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At 1.2 Million Pounds, Chevron is Region's Third Largest Polluter

Martinez refinery is top polluter

  Tesoro had 1.8 million pounds of toxic releases in 2006 to lead Bay Area for fourth year in a row

By Mike Taugher


Article Launched: 02/22/2008 03:12:34 AM PST


Tesoro's Golden Eagle refinery near Martinez was again the Bay Area's top polluter in 2006, according to data on toxic releases made available Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The refinery, which is the second-largest in the region, reported releases of 1.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals to air, water or land. That figure was down from 2.5 million pounds in 2005.

Overall, the EPA said toxic releases in 2006 from 1,357 facilities in California were down 2.8 percent to 45.2 million pounds from the previous year.

Tesoro's refinery has historically lagged behind the other refineries in installing upgrades. It was the region's biggest polluter every year since at least 2003, according to an EPA toxics database.

Mike Marcy, a Tesoro spokesman, said most of the toxic material reported by the refinery was ammonia that air quality regulators require to control smog.

A $575 million upgrade that is scheduled to be done this year will slash toxic pollution from the Tesoro refinery to about 500,000 pounds a year, according to Marcy.

"This is replacing 1950s technology that was here when Tesoro bought the refinery in 2002," he said.

The second-largest polluter in the Bay Area was Valero's refinery in Benicia, which released 1.7 million pounds of toxic chemicals last year. That refinery, with a 144,000 barrel-per-day capacity, is the fourth-largest of the Bay Area's five refineries.

Valero spokesman Chris Howe said most of the increase in reported emissions in 2006 -- double the figure reported the previous year -- was due to revisions that were made after tests of ammonia releases from some stacks showed higher emissions. He also said the refinery reported higher releases of nitrates to the water. The refinery also disposed of lead and other metals as part of routine maintenance done in 2006, which inflated the number.

Asked why the region's fourth-largest refinery would have the second-highest emissions, Howe said it was difficult to say but suggested the possibility that the other refineries might have more recent upgrades.

The Benicia refinery, at nearly 30 years old, is the newest of the five. The older refineries have had to perform upgrades, and when those upgrades are done newer pollution control equipment is installed. He said the Benicia plant "is just now coming up to be able to do" those upgrades.

Chevron's Richmond refinery, meanwhile, is by far the largest in the Bay Area with a capacity of nearly 243,000 barrels a day. It is also the oldest. It reported 1.2 million pounds of toxic releases in 2006, making it the third-largest polluter in the region.

"We're one of the most energy-efficient refineries in the U.S.," said Chevron spokeswoman Camille Priselac.

The Toxics Release Inventory is a database of emissions from large industrial sources. The EPA has collected the data since 1987 as part of a law that was passed after a Union Carbide chemical plant in 1984 leaked poisonous gas and killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India.

Mike Taugher covers natural resources. Reach him at 925-943-8257 or mtaugher@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Top 10 Polluters

Bay Area top 10 toxic polluters in 2006:

Tesoro refinery, Martinez, 1.8 million pounds

Valero refinery, Benicia, 1.7 million pounds

Chevron refinery, Richmond, 1.2 million pounds

Shell refinery, Martinez, 772,000 pounds

ConocoPhillips refinery, Rodeo, 595,000 pounds

Clean Harbors, San Jose, 371,000 pounds

New United Motor Manufacturing, Fremont, 370,000 pounds

United State Pipe & Foundry, Union City, 337,000 pounds

Criterion Catalysts & Technologies, Pittsburg, 240,000 pounds

Tyco Electronics, Menlo Park, 217,000 pounds


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