January 17, 2017

Finish line in sight in campaign to cap refinery emissions

BAAQMD-BldgFour years. Endless meetings.  Hundreds if not thousands of public comments. Finally, overcoming opposition from its own staff, the board of directors of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) set a date — May 2017 — to vote on a plan that would set enforceable numeric limits on pollution from oil refineries: greenhouse gases, toxic chemicals, and dangerous particulate matter.

By unanimous vote, the board of directors gave staff clear marching orders at its July 20th meeting: Produce draft regulations based on the Community-Worker proposal to cap refinery emissions at their current levels (see the end of this article for the text of the Community-Worker proposal). This rule is important, not only to protect our health and safety and the planet, but to prevent the Bay Area from becoming a major outlet for tar sands crude oil. That’s because refining tar sands crude produces much higher levels of both health-harming pollution and greenhouse gases.

But there was a catch. The caps proposal was paired with a BAAQMD staff proposal for a massive program to reduce emissions at all industrial facilities. That’s a worthy goal, but the process could take up to 10 years. Unless refinery emissions are capped at their current levels, pollution could rise disastrously while that lengthy process goes on.

The staff proposal was another effort by the BAAQMD bureaucracy to delay and divert attention from our caps proposal. The staff proposed a plan to do Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) on all industrial sources of pollution. That means doing a detailed analysis of potential health impacts of various amounts of each chemical in the pollution emitted by all industrial facilities in the Bay Area.

The positive aspect of the staff proposal is that it would set a stricter standard for protecting health. A Health Risk Assessment (HRA) calculates how many deaths per million would be caused by exposure to different amounts of each chemical. The current standard is that exposure should not cause more than 100 deaths per million people. The new rules would bring this down, first to 25 deaths per million and then to 10 deaths per million — among the strictest levels in the nation. Industrial facilities would be required to install “Best Available Retrofit Control Technology” to bring their emissions down to these levels.

However, the entire process — doing an extensive HRA, determining and agreeing on needed retrofits, installing them, demonstrating their efficacy, and remediating retrofits that don’t achieve necessary goals — can easily take 5 to 10 years or even more. Moreover, this process needs to be done on a case-by-case basis for thousands of individual industrial pollution sources. Without a cap in place, emissions will inevitably increase during these extended studies.

The board set a specific schedule for the work on the two proposals:

  • Notice of preparation of Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and draft regulation released, respectively, by August 19* and October 15, 2016, with public workshops and comments complete by December 2016.
  • Draft EIR, socioeconomic analysis, staff report, and final regulatory language for both proposals released by March 3, 2017.
  • Required public meetings and comment periods completed by April 19, 2017.
  • BAAQMD board of directors vote by May 17, 2017.

The board will monitor progress. If combining the two regulations is delaying adoption of the emissions cap, they will separate the two rules, as we have been demanding all along.

(*Note: The significance of the August 19th date is that regardless of the final completion date, this sets the reference time used to calculate the current refinery emissions baseline: the level at which they would be capped.)


Without intensive public pressure staff will slip back into delay-and-divert mode yet again. So, to ensure the board holds staff to this schedule, we are mobilizing a grassroots campaign in the whole nine-county Bay Area, encouraging city councils to pass resolutions supporting caps on refinery emissions.

So far the city councils of El Cerrito, Emeryville, Oakland, Richmond, and San Francisco have stepped up and endorsed our call for rapid completion of rules for emission caps. San Pablo, San Leandro, and Union City already have similar resolutions on their September agendas.

It will take a majority of the 24-member BAAQMD board of directors to vote and pass the regulation limiting refinery emissions. Gathering support resolutions from city councils and other elected bodies in their districts is the best way to ensure that board members do their job and protect our communities. This is citizen democracy at its most basic: community residents stepping up to demand their elected representatives act to protect their health and safety.

Dozens of elected bodies remain to be contacted. We need members of all communities to bring this resolution to their local elected bodies. Join us at our bi-weekly meetings held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month, at the Sierra Club office, 2530 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. To confirm meeting times, contact sunflowerjsj@gmail.com.

For more information about the Community-Worker Proposal, the draft resolution and the support letter from refinery workers of United Steel Workers Local 5, explore the following documents:

– Steve Nadel





Got a bike and some time? Help Zeke’s Great Divide ride for the climate continue!

Zeke crossing into the US from Canada

Zeke crossing into the US from Canada

This summer, 15-year-old Berkeleyan Zeke Gerwein is back on his bike for his fourth annual bike ride to raise awareness of climate disruption. This year, Zeke’s 4,000-plus-mile ride will take him along the dirt roads and trails that run the length of the Rocky Mountains through three countries: Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

Zeke has been riding for the Sierra Club since June 14. He started in Banff, Alberta and will be reaching Breckenridge, Colorado on July 15th. He has ridden through snowstorms, hail, and 100-degree weather, sung to several bears, dealt with flat tires and pedal malfunctions, and cycled over the highest motorable pass in the continental US!

Zeke’s last riding companion had to part ways with him in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and he can’t continue without a companion. Zeke is hoping to find new companions along the route, but if you know anyone in Colorado or the general area (Wyoming, New Mexico) who might be willing to join in on this tough, off-road ride for a few days or a week through the rest of Colorado and into New Mexico, that would be terrific.

Zeke’s parents can help with expenses for riding companions. Let us know if you or a friend might be able to help! You can contact Zeke’s father Joel at jgerwein at gmail.com.





July PG&E hearings an opportunity to give feedback on rates, “exit fee”

news-300x200Every three years, PG&E submits a General Rate Case (GRC) proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that lays out the utility’s expected costs for the next three years. PG&E would adjust its rates to cover these costs. This budget approval process allows for public input to be entered into the record through public participation hearings.​ ​In the next few weeks,​ ​eleven ​hearings will take place around PG&E’s service area. There will be three in the Bay Chapter:

  • July 18, Richmond: 7 pm at the Courtyard Marriott, 3150 Garrity Way (near Hilltop)
  • July 19, Oakland: 1 and 6 pm in the state office building, 1515 Clay Street (west of 12th Street BART), 2nd floor, Room 2
  • July 20, San Francisco: 1 and 6 pm in the CPUC auditorium, 505 Van Ness Avenue

Public comment is limited to 3 minutes per person.​

These meetings are the only forums for members of the public to provide oral comment on PG&E’s​ ​budget ​​proposal. It asks for an additional $2.305 billion over the next three years. ​ ​

The Richmond hearing is the only one​ scheduled in​ ​Marin Clean Energy’s service area​​. Residents and businesses here have a unique perspective on how PG&E’s budget decisions affect them as Community Choice customers. The Commission will be interested in your input.

In the past, Community Choice customers have asked the CPUC to address the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA)​ fee charged to their communities. The PCIA is a charge assessed by PG&E to cover generation costs acquired prior to a customer’s change in service provider. This fee is collected by PG&E and is effectively an “exit fee.” PG&E’s proposal to double this fee will have a particularly heavy impact on low-income customers and Community Choice energy programs that promote clean, renewable energy in California.

A recent CPUC report summarized a PCIA workshop held in early March by saying that the recommended reforms to this exit fee were outside the scope of the proceeding under which the workshop was held. This means that the requests for accountability, transparency, and reasonableness of the PCIA​ ​​are not being considered for reform. We need a new venue for this discussion.

The General Rate Case does not specifically touch on the PCIA, but since the PCIA currently has no other venue for discussion, this​ ​public hearing may be a good time to enter public comment into the record. If you’d like to comment on​ ​how much money PG&E should get and what it can use the money for, consider attending this meeting. You won’t get the chance to do so for another three years.

More resources:

  • More information on the General Rate Case can be found here.
  • The full schedule of meetings is here.
  • For those who want to dive deep, here’s PG&E’s September 1, 2015 General Rate Case application.
  • Here’s the entire docket for the “Application of Pacific Gas and Electric Company for Authority, Among Other Things, to Increase Rates and Charges for Electric and Gas Service Effective”.

– Dave McCoard




Oakland City Council unanimously supports ban on coal exports

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

On Monday, June 26th, the Oakland City Council finally acted on its promise to protect the Bay Area by blocking coal exports through Oakland. Following the release of studies on the devastating public health and safety impacts of coal, the Council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance prohibiting the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke (a.k.a. petcoke, a byproduct of oil refining) in Oakland.

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Councilmember Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf, is paired with a resolution applying the coal ban to the export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment project — thereby blocking a dirty deal that would have made Oakland into the West Coast’s largest coal exporter (read more at the bottom of this article).

Before the ordinance becomes law, it needs to get council approval one more time at a second reading on July 19. You can help us clear this final hurdle: Send a message to the City Council thanking them for standing up for our health and safety, and asking them to approve the ordinance at the July 19 meeting.

Then, RSVP to join us for the second and final City Council vote on blocking coal:

DATE: Tue, Jul 19, 2016
TIME: 5:00 pm
LOCATION: City Council Chambers, Third Floor, Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H Ogawa Plaza
RSVP here!

Once passed, the ordinance will effectively block the deal to ship up to 10 million tons of Utah coal annually through a new export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment — a taxpayer-funded project located on public land. The coal would travel to the Bay Area in mile-long open-top rail cars, spreading toxic coal dust through countless communities along the way. West Oakland residents, who already suffer disproportionately from bad air quality, would be hit hardest by health impacts including asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and heart disease.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

By blocking this coal-export project, we’ll be strengthening the “thin green line” being drawn down the West Coast by communities like ours. The goal is a continent-wide blockade of coal exports, and the stakes are no less than the future of our planet.  Because the coal industry is on the rocks — with coal-fired power plants closing across the country and demand falling worldwide — blocking this export deal means the coal will likely stay in the ground. That is the equivalent of wiping out the carbon emissions of seven average power plants.

After the June 26th City Council vote, local Sierra Club organizer Brittany King said: “Once the Council votes to confirm the ordinance to ban coal and petcoke on July 19th, we can finally get back to making a plan for the Oakland Army Base that will create good jobs for our community without sacrificing our climate and our health. It’s time for Phil Tagami and Jerry Bridges to listen to the people of Oakland, who stood up today and said very clearly: there will be no coal in Oakland.”

This victory was only possible because of the dedicated advocacy of Bay Area residents, workers, healthcare professionals, small businesses, and elected officials over 15 months. Thank you for all you’ve done to help keep dirty coal in the ground!


A portion of the former Oakland Army Base is being developed as a bulk export facility, known as the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT). CCIG, the developer, promised not include coal as a commodity handled by the terminal, but now they have solicited a partnership with four Utah counties that could allow the state to export up to 10 million tons of coal from their mines each year. A Utah funding body approved $53 million to buy space at Oakland Bulk Terminal for these exports. This deal is being conducted behind the backs of the Oakland City Council and the Port, both of oppose coal as a commodity for shipping in Oakland. Additionally, the developer promised residents that the city-owned port would be coal free. While the Mayor, members of the council and residents have demanded a stop to these talks, the developer has yet to abandon the plans.

Those opposing the plan to export coal through Oakland have voiced concerns over how this decision will affect the community’s safety, the environment, and public health. According to a national train company, each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails. Additionally, this deal will stifle California’s strong commitment to cutting carbon pollution, especially as the state continues to suffer from extreme drought, forest fires, and other signs of climate disruption.









Air District commits to studying refinery pollution caps

rodeo-p66-refineryThe community-worker coalition that’s been fighting for years to limit pollution from Bay Area refineries won a significant victory on June 15th. The Air District board directed its staff to evaluate our proposal for immediate, numerical caps on refinery emissions, along with three other proposals. This move came despite strong opposition from Air District staff, who argued that numerical caps on greenhouse gases are pointless and that numerical limits on all forms of pollution are legally questionable.

The next challenge for the coalition will be getting the Air District to move fast enough to prevent the refineries from bringing in a major influx of extra-polluting crude oil from Canadian tar sands.

In the June 15th board meeting of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, staff presented four proposals for controlling refinery emissions:

  • Analyze each refinery’s total energy efficiency as a way of reducing greenhouse gases
  • Continue the current program of making rules for reducing greenhouse gas and toxic emissions by separately analyzing each process in the refinery.
  • Place an immediate overall cap on greenhouse gas and toxic emissions from each refinery
  • Develop a Bay-Area-wide program for reducing emissions of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas)

The staff recommended that the board authorize further analysis of three of these proposals. It recommended dropping the community-worker proposal, using the same arguments offered before: that emissions caps may not be legally defensible and could conflict with the state’s cap-and-trade process for greenhouse gas emissions.

After strong arguments from the community-worker coalition and allies on the board, however, the board directed the staff to prepare an official Environmental Impact Review of each of the proposals. In more than two years since the coalition has been advocating these caps, the staff has failed to produce a detailed analysis of this proposal, despite numerous board requests. So this clear board direction represents a major advance for the environmental, community, and labor groups.

Board members John Avalos of San Francisco, Rebecca Kaplan of Oakland, and John Gioia, the Contra Costa County supervisor whose district includes four oil refineries, joined the community-worker coalition in insisting on a full review of all four proposals.

It should be possible to produce the Environmental Impact Reviews, provide a period for the public to comment, and produce revised reviews before the BAAQMD’s next board meeting in September. But given the slow pace of work on refinery emissions rules in the past, the community-worker coalition intends to keep pushing for a September report, so it will be possible to adopt final rules before the end of the year.

There’s also the question of what topics the Environmental Impact Review will include. In the June 15 meeting, Board member Kaplan insisted that the EIR must include an estimate of the health impacts of the emissions increases that would occur if caps are not adopted.


The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has been discussing methods for limiting refinery pollution for more than three years. More than two years ago the community-worker coalition submitted its proposal: Tell refineries they’re not allowed to increase the levels of pollution they emit, starting now.

In addition to limiting harm to health and the climate, this proposal is critical for stopping Bay Area refineries from bringing in large amounts of crude oil from Canadian tar sands. Because tar sands oil takes so much energy to process, and because it spews out such large amounts of pollution that’s harmful to health, a cap on refinery emissions would effectively prevent an increase in tar sands refining. Scientists have stated that to prevent runaway climate disaster, the tar sands oil has to stay in the ground.

Bay Area refineries are turning to tar sands crude because their traditional sources of crude oil – in California and Alaska – are drying up. Tar sands oil producers, for their part, are increasingly looking to the Bay Area as an outlet for their product, since the Keystone XL pipeline was defeated, and Canadian First Nations are strongly resisting the shipment of tar sands oil through their territories. And Bay Area refineries, already equipped to handle “heavy” crude oil, are closer to being ready to refine tar sands than most others.

The Western States Petroleum Association, representing the oil companies, has been fighting regulation every step of the way. Recently they’ve sent mailers opposing regulation to residents in the districts of selected BAAQMD board members. It is reported that they are hoping to get a California legislator to introduce a bill banning local caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

– Article courtesy of the Sunflower Alliance


On June 27th, Oakland could close the door on coal

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a July, 2015 rally against coal exports.

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a July, 2015 rally against coal exports.

It’s been nearly 15 months since we first learned about a backroom deal to turn Oakland into the West Coast’s biggest coal exporter. Now, the nightmare could finally be coming to an end. On Monday, June 27th, the Oakland City Council will hold a special hearing to unveil an ordinance designed to block coal and petroleum coke (petcoke) exports through Oakland. We need to turn out in force to show the council that if they stand up to the special interests pushing this dirty deal, we will have their backs.

Please join us on June 27th and help hold the council members to their promise to protect us all from coal exports. Here are the details:

WHAT: Oakland City Council hearing of an ordinance addressing coal exports
WHEN: Monday, June 27th, 4:30 pm (hearing begins at 5 pm)
WHERE: City Council Chambers, 3rd floor of City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
RSVP Here!

We haven’t seen the language of the ordinance yet, but we have reason to hope that it will effectively block the deal to ship up to 10 million tons of Utah coal annually through a new export terminal planned for the Oakland Army Base redevelopment — a taxpayer-funded project located on public land. The coal would travel to the Bay Area in mile-long open-top rail cars, spreading toxic coal dust through countless communities along the way. West Oakland residents, who already suffer disproportionately from bad air quality,1 would be hit hardest by health impacts including asthma, pneumonia,2 emphysema and heart disease.3

Please join us on the 27th and help ensure that Oakland’s elected officials prioritize public health and safety above the profits of Utah’s coal industry and private developers.

If we can stop this coal-export project, we’ll be strengthening the “thin green line” being drawn down the West Coast by communities like ours. The goal is a continent-wide blockade of coal exports, and the stakes are no less than the future of our planet. If we can stop this proposal to export 10 million tons of coal to overseas markets each year, it will be the equivalent of wiping out the carbon emissions of seven average power plants.4

June 27th could be the day we close the door on coal for good — but we can’t underestimate the persuasive power of the special interests who stand to benefit financially from the coal-export deal. They’ll be sure to turn out in force, so we need you to show up, too. Please RSVP today to let us know we can count on you on the 27th.


[1] Rubenstein, Grace. “Air Pollution Controversy Swirls Around Oakland Army Base Development | News Fix | KQED News.” KQED News. May 6, 2014. http://ww2.kqed.org/news/air-pollution-dispute-west-oakland-army-base.

[2] Brook, Robert, et al, “Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease. An Update to the Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” May 9, 2010. Accessed February 10, 2016. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2010/05/10/CIR.b013e3181dbece1.

[3] Landen, Deborah D., James T. Wassell, Linda Mcwilliams, and Ami Patel, et al. “Coal Dust Exposure and Mortality from Ischemic Heart Disease among a Cohort of U.S. Coal Miners.” Am. J. Ind. Med. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 54, no. 10 (2011): 727-33

[4] Technical Memorandum Air Quality, Climate Change, And Environmental Justice Issues From Oakland Trade And Global Logistics Center. Sustainable Systems Research, LLC, 2015.







Alameda County fracking ban moves forward — Come to 6/1 campaign meeting to strategize next steps

What a whirlwind Monday’s hearing was! In case you missed it, after years of immense pressure and delays from the oil industry, the Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve the anti-fracking ordinance! The next step is a vote of the Transportation and Planning Committee (stay tuned for details). Then it will move on to a final vote of the full Board of Supervisors.

We are well on our way to banning fracking and protecting our groundwater, our children’s health, and the future of Alameda County. What’s next? Join us at a critical campaign meeting Wednesday, June 1st, to hammer out how we’re going to win!

The fracking ban as it stands also prohibits cyclic steam injection, acid fracturing, well stimulation, and nearly every other dirty and dangerous method of extreme oil extraction. But here’s the tricky part: the ordinance that the Planning Commission recommended includes one weakness, which is a loophole allowing some kinds of waterflooding, a water-intensive “cousin” of fracking.

Can we stand behind this ordinance as it moves to the Board of Supervisors? As Alameda County Against Fracking, we have to decide. And for that, we need you. Join us at a can’t-miss campaign meeting to discuss our future and what winning will look like:

WHAT: Alameda County Against Fracking: What’s next? Campaign meeting and supporter meet-up
WHERE: Food & Water Watch, 1814 Franklin St., 11th Floor, Oakland, CA (take BART to 19th St.)
WHEN: Wednesday, June 1st, 6-7:30 PM
RSVP: on Facebook, or email eteevan@fwwatch.org

We’ve come this far, thanks to your tireless work. Now it’s time to think hard about the future of Alameda County.

Ella Teevan, Food & Water Watch

Zeke rides again! Fourth annual climate ride for 15-year-old from Berkeley

Zeke and his bike, from his Instagram page, @zekegerwein

Zeke and his bike, from his Instagram page, @zekegerwein

Now 15 years old, Zeke Gerwin will ride again this summer to raise awareness of climate change and raise money for the Bay Chapter’s work to create a just transition to a 100-percent-renewable-energy economy and stop dangerous fossil fuels from coming through the Bay Area.

This is the fourth year in a row that Zeke will be spending his summer  break pedaling for climate justice. Last year he raised $4,939 from fans and supporters who share his concerns about the climate and want to encourage Zeke’s dedication. Here are a few words from Zeke about this year’s ride:

“This summer I’ve chosen to ride my bicycle along the dirt roads and trails that run 4,000 miles along the length of the Rocky Mountains through three countries (Canada, the U.S., and Mexico).

While I am super excited about this ride because it will be an amazing adventure, it does not seem like it will do all that much to stop climate change. It might not. It might be useless (come to think of it, this might not actually be the smartest thing to put in a letter imploring people to give money to the Sierra Club). But I really, really hope it will do at least something, act as a tiny levee to stop the flood of carbon dioxide.

I want to talk to the people who live along the Great Divide; the First Nations people of Alberta whose homes are destroyed by the Tar Sands; the ranchers in Montana who have watched coal mining ruin whole mountains; the Coloradans who have to admire the view of miles of pine forest scoured by the pine beetle (which is now surviving through the winter due to global warming); farmers in Estado de Chihuahua who have observed the Chihuahuan Desert march forward, once lush mountainsides ravaged by drought.

I want to talk to people who subscribe to the views of the Koch Brothers and Cruz and Trump and Kasich and Clinton. It will be hard, and I may end up avoiding it, but I want to convince them that this is happening, to show them the evidence.

The Sierra Club has defeated over half of the coal plants in the United States, worked with many other environmental groups to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and is now battling on the front lines to stop coal exports, right here in the Bay Area.

And in case you were wondering, since this is a self-organized ride funded by my oh-so-generous parents, every cent of your donation goes to the Sierra Club.”

Show your support

Zeke dipping his tire in the Pacific after last summer’s 4,000-plus-mile ride across the continental U.S.

Zeke dipping his tire in the Pacific after last summer’s 4,000-plus-mile ride across the continental U.S.

If you believe in Zeke’s mission, please give today! You can make a donation online, or make out a check payable to “SF Bay Chapter, Sierra  Club” and send it to:

2530 San Pablo Avenue, Suite I
Berkeley CA 94702

Put  “Zeke’s Ride” in the memo line so that your contribution counts toward Zeke’s goals.

Want to ride with Zeke?

Zeke is looking for a biking buddy for the last leg of his trip from August 15th in Los Angeles to August 24th in Mexico. If you are a seasoned cyclist interested in joining the trip, send an email to zekesride@sfbaysc.org for more information.

Follow Zeke’s ride online

Can’t get enough Zeke? Follow him on Instagram @zekegerwein and check out his blog. Happy trails, Zeke, and thanks!

Oakland City Council moves forward with process to ban coal exports — Critical hearing on June 27

Oakland residents have been protesting the coal-export proposal for over a year. Here, Katy Polony of No Coal in Oakland carries the message to Oakland City Hall last July. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

Oakland residents have been protesting the coal-export proposal for over a year. Here, Katy Polony of No Coal in Oakland carries the message to Oakland City Hall last July. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

Early in May, the Oakland City Council took an important step toward banning coal exports from the redeveloped Oakland Army Base. The Council voted unanimously to approve a contract with consulting firm ESA to prepare a report on the health and safety impacts of coal exports. Signing a contract now means that it is still possible to get a final decision on this matter before the Council’s upcoming summer recess.

Now that the City has finalized this contract, the consultant can begin the process of evaluating the thousands of pages of evidence pointing to the significant health and safety impacts of coal exports, submitted by experts and advocates including the Sierra Club. From increased asthma rates to decreased emergency vehicle access, the risks of exporting coal through Oakland are grave. We expect ESA’s findings to concur.

The City Council was originally scheduled to approve a contract with ESA on February 16th that would have pushed the timeline well into the fall and cost the city nearly $250,000. Prior to the February council meeting, Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement urging the council to postpone contracting with ESA to evaluate more options.

The city ultimately decided to stay with ESA, while scaling down its scope of work. In a recent statement, the mayor said, “The revised contract with ESA is more financially responsible and appropriately limits their role to validating evidence and assisting the City in its job to determine whether there is ‘substantial evidence’ to find ‘substantial endangerment’ of health and safety. The revised scope clarifies that this determination belongs to the City and not a contractor.”

Hearing set for June 27

The consultant, ESA, has been given a mid-June deadline to evaluate evidence so that an initial consideration by the Council of any health and safety regulations can be heard prior to July. Acting on a recommendation from council member Rebecca Kaplan, the full council voted unanimously to take up the issue on June 27th at a special City Council meeting.

Setting June 27th for a hearing of findings is a step in the right direction to getting the city to enact a ban on coal exports, as any action the city takes to enact such a ban will require two readings of an ordinance. A first reading in June gives the council enough time to have a second reading and final vote in July, before council goes on break for summer recess.

Blocking additional fossil fuels

On May 9th, the City Council held a special public hearing to receive information, testimony, and evidence regarding the public health and  safety impacts of transportation, transloading, handling, and export of fuel oil, gasoline, and crude oil in and through the City of Oakland. Although there are no current plans to ship these products through Oakland, both fuel oil and gasoline were listed among the potential commodities that could be shipped through the terminal at the army base redevelopment.

In 2014, the city passed a resolution opposing the transportation of hazardous fossil fuel materials, including crude oil, coal, and petroleum coke, through the City Of Oakland. As a follow-up to that resolution, ESA will consider the health and safety impacts of these additional fossil fuels in their report on coal.

If all goes as planned, the city will be able to introduce and pass an ordinance banning all fossils fuel exports, though the council has made it clear that coal is the top priority. We will be watching to make sure the council acts on their resolution to ban these dirty and dangerous products before they go on summer break. After more than a year of waiting, the people of Oakland deserve to know where their council members stand on this important issue before casting their votes in November.

To get involved in this campaign, contact Brittany King at (510)848-0800 or brittany.king@sierraclub.org.

– Brittany King

A cap on refinery emissions can keep tar sands and fracked oil out of the Bay Area

At a recent community forum in Richmond, Sierra Club organizer Ratha Lai explained why we need refinery emission caps to protect public health and the climate.

At a recent community forum in Richmond, Sierra Club organizer Ratha Lai explained why we need refinery emission caps to protect public health and the climate.

Back in 2012, the Bay Area’s air regulators determined that changes in the types of crude oil being brought in by local refineries would lead to an increase in emissions. Since the Air District’s own research had found that levels of toxic air pollution were already “unacceptably harmful to public health,” they resolved to pass a regulation preventing increases in refinery-wide emissions. Four years later, we’ve seen a lot of delays and excuses, but still no rule to keep emission levels from rising.

What the Air District foresaw back in 2012 has now come to pass. From 2012 to 2015, Bay Area refineries have requested permits for at least ten infrastructure projects that would allow them to bring in and refine dirtier and more dangerous grades of crude oil like Canadian tar sands and fracked Bakken shale oil. And to our dismay, the Air District has proceeded to rubber-stamp these refinery proposals with little or no public input.

A rule capping refinery emissions including particulate matter and greenhouse gases would effectively keep out these dirtier and more dangerous oils. It would protect Bay Area families from pollutants that cause asthma, cancer, and heart disease, and protect the global climate from the most carbon-intensive types of crude oil.

Unfortunately, the Air District staff has again and again delayed the introduction of a rule capping refinery emissions (also known as Rule 12-16). Any further delays could push introduction of this rule into 2017, when a turnover in board members could make adoption of a strong rule much more difficult.

We’re asking the Air District board to do three things:

  1. Direct the Air District staff to prepare a rule adoption package for Rule 12-16 that will allow the board to consider adopting refinery emission caps no later than August 20, 2016.
  2. Ensure that Rule 12-16 includes specific, enforceable, numeric emission limits on each refiner’s facility-wide emissions, based on actual current emissions.
  3. Hold the adoption hearing in a Bay Area refinery community on a weekday evening so that the communities most impacted by refinery emissions are able to attend.


If you’ve had enough polluted air for one lifetime, tell the Air District board. You can send a message online here.

To get involved in this campaign, contact organizer Ratha Lai at (510)848-0800 or ratha.lai@sierraclub.org.