Denny Larson, executive director of Global Community Monitor and Moving Forward Network participant, is featured in this story about Chevron’s Richmond, California refinery, oil trains, and air pollution.
RICHMOND — In the first of what they hope will be a series of public information meetings in Richmond and across the state in communities near California’s 13 oil refineries, state and county officials outlined the rapidly changing petroleum industry’s impact in the area and the regulatory framework that is trying to catch up.
“It takes great cooperation from a range of agencies and the public to be effective,” said County Supervisor John Gioia, who is also a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
More than 50 people came out Thursday night to the first meeting of the California Interagency Refinery Task Force, which was created by Gov. Jerry Brown after the August 2012 fire at the Chevron Richmond refinery, braving heavy rains to hear the presentation in the Richmond City Council chambers.
A series of speakers discussed the county’s emergency response systems, city and regional air monitoring systems and the network of marine, rail and pipeline systems that bring crude oil to the area.
Denny Larson, the executive director of Global Community Monitor, described the phalanx of air monitoring systems lining Chevron’s local refinery and streaming real-time air pollution data to a public website. The site and the monitors were funded by a tax settlement between the city and its largest taxpayer, Chevron, and Larson said it is the most advanced system of its kind in the country.
“We now have more data than anyone anywhere,” Larson said. “We’re at the beginning of learning what it all means.”
Residents in Richmond eager for more information about the rapidly changing industry, and other communities in the state, will see presentations like the one Thursday in the months ahead, organizers said.
Interest has been high in Richmond for years, and more so since the 2012 fire — which was determined to have been caused by the refinery’s failure to change an old pipe — sent thousands to area hospitals. In the last two years, transport of Bakken crude by rail in Contra Costa County has increased, as ramped up domestic production has added supply.
Just 1 percent of all oil coming to Bay Area refineries comes by rail, said Gordon Schremp, senior fuel specialist at the California Energy Commission, but that ratio could rise to 22 percent by 2016. The Bay Area refines 41 percent of all crude in California.
“There are no pipelines from the middle of the country to the West Coast,” he said, adding that at least three more terminals in the state are seeking permits to receive crude by rail.
But while new regulations to enhance rail car safety and reduce emissions at refineries wind their way through the legal process, the air monitors in Richmond and other Bay Area cities give air district regulators an opportunity to enforce existing laws, Larson said.
“They can monitor real time data and go in and issue lots of tickets,” Larson said.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/sfbaynewsrogers.