Lawsuit Filed:Tar Sands Crude by Rail Project Exposed

Update 3/6/2015: Two more groups, Rodeo Citizens Association and Safe Fuel Energy Resources of California have filed to sue Phillips 66 and the county for passing the project. Please read this article.

10:00 AM WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 2015; MARTINEZ, CA:  Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) sued Phillips 66 and Contra Costa County alleging illegal approvals of a tar sands refining project that could worsen pollution, climate, and refinery and rail explosion hazards, and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that hid the project from the public and failed to mitigate its significant environmental impacts.Phillips 66 cannot meet its propane recovery objective without switching to a lower quality feedstock, like tar sands, and without other Phillips 66 projects to assist in that overall switch: these are critical project components that the EIR should have, but failed to, disclose to the public” said CBE Attorney Roger Lin. The action follows the February 3, 2015 approvals for Phillips’ ‘Propane Recovery Project.’ At issue is environmental disclosure and mitigation for a switch to new oil feedstocks that cause the most extreme extraction, transport, and refining impacts of any petroleum known. Phillips 66 told investors about its plan to switch over its California refineries to two of these oils—‘heavy crude’ from the Canadian tar sands region and shale oil transported by rail. However, the company sought approvals for the rail delivery, wharf delivery, processing, and byproduct propane handling changes needed to implement its plan via at least four separate environmental reviews. None of the reviews discloses the full scope of the plan, the planned change in crude feedstock quality, or the environmental impacts of this crude switch. “Community and worker experts have shown it is the cheap-and-dirty oil project the CEO bragged about” said Greg Karras, CBE. “Lighting the fuse on this bomb could have significant impacts, and no one should be thinking about building it before that potential harm is disclosed and addressed” Karras said. This Phillips 66 project is part of an industry-wide switch to new oil supplies that is  laying out across the region as Californian and Alaskan crude supplies dwindle. Other parts include the Kinder Morgan crude by rail terminal in Richmond and new and modified facilities to deliver and refine oils from new sources planned by Valero in Benicia, Wespac in Pittsburg, Tesoro in Avon near Martinez, Shell in Martinez, and Chevron in Richmond. “Rodeo is already on toxic overload. Who can citizens turn to for representation or protection? Calls to BAAQMD and other authorities yielded no information or reported action around recent incidents of surprise late-night flaring, booming, and noxious odor emissions. The Board of Supervisors failed us without explanation in approving this tar sands expansion project. Things can only get worse and adding further risks to our health and safety is outrageous,” said Ann Puntch, Rodeo resident. Before it was revised extensively and approved by the City of Richmond in 2014, Chevron’s 2008 EIR for its Richmond refinery ‘Hydrogen Renewal’ project was overturned by courts in 2009 and 2010, after CBE challenged that EIR for failure to disclose the change in crude feed density the project would enable, and failure to mitigate its potential climate impacts. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) identified a need for new regional air quality policies to ensure against increased refinery emissions from changing crude feed quality since at least 2012. But despite that admission new policy requirements have languished. A February 27, 2015 comment by 25 groups including CBE called on the BAAQMD to stop oil companies from ‘gaming’ the rules by rushing oil switch projects that could commit the region to new emissions before the needed new policy is in place. In part because of such gaps in environmental protection, EIRs are required by law to disclose and mitigate all reasonably foreseeable significant impacts of proposed projects. CCTimes article here The complaint...

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BOS hearing on Phillips 66 Propane recovery project Tuesday morning.

See the Contra Costa Times article here. Excerpts...
MARTINEZ -- After several postponements over a full year, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing Tuesday on a propane and butane recovery project at a Rodeo petroleum refinery that has faced stiff opposition from some local residents as well as regional and national environmental groups. ... The board of supervisors will meet at 9 a.m.Tuesday, in Room 107 of the County Administration Building, 651 Pine St., Martinez.
It will be one of the first items on the agenda, so it should be finished by about 10:30. Share
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Phillips 66 profits were $1.15 billion for last quarter of 2014

As reported by the Wall Street Journal... Phillips 66 posted better-than-expected earnings and revenue in its fourth quarter as the refinery company benefits from the flood of cheap crude oil that has sent oil prices tumbling. As oil prices have plummeted since last summer, U.S. refiners have been sucking up as much of the abnormally inexpensive crude as they can, turning it into gasoline, diesel and other fuels. Phillips 66’s U.S. refinery margins have been buoyed by the cheap oil from places like North Dakota and Texas. In the latest quarter, Phillips, which was spun off from ConocoPhillips in 2012, said it processed a record 375,000 barrels of tight oil a day in the quarter. About 95% of the company’s U.S. crude slate was advantaged in the quarter, unchanged from the third quarter’s record rate. Meanwhile, total expenses fell 19.7% to $34.25 billion as the company’s crude oil and products costs fell 23%. Overall, Phillips 66 reported a profit of $1.15 billion, or $2.05 a share, up from $826 million, or $1.37 a share, a year earlier. Excluding asset-sale gains, write-downs and other items, earnings rose to $1.63 from $1.34 a share. Revenue fell 18.8% to $35.61 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of $1.37 and revenue of $35.2 billion. While Phillips 66 had earned most of its profits from refining, its chemical production business has recently taken on a larger role. The chemicals segment, which includes its interest in Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, posted a 2.3% increase in earnings to $267 million in the latest quarter. Earnings for the refining segment, meanwhile, grew 23.7% to $517 million. Share
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The CC Dept. of Conservation and Development Approves Propane Recovery Project with no new conditions.

The county Conservation and Development Dept. decisions are in on the contested REIR for the "Propane Recovery Project".
  • Is it a piecemealed project tied inextricably to the P66 Santa Maria crude by rail project?   No.
  • Are there new dangers posed by the addition of propane storage on site?  No.
  • Will the feedstock change resulting in more pollution?  No.
  • Were ANY of the arguments against the project mitigated in any way?  Evidently not.
bosThe Board of Supervisors will be presented with the findings on Tuesday, Feb 3 at the Board of Supervisors Chambers 651 Pine Street Martinez, CA 94553 The website says at 9:00 AM but I think the public part starts at 9:30.  Public comment will be accepted.   Below is the official document with the questions and responses.  It is a slow download from the county website, so this is a copy... All of the docs on the county website are here.

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Propane = heightened potential for terrorism?

  It is well known that 13144-libyaexplosionREUTERS-1343825772-749-640x480Propane can be extremely explosive.  Having a number of huge "torpedo" tanks above ground, filled with the chemical, on a hill adjacent to San Pablo Bay and The Carquinez Straits might make an all too inviting target for evil-doers! The following was entered in to the record at the Nov. 17, 2014 P66 REIR hearing at the CC Zoning Commission.
The original EIR did not consider terrorism or sabotage. After I brought it up as a possibility, it was finally considered, and rejected as a non-significant risk that requires no mitigation. "There is a plan already in place that deals with these threats." The new revised EIR includes three paragraphs regarding terrorism and mirrors these sentiments. Considering the explosive nature of propane in comparison to all other chemicals stored at the Phillips 66 refinery, I can't help but wonder why the threat isn't considered heightened? Without the propane tanks, there isn't a very easy terrorist target at the refinery. With the addition of several large propane tanks, the game is changed. In 2005 the California legislature banned .50 Caliber weapons in California. The major reason for the ban was because of the threat to refineries. While new sales are banned, old weapons that were registered by 2006 were grandfathered in. One can be bought in all neighboring states and easily transported. Would a 50 Caliber bullet breach one of the torpedo tanks proposed? If it could, how hard would it be for a lone wolf or other evil doer the hire a boat and shoot from the bay or highway? What other weapon that is available might be feasible? Ed Tannenbaum  11/17/2014 Crockett, CA
EDIT- 1/24/15 Here is the official response:
As noted on RDEIR page 4.6-32, the consequence analysis modeling indicates that a hazardous event resulting from sabotage would be similar to the consequences of an event at the existing facilities. Therefore, regardless of the type of action that could result in a hazardous event, the impact would be the same.
My official response - WTF?

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New property TAX BASE for P66?

Dollars funnel. Dear Editor: The following Public Comment was presented to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors yesterday:
Begging works. Especially if you're an oil refinery in Contra Costa County. Responding to cries of financial hardship, the County recently created a new tax base for Phillips 66. But no one noticed until a firehouse in Rodeo closed, and its Fire Chief let out a rebel yell. Accustomed to getting 10% of the County tax for the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District, Chief Charles Hanley suddenly came up short. "By about a million dollars,” he said, remembering  the day he had to shutter the little firehouse and say goodbye to 9 firefighters. All agreed the closure was dangerous and ironic. Besides thousands of people, the firehouse also served the refinery. (A FEMA Grant enabled the firehouse to re-open last year, but only temporarily.) Enough’s enough. You get the idea. So this week, I met with the Tax Assessor to request more money for both the County and Fire District. With startling honesty, Gus Kramer explained that P66’s taxes were now based on "profits, not property.” Since the refinery owns 37% of the land in Rodeo, this went far to reduce their tax burden. How far? Kramer couldn't say off-hand, however, public records show that, in 2014, they paid $3,900 per acre for their main lot. And now they're paying only $42 per acre. Given this steep drop, the County Board of Supervisors is now feeling the burn. Yesterday, BOS Chairman John Gioia, confirmed the new profit-sharing”  relationship with P66, and referred me back to Kramer "for discussion". This begs the question: How can the BOS objectively vote on any matter concerning P66 — like the controversial Propane Project which is believed to involve notorious tar sands — if the County has become a "business partner”? Although Phillips ranks #6 on the Fortune 500, the County is now obliged to help them make money. This might explain why Supervisor Glover “lost” his long-time assistant, Paul Adler, who went to work for the refinery this month, in “government affairs”. Is this tax base legal? Is a for-profit relationship between corporation and County common? Who’s idea was it? Did it require a vote?  Whose vote? Does a profit-sharing relationship create conflict-of-interest issues for the BOS? Should the entire Board be required to recuse itself from voting on matters concerning its business partners? Are other refineries in the County also in a profit relationship? Besides firehouses and jobs, what're taxpayers losing because of these tax reductions? A hospital perhaps? Teagan Clive Rodeo, CA
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Mystery plasma discharge at P66 Rodeo (Solved)

cokerfire2 In a photo taken at approximately 5:00 PM on 11/29/2014 at the Rodeo Phillips 66 refinery from San Pablo Ave. , a strange yellow glowing light is seen at the base of the coker.  The security guard that made himself known at the time of the photography claimed that it was not a fire, but was not authorized to say what it actually was.  Other inquiries to refinery management claim there wasn't an event.  All systems were reported normal. Soot or charring can be seen on the tank to the left of the "non-event". Followup 12/1/2014 -

Mystery Solved

Don Bristol , Chief Environmental Officer at Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo writes...
As was discussed with the member of the public at the time of the observation, there was not an incident or fire at the refinery over the weekend.   The images circulating are the result of high pressure sodium lights behind a steam plume at the refinery.  These lights give off yellowish hue and resulted in the steam appearing as it did on 11/29.  It is also clear from the pictures that the plumes are clean steam and not smoke.
The refinery is considering changing the lighting to bright LED's so as to not startle the local townspeople. Followup 12/2/2014 - Tom Lochner has written this article about the "incident". (Sodium vapor lamps work by creating a plasma discharge, so my headline was accurate BTW.) Share
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NEWS- Two new EIR’s, One BIG Project for SFR

There is breaking news and old news on the Dirty Oils Expansion Project in Rodeo.  Here is how it is described by Greg Karras, Senior Scientist of CBE:
FYI—the Phillips 66 dirty oil expansion project (recirculated) EIRs are back.  I say EIRs, plural, because they still break the project up into pieces: the first link below is for the Rodeo part of the P66 San Francisco Refinery (SFR), which is the ‘back end’ of the refinery. The one for the ‘front end’ (the same jargon Phillips’ CEO uses when he tells investors about bringing 'heavy' Canadian oil to the refinery) is in Nipomo, near Santa Maria. That EIR is at the second link below. Care about this front-end part too because, among other things, that EIR (1) admits this is a tar sands project; (2) ignores the safety and emissions impacts of this in Rodeo; and (3) admits significant air pollution, water pollution, and safety impacts up and down the rail lines including here. GK
Crude oil of all types is transported by rail to the Nipomo refinery in Southern California, where it is pre-processed and send by pipeline exclusively to the Rodeo refinery to create the finished products.  Thus the "San Francisco Refinery" as P66 refers to both plants combined, is split into two parts, but one directly impacts the other.  Whatever leaves Nipomo ends up in Rodeo, and if quantity and/or quality change, the impacts are felt up here.  The following is from the corporate website:
The San Francisco Refinery is comprised of two facilities linked by a 200-mile pipeline. The Santa Maria facility is located in Arroyo Grande, Calif., while the Rodeo facility is in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Splitting a project for the sake of an EIR is is called "piece-mealing".  The Richmond Chevron refinery tried this in 2009 and a judge ruled those EIR invalid.  A new one had to be written combining the "projects" which, when combined, were shown to have much greater impacts requiring tougher mitigations. That is apparently what is happening here, and will probably result in the same decision.  The two EIRs are inextricably linked, yet neither one addresses the other.  Does Phillips 66 expect our watchdog agencies and courts to fall for this?  If they do, we need to ask why! Rodeo Refinery RDEIR (Back End) Nipano Refinery RDEIR (Front End) The comment period for the Contra Costa part of this proposal is only to be 45 days, ending December 2 at 5:00 PM according to the following document...

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Board of Supervisors to extend the EIR process

There will be a Board of Supervisors hearing tomorrow, June 3, at 9:00 am at County Administration Building, 651 Pine St., Martinez. The Phillips 66 proposed Propane Recovery Project is on the agenda, but will not be permitted immediately.  The Planning Commission has recommended the the EIR be re-written and recirculated following completion of a cumulative analysis of toxic air contaminants and revisions to the draft EIR. The board will hear arguments at the meeting tomorrow, and the Planning Commission is asking for the supervisors to CONTINUE the public hearing on the appeals filed by Communities for a Better Environment and Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, LLP (on behalf of the Rodeo Citizens Association) to October 28, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. This is a significant victory for the many who opposed this project, and will, at the least, cause the regulators to look more closely at the impacts that this project will have on our environment. and hopefully mitigate them.  Our congratulations on their good work! Please read the Contra Costa Times Article here.

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Some residents call for resignation of advisory council chairman

South Carolina United Methodist Clergy

Rev. Anthony Hodge, RMAC Chair

RMAC RMAC   A Contra Costa Times article was published yesterday that further reveals the close ties between a political appointee, Rev. Anthony Hodge, and the Phillips 66 refinery.  Hodge was appointed by CCCounty Supervisor Federal Glover to run the "RMAC".  That organisation is charged to make recommendations to the county on behalf of its residents. Public record show that a great deal of the funding for the Hodge's "New Horizons Career Developement Center" and for Hodge's church come directly, and indirectly through a trust, from the Phillips 66 refinery.  Rev. Hodge's denials and accounting of funding do not match the public records. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the RMAC has publicly supported the EIR for the expansion project at the refinery and made positive recommendations on its behalf to the county. This was done apparently without even being familiar with the document or any of the details of the expansion plans (based on responses to questions asked by residents at the RMAC meetings).  Residents feel that they are not being fairly represented by Rev. Hodge.  When challenged, he has claimed to answer to a higher authority.  Perhaps that authority is headquartered in Texas? Local residents are now asking for Hodge's resignation due to this conflict of interest.  Supervisor Glover stands by his appointment. Please read the CCTimes article here. Share
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