Public hearing: Delaware City Refinery permit application for an ether cooling tower, Dec 19, 2012
DCRC Unit 43 Ether Cooling Tower Restart Application
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On October 20, 2012 we filed a public hearing request for the Delaware City Refinery’s permit application for the restart of its ether cooling tower. This closed loop cooling tower has been out of service since early 2002, and the applicant suggests that it would reduce the annual Delaware River surface water intake from 452 million gallons per day of 303 million gallons per day based on a 12-month rolling average, by December 31, 2013. The permit application estimates that air pollutants will increase:
· Volatile Organic Compounds will increase by 5.5 tons per year
· Particulate Matter (PM10) will increase by 1.7 tons per year
· Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) will increase by 1.7 tons per year
The DNREC Secretary ordered a public hearing, which took place on December 19, 2012 at the Delaware City Library. There were quite a few folks who came and spoke about the impacts of the cooling tower on reducing fish impingement, and the need for the refinery to get a new Clean Water Act permit (which expired in 2002). The refinery kills a lot of fish and super-heats the water in the river. It is an ecological disaster.
There were two people who spoke in support of the project as a step forward to improving the fish kill situation and reducing the refinery's water withdraws from the Delaware River. One of these people was from the trade-workers union and the other was a Delaware City resident. Both of these people claimed that PBF was a responsible owner and a good corporate citizen.
We request that the Refinery provide the following information to the public regarding the permit application.
1. Factual evidence to support the assumptions and estimates being used to estimate air pollution emissions from the cooling tower from volatile organic compounds and particulates, including a standard deviation of particulates suspended in Delaware River and cooling water.
2. A detailed description of how the cooling tower will operate, including its design and safety measures that will insure that polluted water, wastewater, or other effluent is not diverted to the cooling tower. The original permit application fails to provide any such information on how the cooling tower is designed or will function. Page 3 of the application describes that “the cooling tower will operate as permitted in the past.” However, a description of this is not provided in the application document.
We are still waiting on this information, which was not provided during the public hearing. At the hearing, we requested that DNREC does not approve this permit application until:
1. A health-based air quality monitoring program for volatile organic compounds, air toxics and particulates is implemented in residential communities surrounding the refinery.
The refinery is located in an area of severe nonattainment for ozone and PM2.5 emissions. The introductions of new emissions that are known to impact public health and to compromise lung function are of concern, particularly for of new sources for VOC and PM2.5 emissions, especially in proximity to the Delaware City community that has already documented alarmingly high levels of VOCs and PM2.5 in residential neighborhoods in March 2012.
The Refinery presents one of the major environmental justice risks in the State of Delaware. Incremental increases in toxic air pollutants, including known carcinogens and cancer-causing toxics will continue to negatively impact the health of Delawareans.
The area surrounding the refinery has already been identified as a census tract of high cancer risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Social Services, the area of surrounding the refinery is a high cancer census tract.
Age-Adjusted Cancer Rates per 100,000 people:
United States = 465.1
State of Delaware = 517.0
Delaware City’s Census Tract = 680.5
The negative health impacts of the incremental increases in volatile organic compounds in areas already disproportionately harmed cancer-causing air pollutants must be considered before any new releases are allowed by the State.
The refinery is a known polluter and we have asked DNREC to assign the refinery “chronic violator status.” Since January 2011 under the new owners, the refinery has violated its permits 40 times, has had 9 enforcement actions, and has emitted toxic releases 44 times.
2. The refinery receives a thorough indicators-based Coastal Zone review for this project, including offsets.
The ether cooling tower application presents a new source of emissions and the cooling tower has been out of use for a time period that well-exceeds the 2 years of allowable discontinuance in the Coastal Zone Act (§ 7003). The use of indicators, as described in the 1999 DNREC report entitled “Environmental Goals and Indicators for Delaware’s Coastal Zone.” It is only through an objective and systematic evaluation of the project can its impacts on the coastal zone be quantified and properly evaluated.
This is especially important because the applicant is claiming offsets for this project based on previous emission reductions. In their assessment of contemporaneous projects that have reduced PM2.5 emissions, the applicant refers the reader to “Attachment E for a letter to DNREC describing contemporaneous direct PM2.5 (as H2SO4) emissions reductions as a result of the CCU Fuel Conversion Project” (p. 9). This letter describes emissions reductions from fuel switching for a project that was completed in 2011. For VOC emissions, the applicant would like to utilize offsets from the previous installation of wastewater system controls equaling 34.7 tons per year (p. 11). We challenge the use of emissions reductions from past projects that are unrelated to this application as eligible for offsets in this project. Furthermore, because of the numerous assumptions that are made for the estimations of VOCs, PM10 and PM2.5, the offsets claimed in this permit application may not even be adequate to meet the offset requirements.
3. The refinery has an updated NPDES permit.
On August 31, 2002, the Clean Water Act NPDES permit for the Delaware City Refinery expired, and the amount of aquatic life destroyed by the refinery’s once-through cooling system is well documented in numerous reports.
The permit application fails to address the impact of the proposed closed loop cooling structure on aquatic life. Is the water intake for this structure designed to reduce the amount of impinged and entrained fish? What does the water intake structure
look like? Appendix C Emissions Calculations describes that river water will be used for the cooling tower, but there are no details provided about how the water would be collected, and mitigation measures to reduce fish impacts, if any. A change in the Delaware City Refinery’s cooling system, including the restart of the Ether Plant Cooling Tower, should initiate a new Clean Water Act NPDES Permit.
The Delaware City Refinery is also in the process of requesting permits for other projects, most recently the Olefins Unit Restart project. How will the cooling needs of these new projects impact the water intake structure at the refinery? Will the Olefins Unit Restart, and other planned projects for expansion at the refinery (including the supposed $1 billion expansion that was deferred last August), increase the cooling water intake of the refinery once again? We ask that a holistic approach be taken to refinery operations that are presented in a transparent and thorough manner to the public.
Recent evidence of the serious and detrimental condition of aquatic life in the Delaware River requires a through NPDES permit review. Since the NPDES Permit expired in 2002 , Atlantic sturgeon has been listed as “endangered” on the federal Endangered Species List. A “threatened” listing for river herrings is currently under consideration and is well-justified. We ask DNREC to consider how each project will impact at-risk species in the permitting process.
The refinery has posed environmental justice, public health and ecological risks to the coastal zone, the Delaware River, and to surrounding communities for decades. The risks are very serious, and should be weighted carefully.