From : Golden Gate University - School of Law - Environmental Law and Justice Clinic
Re: Comments to the Revisions of Pacific Steel Casting - Synthetic Minor Operating Permit (SMOP)
To: Bay Area Air Quality Management District
375 Beale Street, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94105
August 30, 2016
I am writing on behalf of West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs and Berkeley Citizen to request that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District extend the deadline for comments on the draft Synthetic Minor Operating Permit (SMOP) proposed for Pacific Steel Casting for 30 additional days after the District releases pertinent records. Pacific Steel originally submitted its application for a SMOP in 2005. Given that the issue has been on hold or unresolved for more than ten years, this kind of delay in issuing the SMOP could be considered negligible.
Several circumstances weigh in favor of an extension. First, community members need access to documents critical to evaluating the draft permit, access that the District has failed to provide. One such document is the permit application. On behalf of our clients, the Clinic submitted a Public Records Act request on April 14, 2016 for a detailed list of permit applications and the applications themselves from 2006 to 2016. In response to this request and multiple follow-up requests since then, the Clinic has not received a single document. Another document critical to evaluating the sufficiency of permit terms is the emissions calculation information that the District omits from the Engineering Evaluation Report. Appendix A, labeled "Detailed Emissions Calculation," does not detail any emissions calculations. It is a blank document. In providing this blank document, the District has not explained the basis for withholding the information.
Second, the groups that have been concerned about Pacific Steel Casting's emissions were not provided timely notice. The District is well aware that there are several groups that have consistently and actively monitored Pacific Steel's emissions. These are the same groups whose representatives show up at District meetings to ensure that the District is aware of ongoing problems that West Berkeley communities have been experiencing with Pacific Steel's emissions. To our knowledge, none of these groups were provided with notice on July 7. The Clinic also did not receive notice although the Clinic has historically represented these many community groups and indeed made the Public Records Act relating to permit applications, as described above. This lack of notice has prevented the groups from evaluating the permit in a meaningful fashion and possibly retaining a technical expert and legal assistance.
Third, community input can and should lead to better permit terms. It could also lead to better relations between the community, the regulated party, and the regulators. Community input is not a paper exercise. Community members have useful information, including about how the facility may in fact operate and should operate. Examples abound. In the past, community members alerted the District that mold cooling operations may be occurring at night time on city sidewalks. In addition, there are terms of a consent decree (i.e., a federal court order) between Communities for a Better Environment and Pacific Steel that may be more stringent than those of the proposed permit that the permitting engineers may not be aware of. These terms are binding on successors of the entity that signed the consent decree. If they are indeed more stringent, the final permit should also make mention of them.
Finally, the Clinic is aware that Pacific Steel made a SMOP application for all three plants on December 28,2005 (marked 14029). What happened to this application? Without meaningful public review, the regulator or the affected community could easily miss issues such as these.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Helen H. Kang
Professor & Director
Environmental Law and Justice Clinic
cc: Gerardo Rios, rios. US EPA Region 9 Permits