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Pretty Much All Unhappy News About Emissions

Martha Bridegam on
Apr 20, 2014

It has been a busy few weeks in toxics and nuisances. Southern California air quality enforcers battled lead, arsenic, chromium-6, red jalapeņos and chicken manure. The Bay Area AQMD adopted a new greenhouse gas control program. A study found air pollution is worse in communities of color. Another found further evidence that pollution from traffic is bad for your heart. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on rail yard emissions, the state water board proposed three new TMDL standards, and the state public health department proposed new chromium 6 rules for public drinking water. All over the state, activists and local governments worked to discourage fracking in local wells, and local officials from Berkeley to Sacramento grew concerned about rail movements of oil from fracking. Vice Magazine accused Chevron of founding a local news site to buffer its image, and a crowd turned out to debate the EIR for Chevron's proposed plant upgrade to treat higher-sulfur crude.
As told in links:

  • In Vernon, in the LA industrial corridor, it's hard to tell how much of the lead recently found in soil may be from the Exide Technologies plant. The plant recycles lead-acid batteries such as car batteries and has a long history of complaints and accusations over lead and arsenic emissions. Driven by local outcry, overlapping regulatory, legislative and political efforts are afoot to clean up its emissions or shut it down:
    • Exide's statements; most recently April 8, regretting denial of its request for more time to meet a new "negative pressure" standard for operations:
    • The AQMD's page on Exide's alleged violations and responses, including near-daily violation notices since repair work began March 22:
    • The AQMD's April 11 filing for an Order of Abatement:
    • State Sen. Ricardo Lara's SB 712, to suspend Exide's operations pending renewal of its operating permit, which has reportedly not been renewed since 1981:
    • An FAQ from Southern California Public Radio:; April 11 update:
    • March LA Times coverage:;
    • Three activist groups working on the matter:
      • Communities for a Better Environment:
      • East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice:
      • California Environmental Justice Alliance:
  • The South Coast AQMD pursued Hixson Metal Finishing, a chrome plating and anodizing plant in Newport Beach, over alleged emissions of carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6. See and
  • In a dispute over nuisance odor effects from chili peppers, the city of Irwindale declared the Sriracha hot-sauce plant a public nuisance: .
    • The Pasadena Star News and LA Weekly reported the South Coast AQMD received variously 61 or 73 complaints but 41 of them came from the same four households, and only four of the complaints were traced back to the sauce plant. They reported the AQMD conducted "chili-grinding bench tests of its own" and later was working with the company to improve its filters but did not issue a notice of violation. But Irwindale's consultant, equipped with a Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer, found fluctuating odors that at times "burned eyes in some locations":;
    • Yes, the Nasal Ranger is a real item:
    • The company at first offered reassurances that it had an 18-month supply and would make necessary changes before that ran out:
    • More recently owner David Tran talked about leaving Irwindale and got plenty of offers to move his plant elsewhere: ;
    • Sriracha is made with red jalapeņos from Underwood Ranches in Kern County, which has said it won't stop planting the peppers:
    • The sauce is inspired by a Thai recipe originally enjoyed with seafood: (via @sonnylebythebay)
    • It has also been celebrated in cookbooks, cocktail recipes and a festival: and a film:
    • This "Sriracha hoarder" was pictured last December in mid-forage:
  • In late March and early April, the owner of the former Escondido Country Club fertilized part of the property with chicken manure, creating an alleged "Level 5 stench". Cited by the county and facing possible court action and fines, the owner brought in a cleaning service to remove it -- while also saying it had made a legal use of a legal product. Neighbors reportedly said the manure was dumped on the part of the property nearest the densest group of homes, and they told reporters the grass there was dead anyway. The owner, Stuck in the Rough, LLC, has been in a dispute with the same neighbors for two years over its plan to build houses on the property. ; ;
  • The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) adopted a "10-Point Climate Action Work Program" for greenhouse gas reduction: . The Marin I-J quoted several Marin County climate and environmental activists as approving:
  • A University of Minnesota study found nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant from cars and other engines, is pervasively worse in neighborhoods where people of color live. The study found differences based on income as well as race, but the racial differences in pollution were more dramatic. Emily Badger wrote it up for the Washington Post at .
  • We already knew pollution from traffic is bad for the heart, but the ARB just hosted a talk on a new aspect of the badness: damage to "the expression of genes in pathways that are important to adverse cardiovascular outcomes."
  • Courthouse News took the trouble to cover 9th Circuit oral arguments in the NRDC litigation over diesel emissions from rail yards:
  • The State Water Resources Control Board has opened comment periods for proposed changes to "Total Maximum Daily Load" (TMDL) standards for pollutants in three coastal areas. All of these have been locally approved but now are in new comment periods before consideration by the state board:
    • Separate metals and toxics changes for Ballona Creek, and a toxics change for Marina Del Rey, have comments due May 13 at noon per State Department of Water Resources notification emails. See items marked R13 and R14 at:
    • A new TMDL for toxicity and pesticides in the Santa Maria River Watershed was approved by the Central Coast Water Board January 30. Comments are due to the state board by noon May 21. The proposed new standard is at
  • The California Dept. of Public Health has proposed a rule saying all the chromium 6 you should drink is about 10 parts per billion. Some others say it should be less.
    • The LA Times' Boxall says it's the first drinking water standard for that chemical in the U.S.:
    • The proposed reg is at
    • Yes, that's the "Erin Brockovich" pollutant. No, Ms. Brockovich is not pleased:
    • Neither is the NRDC:
  • At first, concern about trains carrying oil from the North Dakota fracking fields came across as climate-focused activism -- a campaign serving big-picture environmental goals as much as any one locality. This spring, however, it began to resonate more as a local safety concern -- one that politicians with pragmatic public images could get behind.
    • This from the Bee, first posted in late March, describes cooperation among cities to protect local safety on the route taken by oil trains from the North Dakota fracking operations to refineries in Benicia, Martinez and other coastal cities:
    • Environmentalists represented by Earthjustice have sued Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to block shipments of crude oil from North Dakota by rail through the city of Richmond. Earthjustice's statement is at The CBS affiliate KPIX had more at
    • By early April Sacramento officials were addressing the subject in earnest:.
    • Citing last year's Lac-Megantic disaster in Quebec, Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, announced April 17 that he would introduce legislation to train and inform local first responders about petroleum shipments through their areas, and to set up contingency plans and grant programs for responses: ;
    • The Valero and Tesoro companies, whose large refineries have been mentioned in the oil trains debate, have said little on their Web sites on the subject, but Tesoro did announce in February that it was updating its rail car fleet with new safety designs:
  • The movement against fracking in California oilfields likewise has changed tone this spring, shifting from high-minded big-picture rhetoric to local anxiety about water use, water safety, earthquake risks, and emissions:
    • The Chico Enterprise-Record reports Butte County hasn't added an oil or gas well in "more than two decades, and nobody has ever sought permission to conduct a 'fracking' operation," and the county's water director told the Supervisors that local geology wasn't best suited for it anyway. So the Supes' 4-1 vote to have an anti-fracking ordinance drafted for Butte County may have been a bit on the symbolic side:
    • On the other hand, Los Angeles' City Council has actual wells at stake as it moves toward a fracking ban within the city limits (see
    • There are equally real stakes for the Mitchell-Leno fracking bill, SB 1132, to block all "well stimulation treatments" until a study could be completed on public safety requirements to be attached to future such treatments. The Culver City Observer, in Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell's district, quoted Mitchell saying, "The largest urban oil field in the country is in a predominantly minority, residential neighborhood of my district." The bill, which has won its first committee approval, is at
    • Culver City's Council was edging toward adoption of a proposed fracking ban in March but has taken no definite action as yet. Fracking was an issue in the April 8 Council election there, in which sitting councilmembers Jeff Cooper and Jim Clark were reelected: ; ;
    • Long Beach has resisted calls to limit its lucrative oil facilities more strictly while the town of Carson has issued a temporary ban on oil and gas drilling that it might extend. (See via
    • In Santa Barbara, an informal hearing on fracking, hosted by Assemblymembers Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, filled the Supervisors' hearing room with people interested to hear political and scientific expert speakers on tracking and regulating the practice in California:
    • KQED has a special report online about fracking as a use of water on the Monterey Shale deposit near Wasco outside Bakersfield, where water rights are fiercely disputed.
  • With oil producers and processors on the whole less than popular, the Chevron refinery in Richmond has founded an online community paper, the Richmond Standard, that announces on its front page: "We aim to provide Richmond residents with important information about what's going on in the community, and to provide a voice for Chevron Richmond on civic issues."
    • The eternally brash Vice Magazine has loudly criticized the paper as a public relations ploy: .
    • The lefty East Bay Express reported an activist who had bought a ticket to a Chevron event in Oakland on "energy and sustainability" was removed before he could distribute a handout mocking the Standard:
    • So is the Standard slanted? It does seem a little heavy on Chevron's charitable and environmental initiatives. See
    • As for more contested matters, here's the Standard's writeup of a recent community meeting on an EIR for a refitting at Chevron's plant that "would allow crude with higher sulfur content to be used":
    • Here's the San Jose Mercury News on the same meeting:
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