Delaware City Refinery's Rail-to-Ship project, public comment period extended to May 22, 2013
May 8, 2013: the public hearing for the Delaware City Refinery's Marine Vapor Recovery project, also known as the rail-to-ship oil transfer project, would allow the PBF Delaware City Refinery to transfer up to 25,463,000 barrels of gasoline products and 16,425,000 barrels of crude oil per year from trains to ships for transport to the Paulsboro refinery owned by the same company.
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club asks that DNREC reject Permit APC-95/0471 on grounds that the permit is inadequate to protect public health and the environment. At the request of the Deputy Attorney General, the public comment period has been extended by 2 weeks to May 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm. Click here to Email your comments.
Air Pollution and Public Health
This new air permit would authorize a significant increase in hazardous air pollutants from the Delaware City Refinery, including pollutants that are known human carcinogens and have been determined by the Environmental Protection Agency to be hazardous to human health.
Sulfur Dioxide emissions from crude oil loading operations would be allowed in the amount of 21.3 tons per year. The Environmental Protection Agency links sulfur dioxide exposure to an “array of adverse respiratory effects including bronchoconstriction and increased asthma symptoms” as well as “increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in at-risk populations including children, the elderly, and asthmatics.”
Volatile Organic Compound emissions would be authorized at 75.5 tons in a 12-month period, including emissions from the barge loading operations and crude oil tank farm. The Environmental Protection Agency links exposure to volatile organic compounds with “eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.”
Carbon Monoxide emissions would be authorized at 55.7 tons per year. The Environmental Protection Agency links exposure to carbon monoxide with “fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease…impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea…flu-like symptoms…and reduced brain function.”
The intentions of this project are to enable PBF, the owners of the Delaware City Refinery, to offload rail shipments of crude oil to barge for transport up the Delaware River to another refinery owned by this same company. With the substantial impacts that this permit would have on pollution, by authorizing this permit, the State of Delaware would be placing the desires of PBF’s New Jersey refinery above Delawareans and their health.
The draft permit describes how emissions from marine tank vessel loading will be combusted through a marine vapor recovery system. Section 2.2 describes how the company must operate vapor recovery systems with no visible emissions except for periods not to exceed a total of 5 minutes during any consecutive hour period.
Title 7 DNREC Regulations 1114 defines visible emissions according to their opacity. Visible emissions are therefore those emissions that can be seen with the eye. However, many of the hazardous contaminants that are anticipated in this permit are not visible to the human eye, including volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide.
These DNREC Regulations also exempt the start-up and shut-down of equipment, and apply only to continuous operations. It is during this period of start-up and shut-down that visible emissions are often the greatest. Given the numerous times per day that equipment could be starting up or shutting down, which are exempt from air quality regulations, suggests that DNREC does not provide adequate protections for visible emissions.
DNREC’s guidelines for the marine vapor recovery system provided in the permit and in DNREC Regulations fail to account for non-visible emissions, exempt the system from start-up and shut-down pollution, and allow bursts of exempted emissions up to five minutes in length. These provisions are inadequate to protect public health.
Monitoring of Air Pollution
The permit does not include air monitoring requirements, and instead provides vague and ambiguous language about detectable pollution.
§2.2 of the permit specifies that “odors from this source shall not be detectable beyond the plant property line in sufficient quantities such as to cause a condition of air pollution.”
§6.1 requires the applicant to report any emissions which exceed the permit or which create a “condition of air pollution” to DNREC. While the permit conditions are defined in this permit, the “condition of air pollution” is not defined, is vague, and is ambiguous.
Given our experience with the process of reporting of pollution incidents in the vicinity of the Delaware City Refinery, which for the public are limited to calling environmental enforcement agents at (800) 662-8802, the language for detectable air pollution is inadequate. The permit places imprecise and undefined responsibilities on the applicant, and inappropriate obligations on the polluted public to enforce the permit’s datable air pollution section. Any complaints that are received would be after-the-fact, and minimum numbers of calls are often required at the call-center to initiate an investigation.
This inadequate system for detectable pollution would be better-remedied with continuously-operating air quality monitors located between the docks and the locations of commercial and residential communities. We therefore ask for an air quality monitoring system to be installed at this site. This system should monitor the air at several locations distributed around the refinery and it should be designed, operated, and maintained by independent and qualified environmental firm(s), the selection of which involves public stakeholders and a process that ensures community needs will be met. The systems' measurements should be automatically reported to and displayed at a publicly available Web set at least every 2 hours, continuously.
§4.8 of the draft permit requires that the applicant test crude oil shipments for hydrogen sulfide, fuel usage of the equipment, hourly loading rates at the piers, and stack tests, and provide written reports to DNREC. There are no tests required for fugitive emissions from the equipment, tanks, vessels, pipes, or trains. Testing of fugitive emissions should be a requirement in the permit.
§18.104.22.168 would allow the applicant to petition the Department for less frequent testing than on an annual basis. Given the diverse characteristics of crude-by-rail, which range from sweeter crudes derived from hydro-fracking in the Baaken formation of South Dakota, to synthetic crude tar sands from Canada, and the diversity of ships and trains that would be visiting the Refinery for project, more frequent testing should be a requirement in the permit than that which is provided.
Coastal Zone Act
This permit would authorize a new bulk-transfer project in Delaware’s Coastal Zone, yet Coastal Zone Review has not been required for the project. This project should be required to apply for a coastal zone permit. The application does not to appear to claim the need for offsets for this project, even though air pollution will increase. We question why offsets were excluded from this permit application, even though the project will be a new source of emissions in the Coastal Zone. Without a Coastal Zone review, this permit should not be authorized.
The Coastal Zone review should follow the prescriptions described in DNREC’s 1999 report entitled “Environmental Goals and Indicators for Delaware’s Coastal Zone.” These include the use of environmental indicators:
Air Quality Indicators: ambient air quality, affected populations, accidental releases, and atmospheric deposition.
Water Quality Indicators: benthic community, contaminants/toxicity, ambient water quality, watershed pollutant load, affected populations, accidental releases, and non-point source nutrient mass balance.
Habitat/Land Cover Indicators: habitat Change and wetland inventory.
Living Resources Indicators: keystone species, biodiversity, and benthic community.
Given the many shortcomings of this permit application, we ask DNREC to reject this permit.