Imagine opening your windows one morning, only to be greeted by the sights and smells of an oil refinery. For many people who live in Southern California, this is daily life. More than half of California’s oil refining capacity is in Southern California. In Los Angeles County, several refineries are clustered in and around the communities of Wilmington, Carson, Long Beach and San Pedro. Sadly, these neighborhoods are largely comprised of low-income earners and people of color. At the same time, these communities are also breathing in pollution from nearby ports, freeways, rail yards and factories spew even more pollution.
Refineries are among the largest polluters in the state. One type of pollutant they emit – oxides of nitrogen (NOx), creates smog. For decades, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has tried to regulate NOx through a credit-trading market. Over time, however, this system failed to reduce emissions as effectively as actual rules and regulations. Faced with a looming federal air quality standard deadline and pressure from a 2017 law, AB 617 (C. Garcia), SCAQMD is now updating its refinery rules.
Finally, after three-and-a-half years, Rule 1109.1 is coming up for a final vote in November, 2021. Originally scheduled for approval in late 2019, the refineries have succeeded in repeatedly delaying due the rule. While this rule will achieve significant emission reductions, it is by no means perfect. The rule could and should have been much stronger, especially considering the challenges facing Southern California’s air. Yet, despite this, the refinery rule is one of the most important and meaningful items on SCAQMD’s agenda in 2021.
What is in the rule?
The proposed Rule 1109.1 is exceptionally complicated, covering a broad range of issues and having multiple ways to comply with the rule. Additionally, the rule has an exceedingly long implementation schedule. Much of the rule’s complexity and long implementation schedule is designed to accommodate the refineries.
- Applies to sixteen oil refineries and related facilities
- Sets emission limits for nearly 300 pieces of equipment based on the best avaliable retrofit control technology, or BARCT pollution control equipment (the biggest polluter being boilers and heaters.)
- Does not allow refineries to purchase credits for emission reduction requirements.
- Creates two alternative compliance pathways (referred to as a “B-Plan” or “B-Cap.”)
- The “B-Plan” would focus on individual pieces of equipment at the refinery, whereas the “B-Cap” would establish a facility-wide emissions target and require an additional environmental benefit.
- The “B-Plan” and “B-Cap” targets must be based on the total emission reductions from BARCT pollution control equipment.
- Creates a three-phase implementation schedule (an “I-Plan”) with the last phase completed by 2031.
- This long implementation schedule is to accommodate the refinery’s “turnaround” schedules (when the refinery is shutdown to maintenance and repairs.)
- SCAQMD anticipates Rule 1109.1 will achieve 75% of its emission reductions by July 2026
- Also included are provisions relating to startups and shutdowns of equipment, as well as flexibility in the rules to accommodate certain pollution control equipment types.
Why is Rule 1109.1 important?
The proposed amendments to Rule 1109.1 are central to SCAQMD meeting its requirements under state and federal law. Once fully implemented, Rule 1109.1 will reduce NOx emissions by 7.7-7.9 tons per day (tpd.) This is in comparison to the 2017 baseline, in which the refineries emitted 12.4 tpd of NOx.
Though these amounts are significant emission reductions, it is important to remember SCAQMD still will not meet the 2023 deadline to attain federal air quality standards. Additionally, this rule could have been significantly stronger. SCAQMD staff initially proposed tougher emission limits for certain pieces of equipment, but the refineries strongly opposed this. Considering that SCAQMD’s socioeconomic impact report anticipates the proposed rule creating major economic and public health benefits, an even stronger rule would have had even more of a positive effect.
Rule 1109.1 is also an important part of SCAQMD commitments under a 2017 law, AB 617. In addition to creating the BARCT standards, AB 617 requires air districts and the California Air Resources Board to identify highly polluted disadvantaged communities and collaboratively develop a Community Emission Reduction Plan, or CERP. The Wilmington, Carson and West Long Beach CERP identifies the refineries as being a major pollution concern for the community. The CERP committed to considering changes to Rule 1109.1 in response to these concerns. Failure to pass this rule would cast a shadow on the entire AB 617 process.
How can you help?
CCA and other environmental and community advocates have tirelessly pushed SCAMQD to create the strongest refinery rule possible. Our efforts included having over twenty meetings with SCAQMD staff, participating in twenty-five public workshops, providing comment letters and speaking about the refinery rule in traditional and social media. Yet, the SCAQMD Board Members need to hear from you, too. Contact the SCAQMD Board Members via email and social media demanding a strong refinery rule. In addition, you can attend and speak when SCAQMD votes on the rule. That meeting will be on November 5th at 9 a.m. via Zoom.
Cities of Riverside County
Ben Benoit, SCAQMD Chair and Mayor Pro Tempore, City of Wildomar
Lisa Bartlett, Supervisor, Fifth District
Eastern Los Angeles County Cities
Michael A. Cacciotti, Mayor Pro Tempore, City of South Pasadena
Speaker of the Assembly appointee
Los Angeles County
Sheila Kuehl, Supervisor, Third District
Cities of San Bernardino County
Larry McCallon, Mayor Pro Tempore, City of Highland
V. Manuel Perez, Supervisor, Fourth District
Western Los Angeles County Cities
Rex Richardson, Vice Mayor, City of Long Beach (term begins 2/5/2021)
Cities of Orange County
Carlos Rodriguez, Mayor Pro Tempore, City of Yorba Linda
San Bernardino County
Janice Rutherford, Supervisor, Second District
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