Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tank Farms: Grandpa must die

At the heart of the tank farm issue is the reality that a new tank, like the one operated by Chevron that was installed in 2007, emits half the deadly pollution than an older storage tank does, according to permit writer George Yun. The idea that some tanks are "grandfathered" in with allowable excess emissions rates makes no sense when regulating something as deadly as benzene emissions. Reasonable people would assume that there would be time limits explicitly stated for how long they may continue to operate with outdated dangerous  technology.  “Grandfathering” by its nature should guarantee that an end is imminent, it should not be a state of perpetual life support for old and deadly operations.

Thanks to the research of Cascadia Times' Paul Koberstein, we know the Northwest Industrial Sanctuary is home to 536 petroleum storage tanks with a 300+ million gallon capacity, and combined are responsible for spewing 1,392 tons of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into our air shed. The majority of the tanks are old, between 40 and 100-yrs old. Due to the high public health threat of emissions associated with petro chemicals, including benzene a toxicant linked to leukemia, which has been identified at levels above health benchmarks across the entire Portland metro air shed, all storage tanks with the potential to emit this know carcinogen should be held to the strictest emissions standards, regardless of age of facility.  While I appreciate that this move would be a financial burden to the companies operating these tanks, I also believe it is unconscionable that they are allowed to co-opt public health by spewing 100s of tons of deadly emissions into our air shed.  

The public is currently being invited to comment on the proposed renewal of Air Quality Permits for Chevron, Kinder Morgan, and Shell (Equilon) petroleum storage facilities in NW Portland.  If you have not submitted comments, or did not provide testimony at the public hearing last week, please consider doing so before the deadline:  5pm, Tuesday, May 25th to Catherine Blaine.    Click here for the DEQ notice.

Some recommended "asks" from comments already submitted:

1.  Continual ambient air monitoring at the tanks.
2.  On-site, continuous, monitoring of wind speed and direction at each facility conducted by independent contractors.
3.  Recording/reporting of all "unburned fuel" and "gasoline" odors to all facilities, and attribution applied to tank farms in aggregate, without the requirement of citizens to name an individual source.
4.  Time frame to phase out all older tanks and/or require all tanks to adhere to the stricter emission standards achievable by newer tanks.
5.  Clarification of why some companies, including Kinder Morgan, are classified as something other than a storage facility, despite the near identical operations to the other 6 companies operating in the tank farm who are.  Citizens know that this allows them to skirt federal reporting requirements designed to safeguard public health such as the federal Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) database. TRI was established under the federal Emergency Planning Citizen Right-to-know Act, that helps protect communities in case of a disaster, by informing them of the nature and volume of volatile toxic chemicals that are stored, processed, and otherwise might create a public health threat in the event of a catastrophic emergency.  The tank farms in the NW Industrial Sanctuary are situated on a known earthquake fault line and in a flood zone. 

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