Revision to the
Synthetic Minor Operating Permit
for Pacific Steel Casting

   

ALSO SEE...

Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at GGU School of Law
Comments
to Proposed PSC Operating Permit (SMOP) September 19, 2016
• CARB complaint regarding BAAQMD Permitting Practices
Cal EPA (CARB) Enforcement Division
April 19, 2016
West Berkeley Zoning and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Addendum to Complaint filed over BAAQMD permit practices, DSS-2016-503 / 4942 May 11, 2016
• Pacific Steel Casting Street plan - 2006 Footprint
Comments to Revisions of Pacific Steel Casting - SMOP
G.G. University - School of Law - Environmental Law and Justice Clinic
• BAAQMD "Air Monitor" Press Conference near Pacific Steel Casting , Berkeley, January 8, 2008
PRA REQUEST (2016-04-0124) and SMOP Permit Record Summary

RE: Comments to BAAQMD regarding the Revision to the Synthetic Minor Operating Permit for Pacific Steel Casting Filed as a second addendum to the BAAQMD Permitting Practices Complaint No. DSS-2016-503 / 4942 August 15, 2016

Comments to BAAQMD regarding the Revision to the Synthetic Minor Operating Permit for Pacific Steel Casting

Thank you for this unique opportunity to give comment to the proposed Synthetic Minor Operating Permit (SMOP) for Pacific Steel Casting (PSC), 1333 second Street in Berkeley, California. My comments are also being forwarded to both the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the US EPA Region 9 Air Division since I have already filed separate complaints with each of these agencies concerning this permit, including yours. It is those complaints that now drive the current 2016 permit update and consolidation of PSC’s SMOP.

Prior to 1990, PSC had a single permit. As recorded in the permit summary, this changed in the early 1990s. The reason for the change in the permit was not stated. However, it is obvious that it was a substantial, cost-saving measure for PSC which petitioned to remove a large portion of its foundry operations from the company's other two facilities, all three of which are located on Second Street. For PSC, this provided a way to slow or avoid the normal regulatory demands for upgrades to Pacific Steel’s growing operations in Berkeley.

NOTE:  The comments to this proposed permit include an attached copy of my complaint, referenced above, along with an addendum which is part of my legal, public statement to this permit review. These can be found at the end of my comments and will provide additional context and reference to my comments.

Permit Compliance:  Continuous Emissions Monitoring

For more than a decade, our community has made numerous requests to BAAQMD for Continuous Emissions Monitoring of the stacks and at the fence line of Pacific Steel Casting because of the major impact that the foundry's emissions, both stack and fugitive, continue to have on west Berkeley's air quality. Over the last decade, it has become quite evident to our community that BAAQMD's monitoring has been intentionally inadequate for a facility of this type and size. The spike in PSC's emissions combined with an ever-shrinking buffer zone between PSC and the surrounding residential/commercial community now demand regulatory inclusion of Continuous Emissions Monitoring in the proposed permit.

Please consider the following:

1. Technology

Continuous Emissions Monitoring is the only way to accurately assess PSC's emissions. This evidence-based approach will clarify the company’s actual emissions and possible long-term health risks. This type of monitoring protocol would bring Pacific Steel Casting and the District forward into the 21st century. Continuous Emissions Monitoring would reduce the number of compliance questions, from both sides of the fence, since it would be a publicly verifiable resource via the Internet much like is employed by BAAQMD for the refineries in Richmond and further north.

It would also reduce the enforcement inspectors’ field time each year and that would come as a savings to BAAQMD. Some of that enforcement activity and cost would be borne by PSC for the Continuous Emissions Monitoring system, as it should be. This cost-effective move for the District would provide verification of PSC's emissions. Most importantly, it would bring transparency to the permit's compliance as well as the District's other regulatory processes.

2. BAAQMD Monitoring

Pacific Steel Casting's monitoring history of emissions contained within the proposed permit summary provides very little information of what has actually transpired. It's unclear how much additional emissions monitoring has been done, if any, beyond the normal, annual test requirements for Pacific Steel Casting's permits. Note:  There was a BAAQMD mobile monitor placed about four blocks from PSC in 2008. At that time, the District publicly stated that this ambient air monitor was part of their regional program and was not at all connected to PSC or its permit compliance. Since then, the District has reversed that stance, using the project as a justification for no additional monitoring. This is only one example of BAAQMD's dishonesty in managing PSC's permit that the downwind community has had to endure. Such misrepresentations have made for good PR at the District while deflecting public criticism of its permitting decisions. See: BAAQMD 2008 Press Conference – YouTube 3:27
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HCnaJavfvE

3. Growth of Emissions

In the proposed summary of PSC's 2008-2013 activities, there is no mention of the huge rise in the foundry's emissions during that timeframe (or after). The rise in emissions would have become apparent if more attention had been paid to the total impact of PSC's emissions instead of the historic, piecemeal approach to Pacific Steel Casting’s SMOP(s) and their enforcement. The District's regulatory oversight has been negligently out of touch with the foundry's ramped-up emissions during the last decade. BAAQMD continues to ignore the need for Continuous Emissions Monitoring which would enhance its ability to insure compliance to both nuisance and health protections.

4. Health Risk Assessment

The eight-year-old Health Risk Assessment is one of the most critically weak links in the proposed permit. It is an outdated assessment. Unfortunately, another, more current HRA will not necessarily do a better a job of assessing the health risks from Pacific Steel Casting's emissions. The outdated assessment is a seriously-flawed document that grossly underestimates the actual health risks. This can be seen in several areas, including the use of old data and inappropriate modeling parameters that were used to define the health risks. All of BAAQMD's machinations made the Health Risk Assessment unreliable and inaccurate from its inception. In fact, the legality of the HRA is highly questionable.

In 2008, this Health Risk Assessment was approved by the District over strong objections from of a majority of the community that had been involved in its development. We simply called out BAAQMD's document for what it was:  dishonest. It shouldn’t be necessary to wait another eighteen years, like the community did to get PSC's first HRA, to identify the actual health risks to affected residents and businesses as provided for by law.

Continuous Emissions Monitoring can’t solve all the proposed permit's Health Risk Assessment deficiencies. However, a Continuous Emissions Monitoring network at PSC could provide continual, real-time data. It could begin to give the public a real understanding of its exposure levels from PSC's emissions instead of this regulatory charade. This is a commonsense and necessary requirement for a large foundry in what has become a densely-populated area of west Berkeley.

5. Meteorology:  Wind Rose

The issue of site meteorology has always been a major point of contention for PSC's permitting. BAAQMD has insisted on using a Richmond-based monitor despite its different wind rose from PSC's wind rose in Berkeley. In the past, Richmond may have been the closest District monitor to Berkeley. However, Berkeley has had that wind rose monitoring capacity for many years and at more than one site. Dispersion modeling of emissions and projections of health risks depend on the most accurate available data. Prevailing winds flow eastward into Berkeley, not towards the north Bay.

The proposed permit summary reads that the District has undertaken a “comprehensive review of emissions estimation methodologies, assumptions, and emission factors”. So, why has the wind rose issue not been rectified yet, even after a decade or more of public and written comments to the same? There is no specific need to use the District's monitor in Richmond like they did in the '90s. The District has willfully used the Richmond monitor as a smokescreen to manipulate Pacific Steel Casting's permit evaluations. The refusal to correct this critical error, even after being noticed of its inaccuracy, constitutes a blatant disregard for regulation, science and the air dynamics of west Berkeley. These actions have far-reaching implications to the actual permit evaluations and outcomes. This is a deliberate abuse of BAAQMD’s regulatory oversight that also has its own legal consequences.

It is requested that this proposed permit include a statement that only a local Berkeley air monitoring station should be used for ALL permit modeling and issues of regulatory compliance and health. There is no cost to this change in the permit. Besides the clear benefits to the affected public, all the agencies tied into the oversight of PSC's new permit will benefit from a more accurate and reliable permit and regulatory process .

6. Anecdotal Evidence

There is more than sufficient anecdotal evidence pointing to potentially serious health exposures of downwind residents well beyond the fence line of Pacific Steel Casting.  The most focused evidence on PSC emissions in the last decade comes the West Berkeley Community Air Monitoring Project. It was funded in part by a grant from the District. This pilot project conducted during 2007 was the first offsite monitoring of airborne metals from PSC.

The project measured levels of six metals, all of which are found in the emissions inventory of PSC. Two metals, manganese and nickel, that are nearly exclusive to PSC's emissions inventory, were found at high levels. These elevated levels of toxic metals in the neighborhood downwind from the company directly challenge the evaluations and assumptions put forth by PSC and BAAQMD to their permit and HRA. These questions of offsite exposure and health risks have not been resolved since they were raised in 2007. A Continuous Emissions Monitoring network would clarify actual offsite exposure and would demonstrate if the permit is in compliance.

7.  Public Noticing

As I understand from the announcement by BAAQMD and its staff affiliated with the permit review, only one public notice of this comment period was placed in The Oakland Tribune, and apparently, none in Berkeley newspapers. There is a notice of Pacific Steel Casting’s permit review on BAAQMD’s website, if one digs for it. This brings into question the legitimacy of the District's outreach efforts in meeting the legal threshold for adequate public noticing. Over the last ten years, with the reduction of hard-copy newspapers and newsstands, the circulation of The Oakland Tribune has significantly diminished. They don’t have the reach they once did. Certainly in Berkeley, circulation numbers for hard copies of The Oakland Tribune are quite limited.

Placing this public notice in Oakland, rather than Berkeley, is a divisive tactic designed to minimize participation by the affected community as is staging the comment period in July when the community is vacationing and Berkeley city government is in recess. The City of Berkeley apparently was not noticed at all according to the Berkeley City Clerk’s office. This would have been a logical venue for noticing the City of Berkeley, its Zoning Adjustments Board (Use Permits) and various community advisory commissions. Furthermore, the District has had many years of direct interaction with our community through our phones, our emails, our city process; certainly enough to make a fair connection to stakeholders if that was their real goal.

The opening of the comment period was July 7, 2016. I was never noticed by BAAQMD directly, despite having personally raised the SMOP issue with BAAQMD/CARB and its board, in both written and public comments, over the last year. I only became aware of PSC's permit review on August 4, 2016 via a communication from the US EPA Air Division. The West Berkeley Alliance, an environmental group downwind of PSC, said they had only found out because I had emailed them. This has not been a fair or legal noticing effort.

8. Public Participation

From a community perspective, this review of Pacific Steel Casting's permit is historic since the public has never been given any opportunity to legally comment on the SMOP permits or their revisions. Permitting for Pacific Steel Casting was, and still is, a back-room regulatory activity as is so much of BAAQMD's regulatory culture.

As I understand it, future regulatory activities involving Pacific Steel Casting’s SMOP do not legally provide any opportunity for formal citizen participation. The District needs to put a special condition in PSC's new permit that requires adequate noticing of the City of Berkeley and its citizens regarding any changes in the company's permit as well as the opportunity to formally submit legal, written comments.

It is our right to participate, especially given the gross negligence in the management of the permit(s) for the last 10 years by BAAQMD and Pacific Steel Casting. Had the public been allowed to participate in the permitting processes over the last decade, this breach of regulatory oversight would not have occurred. This requirement should be the first of several much-needed corrective actions to remedy the mismanagement of the SMOP by the Air District and Pacific Steel Casting. Please remember:  the breach in BAAQMD's oversight was brought forward by a Berkeley citizen and NOT by the District's engineers or PSC.

Again, it is requested that the community of Berkeley be allowed to participate, be thoroughly noticed and be allowed to comment on all matters of Pacific Steel Casting's SMOP. This must be a special condition of the proposed permit.

9. Community Benefit

Pacific Steel Casting and BAAQMD are equally responsible for this permit debacle and violation of the public trust. The public has a right to equality of access and treatment, most especially when it comes to exposure levels and health risks. It is uncertain how much PSC has benefited over the last decade from BAAQMD's mismanagement as well as its own failure to raise these permitting issues. The affected west Berkeley community should receive some tangible benefit for this longtime and dishonorable breach of regulation. An essential part of the community benefit should come via a requirement for Pacific Steel Casting to install a Continuous Emissions Monitoring network of stack and fence-line monitors at all three of the facilities with an Internet interface of real time data accessible to the public.

Conclusion

The rules should never be waived or altered to afford any company special consideration at the expense of an entire community. The Air District does not possess that particular regulatory discretion. However, in the case of Pacific Steel Casting, BAAQMD continues to support a historic environmental injustice in west Berkeley with little regulatory accountability and no significant community input. This issue should not have to be settled by a court of law.

ADDED comments to above August 30, 2016

Please accept these additional comments to the above-mentioned SMOP for Pacific Steel Casting. First, I want to thank you for emailing me on August 15 about the July 7th notice for this public review. Unfortunately, the additional 15-day extension to the comment period still leaves insufficient time to adequately respond to the many issues concerning PSC's permit review or to have a consultant review the pertinent documents. Because of this and other concerns listed below, I ask that the comment period remain open.

Public Records:  Permit Application

On April 14, 2016, the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at the Golden Gate University School of Law (ELJC) made a Public Records request to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) on my behalf for documents relating specifically to PSC, including permit applications from 2006 to the present. The ELJC has indicated that they did not receive any documents, not even the current permit application. (See attached PRA request & Summary report dated April 14, 2016.)

Note:  A look at the PRA gives the reader some idea of the fragmented record keeping and the SMOP history of the PSC process. Record keeping for this permit needs to be seriously addressed. The scattered and “unavailable” records dilute informed citizen participation as demonstrated by the unfulfilled PRA request above. This certainly doesn’t meet the demand of the law today and is major failing of the District.

There is a legal demand for the public to have access to the current application under consideration in this SMOP revision as well as the legacy permit applications. It is a critical component of the SMOP review. None of those records have been provided to me per my Public Records Request as provided by law. It is unreasonable to expect the public (stakeholders) to give critical and meaningful comments to the review without this information. In fact, when I asked BAAQMD in February for access to the current permit, I was told by staff that it was confidential.

Detailed Emissions Calculations (CONFIDENTIAL)

In addition to the missing permit application, the proposed permit withholds the detailed emissions calculations as referenced in APPENDIX A. These calculations are not confidential. However, this data is an important part of the information necessary to understand the proposed SMOP permit application. Without public access to this information during the current review, BAAQMD limits both critical comments as well as the checks and balances that public participation affords. I believe this is a legal breach of the current SMOP public review.

The last time the Berkeley public was afforded an opportunity to address Pacific Steel Casting's permit was 1999/2000 in a Hearing Board setting. Back then in the 90s, it was part of the District’s culture to restrict access to the stakeholders by deflecting and obscuring the regulatory process. A newspaper article, “Draft Report Not Released to Public", by Judith Scherr,  Berkeley Daily Planet, January 5, 2000, reveals how divisive it was to participation when citizens like myself were barred from access to a draft decision prior to the actual start of the legally-publicized meeting. The following statement comes from that news story, and unfortunately, still holds true today:

Berkeley resident, L A Wood, tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of the draft decision. In response, he shot off a letter to the (BAAQMD) panel, which said, in part, "Let it be said that this kind of back-room decision process invalidates the public deliberation process and defeats the notion of public participation envisioned by our legislators."

Online at http://berkeleycitizen.org/Pacific%20Steel/pacific9.htm#news2

Today, the proposed permit and its “Confidential"s are a reminder that BAAQMD has moved forward very slowly in supporting meaningful participation for Berkeley stakeholders. The following actions are requested of BAAQMD:

• Extend the comment period until such time as the public has the opportunity to review all the documents under consideration. A couple of months delay to get this right is a relatively short time given that we have waited ten years for PSC’s permit to come into compliance with its SMOP.

• Provide the current Pacific Steel Casting SMOP application for public inspection.

• Provide all data and calculations as referenced in the Appendix of the proposed SMOP for public inspection.

Provide evidence that PSC’s SMOP actually complied with the requirement to reduce emissions by 2 tons of Allowed Reductions as stated in Case No.:  C 06 4184 BZ, Communities for a Better Environment V Pacific Steel Casting 2007 Consent Decree. The 2007 settlement agreement applies to the proposed SMOP permit. The new owners of Pacific Steel Casting are not exempt from this court-ordered settlement requirement. I believe there is a legal requirement for inclusion of this provision in the proposed SMOP for the implementation of emissions reductions.

• Provide all communications, including emails and other written documents between Pacific Steel Casting and BAAQMD regarding the current revision of the SMOP from January 1, 2014 to August 30th, 2016 for public inspection.

• Provide some accounting for the unfulfilled PRA requests and why the legacy permit’s applications, so relevant to understanding the history of this SMOP revision, were not available.

Please include these additional concerns to my public comment filed on August 15, 2016.


Attachment:    PRA REQUEST (2016-04-0124) and Permit Record Summary
L A Wood August 30, 2016 (See Below)

PRA REQUEST (2016-04-0124) and Permit Record Summary
L A Wood August 30, 2016

On April 14, 2016, I (ELJC) entered a PRA request via the BAAQMD’s Public Records portal requesting the following documents:

1. Detailed list of Pacific Steel Casting's permit applications from 2006 to 2016

2. Pacific Steel Casting's actual permit applications from 2006 to 2016

3. Pacific Steel Casting's Operating Permits and Synthetic Minor Operating Permits from 2006 to 2016, specifically the permits for the following years and for the following plants:
- 2006: all three plants
- 2007: Plants 1 & 2
- 2008: Plant 2
- 2009: Plants 1 & 2
- 2010: Plant 2
- 2011: Plant 2
- 2012: Plant 2
- 2013: all three plants
- 2014: Plant 2
- 2015: Plants 2 & 3

Public Records Portal

Public Request Details

 

First Name:

 

 

 

                  Last Name:

 

 

 

Organization:

Environmental Law and Justice Clinic

 

 

Address:

Golden Gate University School of Law

 

 

City:

San Francisco

 

 

State:

CA

 

 

ZipCode:

Not Recorded

 

 

Country:

United States

 

 

Telephone:

 

 

 

Email:

 

 

 

Password:

********

 

 

Request Number:

2016-04-0124

 

 

Description:

Other Information

 

 

Request Details:

 

 

 

Use your email and password to access your requests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the evening of April 14, 2016, I received a confirmation email from Rochelle Henderson Reed via publicrecords@baaqmd.gov confirming my request and which included my PRA request portal credentials:

On April 18, 2016, I sent Sanjeev Kamboj the following email (Questions regarding Pacific Steel Casting Company’s Permits):

“Dear Mr. Kamboj:

Thank you again for meeting with us last Tuesday regarding CEMEX, Central Concrete, and Hanson.

We have some questions regarding another facility - Pacific Steel Casting Company LLC (PSC). Can you please clarify some aspects of PSC's permits?

Pacific Steel Casting company LLC
1333 Second Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

Plant #187 (Plant 1)
Plant #1603 (Plant 2)
Plant # 22605 (Plant 3)

1. Missing Permits - 2006 to 2016
A PRA request was made for, "All versions of PSC's SMOP in effect since 2006." However, the following permits were missing from the PRA request. Can you please clarify why these permits may be missing?
- 2006: all three plants
- 2007: Plants 1 & 2
- 2008: Plant 2
- 2009: Plants 1 & 2
- 2010: Plant 2
- 2011: Plant 2
- 2012: Plant 2
- 2013: all three plants
- 2014: Plant 2
- 2015: Plants 2 & 3

2. Permit Date Gaps
- 2014 permit for Plant 1 expired 12/01/2014, and 2014 permit for Plant 3 expired 11/01/2014. However, on the upper left hand corner of the 2015 permit for Plant 1, there is a date of 06/03/2015
- 2015 permit for Plant 1 expired 12/01/2015. However, on the upper left hand corner of the 2016 permit for all three plants, there is a date of 02/19/2016
Can you please clarify what the dates on the upper left hand corner of some of the permits are and why there seems to be a 6 month gap between the 2014 and 2015 permits and a 2.5 month gap between the 2015 and 2016 permits?

3. Plant Number Changes
Plant Numbers during prior years through 2013
Plant 1: 187
Plant 2: 703
Plant 3: 1603
Plant Numbers since 2014
Plant 1: 187
Plant 2: 1603
Plant 3: 22605
Can you please clarify why Plant 2 has acquired Plant 3's number and why Plant 3's number has changed? Also, what do these plant number changes entail?”

On April 26, 2016, Rochelle Reed sent me an email stating that the requested permit records for PSC are disclosable records, which BAAQMD would make available to me. “Some of the records may have been scanned and others have not. Because we are in the middle of preparations to move to a new building, some of the records may also be in storage. We will do the best we can to get all of the records to you by the middle of May.”

On May 9, 2016, Mr. Kamboj responded to my email stating that the SMOP in the PO is in effect and has not changed since 2006. He was able to locate additional PO’s as shown in the table below, and copies of the PO’s were attached to the email. He stated that they may be able to retrieve the others from magnetic tape and asked if we still were interested in the outstanding permits.

Requested

Status

Outstanding

- 2006: all three plants

Could not locate

2006: permits for all three plants

- 2007: Plants 1 & 2

Located Plant 2

2007: Plant 1 permit

- 2008: Plant 2

Located

 

- 2009: Plants 1 & 2

Could not locate

2009: Plants 1 and 2

- 2010: Plant 2

Located

 

- 2011: Plant 2

Located

 

- 2012: Plant 2

Located

 

- 2013: all three plants

Located

 

- 2014: Plant 2

Could not locate

2014: Plant 2

In regards to the Permit Date Gaps, Mr. Kamboj stated that the dates on the upper left hand corner are internal processing dates and that the correct expiration dates are the dates listed in the “Expires: MM/DD/YY” section.

Finally, in regards to the plant number changes, Mr. Kamboj stated that in 2014, PSC had a transfer of ownership and that it was customary with all transfers of ownership for a new plant number to be assigned. Here, it was 22605. Since 2008, all three plants have been treated as a single facility, but historical plant numbers were retained for ease of responding to complaints and compliance verification. In 2014, once ownership was changed, a new plant number was assigned and a re-numbering system was implemented to aid compliance and enforcement while listing all three plant sources under one plant number.

On the afternoon of May 9, 2016, Rochelle Reed, calling from the phone number xxx-xxx-xxxx, sent me a voicemail regarding the email I had sent to Sanjeev Kamboj on April 18, 2016 (Questions regarding Pacific Steel Casting Company’s Permits), stating that she is the person to contact regarding PRA requests, not staff.

On June 13, 2016, I sent Rochelle Reed a follow-up email regarding the PRA request since we have not received any records.

On June 28, 2016, I called Rochelle Reed regarding the status of the PRA request. She said that they may or may not have everything that we are looking for. She will still have to check on what records she does have. She stated that BAAQMD is "by law not required to keep a copy of the permits unless they are from the year before." I told her that as long as she has the permit applications and a list of the permit applications that may suffice. We will have to wait and see what we receive. Rochelle said to contact her if we find any gaps in the records we receive. If the files are too big, we may also need to make an appointment to examine the files in person.

As of today, August 29, 2016, I have not received an email from Rochelle Reed. Also, the Public Records portal still states that the PRA request is “On Hold – Request Sent to Coworker.”

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