Richmond Refinery Fire Prompts Changes In Air Monitoring Rules; Higher Fines Sought

RICHMOND (KCBS) – Accidental releases from industrial facilities would require more extensive monitoring of emissions in the surrounding community under new rules adopted by air quality officials in response to the Chevron refinery fire this summer.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District approved a seven-point plan Wednesday that calls for tracking refinery emissions over time through greater monitoring in neighborhoods adjacent refineries. The plan requires companies to provide mitigation for any increase in emissions, said Brian Bateman, a health and science officer at the air district.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

“We’re hoping that we can put in place more state-of-the-art monitoring so that we can have a better idea of what the air quality impacts are of accidental releases as they’re happening, and afterwards,” Bateman said.

Dozens of residents reported respiratory problems at one Kaiser emergency room after the Aug. 6 fire at Chevron. Bateman said the incident shed light on how the district could improve its emergency response.

Regulators also hopes to impose greater penalties on facilities that accidentally release pollutants.

“State law limits the amount of the penalties that we can assess, and we feel that during these large-scale releases, when there are very significant effects on the public, that the penalty should be much higher,” Bateman said, as an incentive for companies to prevent them.

He said the air district has been seeking a sponsor for legislation to increase the fines, and the new work plan will be fully implemented in early 2013.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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