Air Quality Board’s Historic Action Disrupted, Delayed

Jun 24, 2017

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen Expresses Concern about BAAQMD’s Process


“I’d much prefer today to be voting for what I voted for on May 31st, which were hard caps that we had before us, where we had a robust discussion about those caps. I’m new to this board, but this process has been incredibly troubling. I’ve never seen anything like it in the many years I’ve worked in government…I think it’s extraordinary that the [California] Attorney General wrote a letter expressing his concern about this process.”  

BAAQMD Board Member & San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen



As we reported in our update to our story HERE, on May 31st, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) Board voted 16 – 3 to instruct its staff to deliver new rule wording that would cap Bay Area oil refinery greenhouse gas emissions, planning to then make the actual historic approval of the revised capping rule on June 21st.  Yet, in the days after that preliminary vote, suddenly the staff pulled what many in the community supporting real caps believe was an intentionally destructive “bait-and-switch”.

Instead of incorporating the agreed greenhouse gas emission cap levels previously accepted on May 31st, suddenly the BAAQMD staff developed a rationale that moving the caps 24+% higher just days before the final vote would “be more legally defensible” in the face of the inevitable industry lawsuits that follow virtually any rule making affecting their operations.   Many members of the community groups that have been fighting for these caps for years believe that the action by Jack Broadbent as staff CEO was actually a transparent, intentional disruption of the process in order to favor oil interests and make the resulting emissions cap rule virtually meaningless;  permitting a 24% increase over current greenhouse emissions would be the equivalent of permitting the addition of a sixth refinery to the five that already exist in the Bay Area!

Flaring at the Chevron refinery in Richmond

The community alliance has seen Jack Broadbent and his staff oppose its absolute cap proposal since it was first introduced years ago. Last year, Mr. Broadbent was unsuccessful in convincing the Board to reject the cap proposal.  Instead, it instructed him to move forward to create an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as a necessary step toward making a final decision on the rule. Finally, in April of this year,  the political tide swung decisively against Broadbent’s position when the California Air Resources Board announced their support for our community emissions cap proposal, and he finally claimed to have revised the staff position to support caps.  But many activists believe his actions this month show his intent remains, and has always been, to reject caps, delay them, subvert them and/or make them meaningless if at all possible.

At the packed meeting that overflowed the overflow rooms on June 21st, BAAQMD staff got flack from all sides about their flawed, last-minute changes to the rule draft.  Community alliance members were furious, and let the Board and its staff know such a sudden, damaging emission cap raise will not be acceptable.  Oil refinery workers who are against any caps also complained about the BAAQMD’s flawed, unstable process and last minute changes.  Board members were upset about the disruptive, drawn out process and last minute changes by staff as well.  New Board member, Supervisor Hillary Ronen of San Francisco said that she arrived for the crucial vote not being aware of important changes made by staff to the rule in the previous 24 hours, and others complained they now simply didn’t have the information they need to take an informed action in light of the changes.

In a somewhat chaotic discussion, the Board voted 13 – 6 to postpone the final decision to an uncertain future date – probably no sooner than September.  You can see the sausage being made (rather, not made) by playing excerpts of the full multi-hour video of public and board discussion below.  You can find a press write-up of the story with additional details HERE.