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State and local district air quality officials to define best practices for enhanced monitoring of refinery accidents
SACRAMENTO - Executives of the state's major local air districts where refineries are located are working with the California Air Resources Board on a collaborative approach to assess the status of air pollution monitoring around California's major oil refineries.
The first step in the evaluation is to assess the best practices and procedures used by local air districts and emergency response officials throughout the State. The next step will be developing joint recommendations and guidance for key areas such as air monitoring instrumentation, modeling of air releases and related air quality forecasting, emergency response communications, and training.
"Most of California's major oil refineries are adjacent to densely populated urban areas," said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. "Bringing together agencies that can help gather, interpret and communicate air quality information during a catastrophic event is essential to improving our ability to respond."
The ongoing collaborative effort among South Coast, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and San Luis Obispo air districts, and the ARB, could include future enhanced public access to related air quality and emissions data throughout the state. The overall effort is being coordinated by the Governor's Office and an interagency task force to improve safety at California's refineries. Members of the task force are also coordinating their efforts with city and country offices as well as representatives of the refineries as part of the evaluation process.
The effort was prompted by the fire at the Chevron USA refinery in Richmond last August. During such fires, shelter-in-place decisions are designed to be health-protective when air quality data cannot be obtained. Officials hope to identify methods to provide better air quality information to County Public Health Directors whose offices are responsible for issuing shelter-in-place orders.
Executives from the South Coast, Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley air districts, along with ARB's Office of Emergency Response, presented an update on responding to refinery incidents and the development of a state framework for refinery monitoring at the April 25, 2013 Board meeting. The related presentations are available at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/board/books/2013/042513/13-5-6pres.pdf
"The Bay Area Air district is working with other air districts throughout the state sharing our lessons learned and recommendations developed as part of our after-action report" said Jack Broadbent, Executive Officer of the Bay Area Air District. "We are confident that working with other agencies we will be able to develop improved methods for sharing real-time information with first responders and the public."
A document describing the assessment and key recommendations - essentially the roadmap for developing the improved approach to air quality monitoring at refineries - is currently in the final stages of completion. It is being jointly prepared by ARB in collaboration with the local air districts and is expected to be made available to the public in the next month.
"The South Coast Air Quality Management District imposes strict rules and permitting requirements on the eight refineries in our region," said Barry Wallerstein, SCAQMD's Executive Officer. "We're pleased to contribute our expertise in collaboration with the State and other local districts to define best practices during refinery fires and accidents."
"San Joaquin Valley refineries are very small and located in less densely populated areas. However, through this process we want to examine the adequacy of our existing measures that are extensive and look for opportunities to enhance our resources to better monitor emissions and notify the public," said Seyed Sadredin, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District's Executive Director and Air Pollution Control Officer.
"We are pleased to work collaboratively with the Governor's Office, the Air Resources Board and other emergency response agencies to enhance our capabilities to respond effectively and keep the public accurately informed in the event of an air quality emergency," said Larry Allen, Executive Director with the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District. "While SLO County is rural in nature, and less populated than the metropolitan regions of the state, emergency preparedness and public access to information are top priorities for our local community."
ARB also announced creation of a new publicly accessible website for refinery air monitoring information. The new website will provide in one location information on air emissions and air quality from the local air district's current monitoring network for all the state's major refineries, including 24/7 air quality data from a number of newly established air monitors in the vicinity of the Richmond refinery
Periodic updates on the statewide emergency air monitoring capabilities assessment will be posted on the new web page at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/carefinery/crseam/crseam.htm
ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.