Even as we work to make the Bay Area a leader at reducing use of fossil fuels, new plans could make us a center for exporting some of the worst fossil fuels, and could smother us in increased air pollution in the process.
According to the Contra Costa Times (June 1), very heavy crude from Canada’s tar sands is being brought to East Bay refineries by rail. Production of this material requires vast amounts of energy and water, and is destroying the boreal forests and rivers of Alberta from which First Nations communities draw their sustenance. Further, refining of such petroleum emits more air pollutants than come from current crude sources.
The environmental community has been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline as a way of blocking Canada from exporting tar-sands oil. We must not allow tar-sands crude to come here by a back-door route. With declining gasoline use in this country, why do oil companies even want to send this oil here? It is to increase exports of refinery products to growing markets in Asia. Included in these exports is coke, the carbon-rich solid left over from the refining process, which is burned like coal. As these fuels are burned, greenhouse gases and other pollution blow back to us on prevailing winds. This pollution affects us all, and we bear the impacts of their production and refining here at home.
Though we do not need to expand refineries for domestic needs, WesPac Energy-Pittsburg LLC has proposed a new storage facility for crude oil in Pittsburg (see October-November Yodeler, page 6). It would include rail facilities for oil coming by train. Across the Bay in Benicia, the Valero refinery also wants to expand its rail capacity.
Sierra Club goals
The Club and community activists are trying to minimize greenhouse gases as well as toxic pollution from fuels–through their full life-cycle, from wellhead or mine, through transport and processing, to exhaust pipe.
The Bay Chapter is mapping out a campaign to deal with these threats. We have joined with 350.org Bay Area to convince the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to cap emissions from each refinery (see August-September Yodeler, page 4). This would encourage the refineries to use lighter, cleaner crude, with fewer emissions, and to capture more potential emissions within their equipment. We want BAAQMD to regulate refineries based on the full life-cycle emissions of the fuels they process.
We also oppose the storage facility in Pittsburg, which is going through environmental review. The final EIR is tentatively expected in November.
Come to Chapter Energy Committee meetings, usually on fourth Thursday evenings, but due to holidays there will be no meeting in November, and the December meeting will be Thu., Dec. 12. See the Chapter Calendar or contact one of the above times and places.
The Chapter Energy Committee is also supporting a rally in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline to be held at Upper Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus starting at 12:30 pm on Tue., Nov. 19.
David McCoard, chair, Chapter Energy and Climate Change Committee
The Contra Costa Times article cited above is at http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_23366257/canadian-tar-sands-crude-heads-bay-area-refineries.
The Pittsburg storage proposal is at http://www.contracostatimes.com/contracostatimes/ci_23870322/oil-storage-and-transfer-facility-proposed-pittsburg-waterfront.