Gaps and Potential Enhancements
What does the report do?
This report presents recommendations to improve emergency air monitoring, as well as monitoring of ongoing routine emissions, at California’s major refineries and the communities that surround them. The recommendations cover air monitoring technology, modeling, and coordination. The recommendations aim to strike a balance between local implementation and state oversight to ensure broad objectives of the program are met. The report recommendations will guide the efforts of a proposed interagency refinery monitoring working group comprised of local air district and California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff that will develop guidance tailored to the unique circumstances at each refinery. The refinery-focused guidance developed through this process may serve as a template for similar air monitoring around other types of industrial sources that pose a risk to nearby communities.
Why was this report prepared?
In August 2012, the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California, experienced a major fire that raised serious concerns among elected officials, regulators and the public about refinery maintenance, internal safety practices, and emergency preparedness in the vicinity of California’s oil refineries and other large petrochemical facilities.
In response to these concerns, the Governor created the Interagency Refinery Task Force (IRTF) in 2013 to better coordinate state and local government agency refinery safety and compliance efforts in California, and improve preparedness for future refinery incidents. As members of the IRTF, CARB and the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA), which represents all California air districts, agreed to jointly assess existing emergency air monitoring capabilities and identify potential improvements to refinery air monitoring systems. This report summarizes the results of their findings and builds on earlier work to inventory air-monitoring capabilities.
How does the report relate to recently adopted Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617)?
In July 2017, the Legislature passed AB 617 (Garcia, C., Chapter 136, Statutes of 2017) establishing a comprehensive integrated suite of actions to reduce community- level health impacts of criteria pollutant and toxic air contaminants, especially in those communities most impacted by air pollution. AB 617 includes new requirements for community-level monitoring, which will inform emission reduction strategies to reduce emissions and exposure to air pollution in these communities. The findings of the CARB-CAPCOA refinery-focused air monitoring report will be a useful resource as CARB and air districts begin working with stakeholders to implement the broader requirements of AB 617. Several recent California Statues and rulemaking efforts now implement some of the key findings and recommendations in the report. These statutes and regulations improve refinery safety/emergency preparedness, require fenceline/community air monitoring, improve notification systems, and establish permanent refinery oversight.
What chemicals are covered?
CARB’s sister agency, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), prepared a companion document, “Analysis of Refinery Chemical Emissions and Health Effects,” included as an appendix. OEHHA’s report presents a list of chemicals emitted from California refineries, and identifies 16 top candidates for air monitoring, taking into account emissions levels and toxicity. These are: acetaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, cadmium, diethanolamine, formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide, manganese, naphthalene, nickel, PAHs, PM, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and toluene. Since individual refineries may not release each one of these chemicals, each refinery’s air monitoring plan must consider specific refinery and community conditions to ensure the plan captures relevant measurements to inform emergency response decisions and reduce potential community exposure. Air districts ultimately approve the plans.
Air monitoring takes place for most of the 16 top candidates in some refineries and surrounding communities. The report identifies the status of air monitoring for each chemical.
What are the key recommendations?
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; and
- Improve state and local coordination through an 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. 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 help reduce risks associated with long-term community exposure to ongoing routine and fugitive refinery air releases.
Where can one access the full report after the release?
 Refinery Emergency Air Monitoring Assessment Report, Objective 1: Delineation of Existing Capabilities, published May 2015.
 AB 617 (Garcia, C., Chapter 136, Statutes of 2017)