Tesoro-BP Refinery Merger Poses Major Risk to SoCal Communities

 

Working with our ally Communities for a Better Environment, SoCal 350 and Tar Sands Action SoCal submitted this letter to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), asking for a deeper look at environmental studies regarding the Tesoro Wilmington (LA Harbor) Refinery Integration with the BP’s massive Carson facility. This would be the largest refinery on the West Coast that presents major dangers for communities nearby, as well as across North America due to the mining and transportation of volatile and toxic extreme crudes like Bakken Shale Oil and Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen.

Here was our comment letter on the Draft Environmental Impact Report from June 2016: tesoro-merger-aqmd-deir-comments-socal-350-jack-eidt

We asked for more time, and still await a response.

December 8, 2016

Mr. Wayne Nastri, Executive Officer
Ms. Jillian Wong, Planning and Rules Manager
Mr. Danny Luong, Senior Enforcement Manager
South Coast Air Quality Management District
21865 Copley Drive
Diamond Bar, CA 91765-4178

CC:      AQMD Governing Board member Joe Buscaino, c/o Jacob Haik, Deputy Chief of Staff

Subject: Tesoro LARIC Project must be recirculated in Draft Form

Dear Mr. Nastri and AQMD Staff,

SoCal 350 Climate Action works with a coalition of individuals and groups from the Southern California area banding together to fight climate change. We envision a healthy climate through environmental, social, and economic justice, engaging and empowering our communities through a fossil-free future. SoCal 350 is affiliated with the international climate change organization 350.org and submit this letter jointly with our coalition member Tar Sands Action Southern California.

We write to urge you to recirculate the Tesoro LARIC (Los Angeles Refinery Integration and Compliance) project Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as a new draft, and not to publish it as a final EIR. We also formally request a public hearing on Tesoro before your Governing Board to discuss this project. To finalize the EIR, especially before the holidays, would severely restrict public participation, and the ability for significant and unavoidable adverse impacts to the environment to be properly addressed following the directives of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Tesoro Refinery, Los Angeles Harbor Area

Tesoro’s Los Angeles (Wilmington) oil refinery is seen through a fence. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

 

We have been told the AQMD intends to finalize the EIR in December. Instead, we request you correct fatal errors, such as the draft’s failure to evaluate Tesoro’s crude oil switch, with its public health, environmental, and explosion hazards. Tesoro’s CEO admitted this change publicly to investors. These new crude oils require refinery modifications that increase dangers– higher Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), benzene (carcinogenic), corrosion, risks of fire, explosion, hazardous material release, and others. CEQA requires an accurate project description and evaluation of potentially significant impacts in the draft environmental report. These cannot happen in a last-minute explanation in the final EIR.

This major fossil fuel expansion undermines the City of Los Angeles’s sustainability plans for climate, health, safety & Environmental Justice. It will cause significant threats to resources and ecosystems from Canada to Los Angeles.

Furthermore, these crude oils would come by rail from North Dakota via volatile “bomb trains” and whatever dangerous pipeline routes they can establish. This is crude extracted by hydraulic fracturing that releases toxics to air and water, is highly volatile, and releases elevated greenhouse gases during drilling. Multiple crude trains have exploded and spilled across North America, and dozens were killed. The US Department of Transportation found Dakota crude particularly dangerous.

SoCal 350 has worked closely with the City and County of Los Angeles to pass resolutions publicly opposing another such dangerous oil train project up in San Luis Obispo by Phillips 66, that was recently rejected because of a number of significant and unavoidable adverse impacts to communities and the State of California.

Tesoro’s expanded facilities can also include tar sands crude oil from Canada. This is strip mined, creates toxic lakes and rivers, is so heavy it is like asphalt, and explosive diluents are added during transport. Moreover, with its high sulfur contents, it has proven corrosive to pipelines, rail cars, and storage tanks, resulting in accidents, spills, explosions and polluted air and water. High profile spills in Michigan and Arkansas remain entirely polluted with the diluted bitumen, which is nearly impossible to clean up.

The plan to transport crude to LA from a proposed Tesoro ship terminal near Portland OR poses significant risks as well. In June 2016, a “bomb” train blew up next to an elementary school in the region, and spilled into the Columbia River. By expanding infrastructure here in Southern California mandating these extreme crude oils be transported, we are effectively enabling disasters all over our continent. This must be documented in the environmental analysis.

Tesoro, Los Angeles Harbor Area, BP CarsonIn addition, Tesoro’s August LA refinery explosion of a sulfur tank could not be explained by the AQMD. This explosion required shutdown of streets, and a shelter-in-place for a quarter mile around. Why would the AQMD allow an expansion of sulfur processing at the refinery, without full environmental review? This question must be answered completely in the environmental documentation.

A large body of evidence submitted to the AQMD by Dr. Phyllis Fox, Communities for a Better Environment, Earthjustice, Eastyard, CFASE, and many others, showed overwhelmingly that the Draft EIR failed as an informational document. It needs to be re-written in draft form to address these comments.

Delay of Tesoro’s business plans is no justification to rush the EIR! Tesoro could have entirely prevented any “delay” if it had disclosed the crude oil switch plan two years ago, when it acknowledged the plans to its investors. It is necessary to provide public disclosure in order to respect the public’s right-to-know about increased hazards and pollution, and to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. Please let us know what you intend to do.

Sincerely,

 

Jack Eidt

Steering Committee, SoCal 350 Climate Action

 

Mark Morris

Organizer, Tar Sands Action Southern California