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Bay Area refineries must dramatically cut pollution, Air District says in historic vote

By Ted Goldberg, KQED, July 21, 2021

Local air regulators moved [July 21] to require two of California’s largest oil refineries to significantly reduce the amount of pollution they spew into the air.

To satisfy the new rules, [Chevron’s Richmond refinery and the PBF Energy-owned refinery in Martinez] would most likely need to buy and install air pollution devices known as wet gas scrubbers at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The vote is the culmination of work started by air district staff in 2019. Dozens of agency workers researched the proposal, worked with outside departments, and took comments from the public.

“Environmentalists and health advocates have urged the board to approve the proposal. They emphasized the need to protect the health of residents who live near the refineries, many of whom are low-income people of color in areas with higher rates of respiratory disease…

“In a statement after the vote, Chevron said it has already reduced its particulate matter releases, argued those reductions were greater than the ones required under the new rule and indicated it might sue the district.

“Air district staff said the rule change will save lives and millions of dollars in health costs. They said agency studies found that the predominantly Latino and Black communities in the areas around the refineries were exposed to particulate matter at a disproportionately higher rate than others in the Bay Area.

“The rule is set to take effect in five years.”

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