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U.S. EPA directs Bay Area air district to enhance refinery permits

Release Date: 3/17/2005
Contact Information: Laura Gentile ( - 415/947-4227 (desk) or 415/760-9161 (cell)

SAN FRANCISCO -- This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded the Bay Area Air Quality Management District needs to re-evaluate and enhance four refinery air permits to ensure each permit fully complies with all applicable federal Clean Air Act requirements.

In orders signed on Tuesday by EPA's Acting Administrator Steve Johnson, the EPA determined that the district needs to perform additional analysis and strengthen the permits.

"Although these permits generally contain the appropriate requirements, more analysis is needed to clearly demonstrate compliance with the Clean Air Act," said Deborah Jordan, director of the air division for the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region. "This additional work will ultimately result in better protection of public health and the environment."

This week's action responds to some of the concerns raised to the EPA by several parties last December. Two environmental groups -- Communities for a Better Environment and Our Children's Earth Foundation -- and several labor organizations submitted five petitions to the EPA, outlining concerns about the permits. After careful evaluation, the EPA determined that some of the issues warranted further action. Based on this review, the EPA identified several areas where permit improvements were necessary.

The district must address these issues within the next 90 days, and has already started reevaluating some of the permits.

The EPA is directing the district to make the following types of improvements to the permits:

* Improve accountability by making several requirements, such as flare monitoring, federally-enforceable. This means that the EPA and the public can enforce these terms of the permit, along with the district.

* Add requirements that are missing from some permits, such as emission limits for hydrogen plant vents;

* Enhance monitoring of some refinery operations, including flares;

* Determine the applicability of certain requirements; and

* Provide supporting documentation to clarify decisions made in the permitting process.

This week's action does not limit the production levels at the refineries and does not imply that the refineries fail to comply with Clean Air Act public health standards.

The EPA and the district have worked together to develop air emissions permits for five Bay Area refineries: Chevron in Richmond, Conoco Phillips in Rodeo, Shell and Tesoro in Martinez and Valero in Benicia. The EPA did not receive a petition for the Shell refinery.

Under Title V of the Clean Air Act, local air districts issue permits to refineries and other stationary sources of air pollution. Title V permits are legally enforceable documents that must include all applicable Clean Air Act requirements. These permits provide a road map for how a facility will comply with applicable requirements and also give the public and local agencies critical information on how a facility will demonstrate compliance.

For more information, please go to the EPA?s website at: