ELJC at Golden Gate school of Law...comments on the proposed Pacific Steel Casting (SMOP) Permit

   

gglc environmental Justice

Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law

Nicholas Maiden
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
375 Beale Street, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA

Re: Comments on Proposed SMOP Revision for Pacific Steel Casting

The Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law (“Clinic”) provides the following comments on the proposed Synthetic Minor Operating Permit (“SMOP”) revision for Pacific Steel Casting on behalf of Berkeley Citizen and West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs (“Alliance”). These two groups are among those that have worked to improve air quality in West Berkeley for the last three decades. The mission of Berkeley Citizen is to provide information on a wide range of issues that would otherwise not be available to Berkeley citizens and the general public. The mission of the Alliance is to keep safe jobs in the community, to ensure that government agencies are accountable to the public, and to demand the right to good health, a clean environment, and a safe work place.

The two groups are appreciative of the effort that was undertaken for the proposed SMOP. The groups believe that a SMOP that covers all three plants is a step in the right direction to ensure that the facility remain below the major threshold. As stated in previous comments on this proposal, however, the groups do not believe the permit comment period is adequate as further detailed in the comment section of this letter. We therefore submit these comments with a request that the permit comment period be further extended to allow for a community meeting and review of information that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (“Air District,” “District,” or “BAAQMD”) has so far withheld from the public, as the Alliance has already requested in its letter to you.

PACIFIC STEEL’S SETTING IN THE COMMUNITY

Located on Second Street, near Gilman Street and Interstate 80, in Berkeley, Pacific Steel is located in a vibrant neighborhood adjacent to residences, nursery schools, parks and recreational facilities for school-age children. Within 450 feet of Pacific Steel’s Plant 3 is a preschool, which enrolls approximately 100 children. In addition to that preschool, there are six other preschools and one elementary school within a half-mile radius of Pacific Steel’s plants. Also within the half mile radius are four large outdoor youth sports complexes, a skate park, two community centers, a large community garden, the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, and three grocery stores.

PACIFIC STEEL FACILITY’S EMISSIONS AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Pacific Steel is a significant source of pollution deserving regulatory and public attention. According to the Air District, Pacific Steel is “the only Bay Area facility identified as subject to the public notification process” under the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program.[1] The public notification requirement for the facility was triggered, as the Air District notes, because the Health Risk Assessment performed in 2008 showed that the facility’s emissions result in an estimated maximum cancer risk of 31 in a million, exceeding the threshold of 10 in a million.[2]

That Pacific Steel is the only facility in the Bay Area subject to the public notification requirement is in itself significant. Sources of toxic air contaminants in the Bay Area include Dow Chemical Company, refineries (including Chevron Products Company in Richmond, Shell Martinez Refinery in Martinez, Phillips 66 Company in Rodeo, Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company in Martinez, Valero Refining Company in Benicia), landfills, carbon plants, power plants, and rail operations.[3] Of these facilities, the Air District initially identified 30 facilities that triggered public notice requirements. All of the facilities have managed to reduce the risks they pose to local communities over the years, except Pacific Steel.[4]

Among Pacific Steel’s emissions that create concern to nearby residents are manganese and nickel. A public health expert in 2006 opined about the need to take Pacific Steel’s emissions seriously:

The air contaminants reported by PSC to the BAAQMD consist of substances that have been targeted in the U.S. and California for tracking and emission reductions because they are known to be toxic to humans; at very low exposure levels, most of them pose a substantial hazard to health. In the case of PSC, these emissions consist of a number of highly toxic heavy metals that persist in the environment, accumulate in human tissues, and are uniquely hazardous . . . . Manganese, lead, and nickel fall into this group; they are toxic to the neurological system, they are hazardous to fetal development, and/or they produce a range of other toxic effects.

Manganese is considered by ATSDR [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry] to be more hazardous to human health than mercury by over one order of magnitude . . . . [As to lead,] [t]here is essentially no safe level of lead exposure for children.[5]

According to the latest Toxicological Profile for Manganese available from ATSDR, manganese can be harmful at extremely low levels:

Studies in communities surrounding manganese industries have also reported associations between manganese exposure and subclinical neurological effects in adults and children. In a study of men and women living close to a manganese alloy production plant, a blood manganese level-age interaction was observed, with the poorest performance on neurological tests occurring among those >50 years old who had the highest blood manganese levels. Additional studies of environmentally exposed adults reported attention impairments, poorer postural stability, and subclinical motor impairments at environmental air exposures >0.1 μg manganese/m3 [0.0000001 gram per cubic meter]; however, other potential sources of environmental exposure were not accounted for. In several studies of children, associations have been reported between manganese concentrations in blood or hair and motor impairment and deficits in neurodevelopment and intellectual functions.[6]

Aside from the significant health risks driving the public notification requirement, the facility has long been a source of odor problems.[7] These odor problems are not simply indicative of discomfort or annoyance. Since the characteristic metallic and burnt-pot smell, which can be intense and nauseating, comes from releases of heavy metals and vaporization of synthetic binder material, the odors indicate that hazardous air pollution is reaching the point that it can be detected by olfactory senses; odors could very well be indicative of excess emissions that are not sufficiently controlled by existing abatement devices.[8]

Indeed, public scrutiny of the facility has historically proven to be an essential element of ensuring the facility’s compliance with applicable Clean Air Act and Air District requirements.[9] The District should thus engage in further outreach to ensure that the Berkeley and nearby Albany communities are aware of this opportunity for public participation at this important juncture in Pacific Steel’s permitting. As discussed later in this comment, public outreach has been abysmal.

COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSED SMOP

The Alliance retained David Howekamp, an air quality expert, for the limited purpose of evaluating some of the basic issues.[10] This letter identifies, with a citation to his name, Mr. Howekamp’s opinions where he was able to review the issues.

I. It is unclear that the Air District has proposed a permit.

It is unclear that the Air District has in fact proposed a SMOP.[11] Although the District’s notice inviting written public comment states that it has made a decision to issue a revision to the existing SMOP for Pacific Steel, and while the Evaluation refers to conditions, the District has not provided any document that constitutes a revised proposed SMOP. If the Evaluation starting at page 18 constitutes the proposed permit, then the permit is confusing. It does not have general provisions or definitions. The lack of a proposed permit is a fundamental deficiency that must be corrected, and the public should be provided with an opportunity to comment on that proposed permit.

II. The draft SMOP, even if the conditions in the Evaluation could be considered terms of a permit, is not practicably enforceable, contrary to federal and BAAQMD requirements.

Pacific Steel is currently a Title V source operating without a Title V permit.[12] There are at least two fundamental problems with the Evaluation and the conditions proposed to limit Pacific Steel’s emissions to below a major source threshold. First, the draft SMOP does not ensure that Pacific Steel will in fact operate as a minor facility.

Second, the draft SMOP does not ensure that the proposed conditions are practically enforceable. Practical enforceability in plain terms means that an inspector visiting the facility can make the determination, based on records required to be kept, that the facility is in compliance with a limit; and that a citizen looking at the permit and available records can do the same. The proposal fails this basic test. Because the two points concerning Pacific Steel’s synthetic minor status and enforceability are interrelated in many ways, they are discussed in this section together.

A. Introduction: Practical Enforceability Requirement

A synthetic minor facility, at maximum capacity, has the potential to exceed major facility thresholds but, through the imposition of enforceable permit limitations, has its potential to emit (“PTE”) limited to below threshold levels for a major facility.[13] As U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently reiterated, “[o]ne of the key concepts in evaluating the enforceability of PTE limits is whether the limit is enforceable as a practical matter.”[14] The Air District rules indeed explicitly require practical enforceability.[15]

“[F]or an emission limit to be enforceable as a practical matter, the permit must clearly specify how emissions will be measured or determined for purposes of demonstrating compliance” with permit limitations.[16] Practicable (sometimes referred to as practical) enforceability “means ‘in a practical manner’ and not as it means ‘almost’ or ‘nearly.’’’[17] Moreover, permit limitations and conditions must be supported by monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements sufficient to enable both regulators and citizens alike to determine whether a limit has been exceeded, and if so, to take appropriate enforcement action. Id.

As applied here, practical enforceability requires that the SMOP be justified on conditions that will exist at the facility and clearly articulate how the limitations will be used to determine compliance. Practical enforceability further requires that the SMOP include all relevant and necessary information to enable both the regulators and citizens to determine the facility’s compliance. Here, several aspects of the proposed SMOP render the limitations practically unenforceable, as detailed below.

B. Omission of Emissions Calculations and Engineering Analysis

One of the fundamental problems with the proposed SMOP is that the Evaluation does not contain an adequate or complete engineering analysis. Such an analysis may be contained in Appendix A, but it was not made available to the public for review.[18] In the absence of this information, the public cannot determine the basis of the emissions calculations. Even though the individual components that are intended to be enforceable are listed in the evaluation, the source of and justification for those components are missing. Thus, even if the emissions can be calculated using the factors listed in the Evaluation, whether the calculation is justified is unknown.[19] This inability to verify the very basis of Pacific Steel’s synthetic minor status makes it difficult to conclude that Pacific Steel will in fact operate as a synthetic minor.

C. Potential for Outdated Information

The Evaluation itself does not ensure that the most recently available information is used for setting the permit conditions, raising the possibility that the proposed SMOP may be based on conditions that do not fully reflect the conditions under which the facility will operate. Most prominently, it appears that the proposed SMOP is based on an application from 2005, i.e., submitted more than a decade ago. That is, although the Evaluation itself does not identify the date of “Application 14029,” the Clinic has an application bearing that number from Public Records Act requests made to the Air District in the 2005-2006 time period and that application is dated December 28, 2005.[20]

If in fact the Air District is relying on this 2005 application, the proposed SMOP does not comply with the requirements of BAAQMD Regulations for a timely and complete application.[21] The applications are intended for the District to collect relevant, sufficient, and accurate information that forms the basis for the permitting decision.[22] Without a complete and current application, the District cannot be assured that it has the most recent information to which the facility’s responsible official is accountable for attesting. For example, as the District recognizes, “[e]missions are calculated on the basis of the information submitted in a permit application.”[23] Without a current application, emissions calculations – even where the District has spent years to study them – may not be based on incomplete information since the District cannot verify the completeness of the information without a submission from the responsible official. In addition, without a current application, the District cannot be assured that it has complied with its own procedures governing trade secrets and may incorrectly rely on the facility’s claim of confidentiality without an attestation.[24]

The District must ensure itself and the public that the information it has collected is based on complete information that is attested to by Pacific Steel’s responsible official who can be held accountable for the accuracy of the information.

D. Lack of Conditions to Limit Hazardous Air Pollutants

The Evaluation is silent as to how hazardous air pollutants (“HAPs”) are being limited to below the major threshold other than to prohibit generally that Pacific Steel is not allowed to exceed, in a 12-month period, 9 tons of any single HAP and 23 tons of any combination of HAPs.[25] In addition to being practically unenforceable (i.e., an inspector would not be able to determine based on records required to be kept that the HAPs are below the major thresholds), none of the conditions in the Evaluation relate to HAPs. While the Evaluation states that the District’s “estimates show that at the maximum or permit limit levels, no individual HAP is emitted in amounts greater than [the thresholds],” that showing is not made to the public.[26]

The Evaluation also fails to explain the connection between HAPs and the limits for the various sources. Thus, the proposed SMOP is practically unenforceable as to emissions of those pollutants.[27]

E. Past Source Tests

Source tests are critical to determining (1) the basis for the emissions limits and the assumptions underlying them, (2) actual emissions, and (3) PTE. Source tests are thus important for establishing enforceable permit conditions and Pacific Steel’s eligibility as a synthetic minor source. The Evaluation does not provide sufficient information to determine whether the source tests provide information necessary for practical enforceability.

Although the Evaluation states that “[t]hrough 2008 and 2013, the District and Pacific Steel Casting conducted extensive ambient air quality monitoring, source stack testing,” etc.,[28] it is difficult to discern (1) which source testing informed which limitations, and (2) the conditions under which source tests were performed – i.e, whether such source testing reflects the conditions now existing at the facility or conditions that are representative.

The first point is self-explanatory. As to the second point, the conditions under which the source tests were performed can vary significantly for a source like Pacific Steel because, at least according to the previous owner, the foundry’s production is highly varied.[29] Moreover, the source of the metal for the product produced is varied: metal and metal scrap are melted.[30] According to EPA, “[t]he metal HAP content of the PM can vary significantly depending on the type of metal cast.”[31] Thus, source tests must be performed under either the worst case scenario or, at least the District and the public must have information to ensure that the source tests are performed under “representative” scenarios; that said, the “representative” scenario would be difficult to justify given the high degree of variability in the facility’s production.[32]

Furthermore, if processes, materials, or throughput have changed since the source tests, emissions factors may have changed as well as the PTE.[33] As an example, if some of the source tests on which the District relies are those performed for the 2008 Health Risk Assessment, then at least the amount of emissions derived from those tests would be terribly outdated. Some – if not all – of the tests performed for the 2008 Health Risk Assessment may have relied on source tests performed in 2005.[34] Since 2005, PM emissions at Pacific Steel have increased significantly, at least according to the data available from the Facility Search Tool from the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”).[35] In 2005, PM emissions reported for all three plants were 14 tons; in 2014, which is the year for which the latest information is available from CARB, the PM emissions were 71 tons.[36]

It is difficult to conclude that the emissions calculations are correct (and that the facility will remain as a synthetic minor) because the District has not identified when the source tests were done, the conditions under which they were done, and the specific relationship between the source test and the emission factor for each source.[37]

F. Future Source Tests (Conditions 33 to 46)

Under the proposed SMOP, source tests for both criteria and hazardous air pollutants (or “full set of metals”) are to be conducted as late as 120 days, one year, and three years from the final issuance of the SMOP.[38] Yet these source tests appear to be necessary for setting the SMOP conditions, if indeed the existing source tests are not current.[39] If so, these source tests should be conducted before the permit is issued to ensure that Pacific Steel can qualify as a synthetic minor source. The source tests may further show that conditions need to be further tightened to ensure the facility’s status as a synthetic minor.[40]

Furthermore, the Evaluation provides no basis for the tests being required so far out into the future. Nor is there any explanation of why certain source tests are years away from being performed. For example, Condition 42 provides source tests are required for CO no later than three years from the issuance of the SMOP.[41] We cannot determine from this condition why the time period of three years was selected. It is possible that a CO source test was recently performed and thus the District has made the determination that a source test would only be required three years from now. In that case, the three-year interval is not frequent enough for practical enforceability.[42]

Comments made above concerning past source tests – in particular that source tests should be done under stress at full capacity or well-justified representative conditions – are equally applicable to future source tests.

G. Source Test Frequency

Source tests are too infrequently required during the permit term for some of the pollutants, including for CO and metals. For some sources, tests are limited to a one-time initial source test.[43] In addition, source tests for HAPs (with the exceptions specifically listed in Table 7) appear not to be required. The District should provide a basis for selecting the source test frequency and should require source tests at least once a year.[44] Source tests must be done to ensure that the District’s estimates and assumptions remain justified.

H. Emissions Factors

The Evaluation states that the emissions factors used to estimate emissions will become enforceable limits; however, the Evaluation states that the basis for calculating the emissions factors is set forth in the missing Appendix.[45] In other words, the Evaluation fails to disclose the basis for the emission factors, which is an integral component of the equation used for determining a facility’s captured and fugitive emissions, and in turn the total emissions used for assessing compliance with permit limitations.[46] The public would therefore have no means of determining the facility’s compliance with enforceable limits.

I. Capture Efficiency

The “required capture efficiencies” are intended to be enforceable and are – like the emissions factors associated with each emissions limit – an integral part of the emissions limit. If capture efficiencies are unrealistically high (i.e., they assume a higher capture than is actually possible), the permit will assume that more pollution is abated than is in fact abated through control devices.[47] In short, more pollution will escape as fugitive emissions than the permit assumes if the capture efficiency is set too optimistically, without a basis in fact.[48] Without a sound basis in fact, overly optimistic capture efficiencies fail to ensure that the facility will operate as a synthetic minor.[49] The required capture efficiencies do not have a basis.[50] Furthermore, how the District intends to enforce capture efficiencies is not explained in detail, but only with a brief comment in the Evaluation that “the facility will be required to conduct source tests at the inlets of abatement devices.”[51]

J. Requirement for Negative Pressure

Condition 22 requires Pacific Steel to “maintain a negative pressure at each of the plant’s exterior doors, windows, and other openings as identified and required within Appendix D of the facility’s Odor Management Plan.”[52] The Odor Management Plan was not provided with the Evaluation.

The Alliance and Berkeley Citizen are informed that the Odor Management Plan is not an enforceable document, and that the facility has stated in the past that it is a voluntary plan. The Alliance and Berkeley Citizen therefore strongly support the District’s effort to ensure that pollution control measures in the Odor Management Plan, to the extent they indeed reduce pollution, become enforceable. Nevertheless, the approach reflected in the Evaluation is insufficient to ensure enforceability.

First, the proposed SMOP simply refers to Appendix D of the Management Plan without including the requirements in the permit. Whether the conditions in Appendix D are written in a fashion that ensures practical enforceability thus cannot be determined. In addition, the permit must include the conditions from Appendix D so that they can become enforceable. To the extent that the assumption of negative pressure underlies Pacific Steel’s ability to achieve a minor source status, the proposed SMOP also does not ensure that Pacific Steel will operate as a synthetic minor.

Second, as it has historically, Pacific Steel still appears to operate regularly with the plant doors open and the roof vents unclosed. For many years local Alliance members have regularly observed open doors at the facility, as well as molds and other equipment stored outdoors.[53] As recently as this past weekend, the doors were observed to be open. Past inquiries as to why the facility’s doors are regularly open have resulted in inadequate explanations about the doors needing to be open for maintaining negative pressure. Building pressure is a complex subject that requires complex modeling.[54] The Air District should therefore require Pacific Steel to provide a study documenting pressure measurements throughout the building or pressure modeling to support the assumption in the proposed SMOP that negative pressure is a condition that Pacific Steel is maintaining. The District should also supply the basis for the assumption in the draft SMOP that negative pressure will be maintained for certain sources.[55] Without ensuring that negative pressure is in fact being achieved – especially since negative pressure appears to be a critical assumption for achieving emissions control (and possibly the high capture efficiencies), the SMOP will in fact be a sham permit.

K. Malfunction and Breakthrough Conditions

To the extent that malfunction conditions and the frequency of the breakthrough conditions are not accounted for in the facility emissions, the synthetic minor cap may be illusory. In addition, optimistic assumptions about conditions after breakthrough may also underestimate facility emissions. For example, stopping emissions from ongoing processes will be impossible during malfunction and breakthrough conditions; but it is difficult to tell whether the PTE accounted for emissions during these periods.[56]

L. The Air District Discretion to Be Exercised in the Future Is Unenforceable

Several conditions in the proposed SMOP rely on future decisions by the District. It is therefore not possible to tell whether that particular requirement is adequate for practical enforceability. Notably, as Mr. Haber opined, Conditions 2 and 3, critical to demonstrating that Pacific Steel is in fact a synthetic minor, are dependent on calculation methods that are not contained in the permit.[57]

Similarly, Conditions 11 and 12, which relate to operation of carbon adsorption systems, provide that initial carbon-breakthrough parameters for plants 1 and 2 will be established after collection of six months of FID data. The conditions further state that, upon application, “[t]he APCO shall determine enforceable parameters . . . following similar FID data analysis used to determine carbon breakthrough-related parameters for Plant 3 in Part 10.”[58] Given that the analysis for defining breakthrough parameters was conducted for Plant 3, it is unclear why an initial determination for plants 1 and 2 would be deferred for six months, and not included as permit conditions.

III. The evaluation process for the draft SMOP does not ensure compliance with federally enforceable requirements.

The Evaluation states that Pacific Steel began operations in 1981,[59] after Prevention of Significant Deterioration and new source review requirements began to apply. The District must determine whether these requirements should be made applicable by calculating the PTE at the time Plant 3 was proposed to be constructed.[60] If indeed these requirements should have applied at that time, Best Available Control Technology should be mandated as applicable.[61]

IV. Reporting should be public.

When the facility reports noncompliance, such information must be shared publicly. Given the difficulty that the public has had in obtaining information about this facility from the District,[62] compliance information should be posted on the web.

V. The Air District has illegally withheld emissions information and has failed to provide information that is referenced in the Evaluation.

As established in other sections of this comment, having access to the documents that supply the basis of the permitting decision is critical for meaningful evaluation of the terms of the SMOP permit; yet the Evaluation references documents that are not publicly available.[63] First, the proposed SMOP describes the HRA that the Air District approved on November 5, 2008.[64] As noted in the Health Risk Assessment section, the HRA is the basis on which the District updated emissions estimates for both hazardous air pollutants and criteria air pollutants for all three plants, which presumably formed the basis for many of the SMOP conditions.[65] Significantly, however, the full text of the HRA is not publicly available. Although the appendices to the HRA Report are listed on the BAAQMD website, none of the hyperlinks are live. Similarly, as already discussed, the Odor Management Plan and Appendix A to the Evaluation are not publicly available.

The Alliance and Berkeley Citizen request that the Air District make these documents available to allow the public an opportunity to meaningfully evaluate the proposed SMOP.

Withholding critical emissions-related documents is contrary to both state and federal law; it is also contrary to the Air District’s acknowledgement that all information used in permit applications is a matter of public record.[66] Under California law, all information that discloses the “nature, extent, quantity, or degree of air contaminants or other pollution” are public records and thus subject to disclosure.[67] Such information includes all air pollution emission data, including those emission data which would constitute trade secrets.[68] The federal Clean Air Act follows the same approach, requiring all records, reports or information relating to a facility’s emissions be made publicly available.[69] As EPA has stated, emission data, including “[i]nformation necessary to determine the identity, amount, frequency, concentration, or other characteristics . . .of any emission which has been emitted by the source,” are not confidential.[70] As section 6254.7 of the Government Code provides, “all air pollution emission data, including those emission data which constitute trade secrets . . . , are public records.”

A blanket assertion of confidentiality, without explanation, is insufficient to justify withholding critical information relating to Pacific Steel’s emissions. Here, with respect to Appendix A, no basis for the claim of confidentiality has been provided. An assertion of confidentiality requires at minimum a brief statement setting forth the basis for such a claim.[71]

VI. The Air District has illegally withheld information requested that would have aided meaningful review of the proposed SMOP.

Beginning in April 2016, the Clinic, on behalf of Berkeley Citizen, requested that the Air District provide documents relating to permit applications. First, using the Air District’s public records portal, the Clinic submitted a Public Records Act request specifically seeking all of Pacific Steel’s permit applications and operating permits from the previous ten years. The Air District initially acknowledged receiving the request, but to date – almost five months since the request – the District has failed to provide access to a single document despite several follow-up conversations. Most recently, on August 30, 2016, the Clinic submitted a letter reiterating the request, to which there has been no response.[72]

Berkeley Citizen again requests the Air District to furnish the requested documents.

VII. The Air District has not provided notice calculated to reach the concerned public.

As earlier stated, community participation has been critical in ensuring that Pacific Steel comply with the applicable air quality laws. As also stated in the Clinic’s letter dated August 30, 2016, requesting an extension of the comment deadline, public review is likely to produce better permit terms. While we are appreciative of the extension already granted, we nevertheless believe that the extension is insufficient because the notice of the proposed SMOP has likely failed to reach Berkeley and Albany residents who are concerned about Pacific Steel’s emissions. For example, even though the District represented that it had notified the public of the proposed SMOP through the Oakland Tribune, that newspaper is no longer published, as the Alliance pointed out already in earlier comments on this draft SMOP. In addition, Berkeley Citizen asked the District for a copy of the ad in the Oakland Tribune and has not received such a copy.

As further evidence that the proposed SMOP should be publicized better, the representatives of the Alliance and Berkeley Citizen, who had long appeared before the District to address Pacific Steel’s emissions, only learned of the proposed SMOP because Berkeley Citizen had been in contact with EPA about the facility, and EPA itself notified L A Wood of the issuance of the draft SMOP.

The groups thus again request that the proposed SMOP be noticed in a manner calculated to reach concerned residents. The groups also reiterate the request made earlier that the District hold a public meeting in Berkeley concerning the proposed SMOP.

Miscellaneous issues
The Alliance and Berkeley Citizen also request that the District address the following issues:

  • Has Pacific Steel provided the notifications required under the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program?
  • Pacific Steel and its successors are subject to a binding Consent Decree resulting from a lawsuit brought by Communities for a Better Environment,[73] which is federally enforceable. The Consent Decree provisions relating to scrap metal selection and inspection impose more stringent requirements than the NESHAP provisions at 40 C.F.R. Part 63 subpart ZZZZZ.[74] We therefore request that the SMOP at least acknowledge the existence of the Consent Decree, or explicitly make as SMOP conditions the relevant provisions of the Decree.
  • The bases for exemptions are not stated.[75]
  • The proposed SMOP fails to require FID installation at Plant 3, perhaps because an FID is already installed. The District should clearly state an FID system is required at Plant 3 so that a FID is part of an enforceable condition of the permit.[76]
  • Pacific Steel is currently a Title V source and has been since the inception of the Title V program. The Alliance and Berkeley Citizen thus request that the economic benefits of noncompliance be recovered and designated to a supplemental environmental project to benefit the community by reducing emissions. The MOP also provides that back permit fees be recovered. [77] The Alliance and Berkeley Citizen support the District’s efforts in recovering back permit fees.

Again, we support the District’s effort finally to impose SMOP conditions on the entire facility.

Helen Kang
Collin McCarthy
Tai Yamanaka*

Matthew Tyler Sullivan*

cc: Gerardo Rios, rios.gerardo@epa.gov

* Tai Yamanaka and Matthew Tyler Sullivan are students certified under the Practical Training of Law Students rules and under Helen Kang’s supervision.

[1] BAAQMD, Toxic Air Contaminant Control Program Annual Report 2013, 9 (May 2013) (most recent report available), http://www.baaqmd.gov/~/media/files/engineering/air-toxics-annual-report/2011/volume-i-toxics-annual-report-8-01-2013.pdf?la=en.

[2] Bay Area Air Quality Management District Synthetic Minor Permit Revision Engineering Evaluation Report [for] Application 14029 [of] Pacific Steel Casting, Plant 22605, 1333 2nd Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, 11 (June 2016) [“Evaluation”]; BAAQMD, Toxic Air Contaminant Control Program Annual Report 2013, at 9.

[3] BAAQMD, Toxic Air Contaminant Inventory for 2014 (Dec. 31, 2014), http://www.baaqmd.gov/research-and-data/air-toxics/annual-report.

[4] The District discusses Pacific Steel’s unique status as a risk source this way:

Under the Air Toxics Hot Spots (ATHS, AB2588) Program, health risks due to routine or predictable TAC [toxic air contaminant] emissions from existing industrial and commercial facilities are evaluated. . . . In 1991, . . . 30 facilities were identified with Level 1 health risks that triggered public notice requirements. A Level 1 health risk is a facility cancer risk greater than 10 in a million, but less than 100 in a million, or a non-cancer hazard index greater than 1, but less than 10. The number of facilities requiring public notification had steadily decreased over the first decade of the program as industries reduced toxic emissions and refined estimates of risk. Pacific Steel Casting Company of Berkeley is currently the only Bay Area facility identified as subject to the public notification process.

BAAQMD, Toxic Air Contaminant Control Program Annual Report 2013, at 2.

[5] Letter from Michael Wilson, then Assistant Research Scientist, Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, to Dion Aroner (Mar. 30, 2006), at 4 and n.5, http://west-berkeley-alliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/TUR_DION_LetterfinalCorrected.pdf (expressing the author’s views and not that of the organization with which he was affiliated at the time).

[6] Toxicological Profile for Manganese, U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (Sept. 2012), 16-17, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp151.pdf. Manganese is used in steel production to improve hardness and strength.

[7] Nora Morag-Levine, Chasing the Wind: Regulating Air Pollution in the Common Law State 154-160 (2003) (discussing odor problems dating back to the 1970s/1980s); Riya Bhattacharjee, “Neighbors Win Nuisance Case Against Pacific Steel Casting,” The Berkeley Daily Planet, 1 (Nov. 20-22, 2007) (a judge ruled that the prevailing plaintiffs were entitled to monetary damages because of the ‘“Private nuisance created by Pacific Steel,’ and ‘a real and appreciable invasion of the plaintiffs’ interests”).

[8] The odorous emissions in Plant 3, for example, are in part from the production of the mold necessary to cast the steel parts, including material used to coat the molds to create a smooth surface for the casting, refractory mold coating that allows the sand to withstand the heat of molten steel. The resins, catalysis, adhesive, mold coatings, and mold wash that are used create odor during pouring, cooling, and shake-out operations. Many individual molds are created at the facility.

[9] For example, as alleged in the Air District’s complaint against the facility in its August 14, 2006 Complaint, the Air District issued nine Notices of Violations in December 2005. These Notices of Violations followed an increase in community complaints about odor. More recently, in February 2015, community complaints led to issuance of a Notice of Violation for excessive visible emissions stemming from a broken baghouse. BAAQMD Notice of Violation No. A-54093 (April 29, 2015).

[10] Mr. Howekamp’s resume is attached as Exhibit 1. The Alliance was unable to retain Mr. Howekamp to do an extensive review for many different reasons, including his limited availability in the short timeframe that the Alliance had to find and work with an expert and the associated costs.

[11] Where this letter refers to a proposed SMOP, we are referring to the conditions discussed in the Evaluation.

[12] Although the Evaluation suggests that the facility was not required to obtain a Title V permit when the District enacted Title V rules by stating that the facility “predates” the District’s Title V rules (Evaluation, at 4), existing sources with a potential to emit 100 tons per year or more of any regulated air pollutant (or 10 tons per year or more of a single hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants) are plainly required to obtain a Title V permit regardless of whether a source “predates” the Title V rules. See BAAQMD Regulation 2-6-212. Based on its potential to emit, Pacific Steel is a major source that should have either a Title V permit or a SMOP.

[13] BAAQMD Regulation 2-6-230.

[14] Yuhuang Chemical Inc., Order on Petition No. VI-2015-03 (U.S. EPA Aug. 31, 2016) [“Yuhuang”], at 14.

[15] BAAQMD Regulation 2-6-215 (limitations imposed for the purposes of keeping facility emissions below major facility levels must be both legally and “practicably enforceable”); BAAQMD Manual of Procedures Vol. II, pt. 3 at 3-10 [“MOP”] (“[s]ynthetic minor operating permits must have practically enforceable limits and conditions to ensure that the facility never exceeds the thresholds for a major facility”).

[16] Yuhuang, at 14.

[17] Id.

[18] “Appendix A, Detailed Emissions Calculations” is labeled “CONFIDENTIAL”; Howekamp. The lack of a legal basis for withholding Appendix A from the public is discussed in section V below.

[19] Howekamp. It appears that the individual total emissions for each pollutant appearing in tables beginning on page 36 of the Evaluation may total the emissions in Table 5 (Evaluation, at 9). Howekamp. Taking just CO, for example, the total for all of the limitations that appear in tables beginning on page 36 of the Evaluation for CO amounts to 89.2215 tons (compared to the 89.24 figure in Table 5). Howekamp; see Exhibit 2, prepared by Howekamp. However, the Air District has not actually documented the relationship between Table 5 and the criteria pollutant emissions. Howekamp.

[20] The District intends most applications to be processed promptly, within a matter of months, not years. MOP, Vol. II, pt. 2, at 2-3.

[21] BAAQMD Regulation 2-6-422 to 2-6-433; MOP, Vol. II, pt. 3, at 3-10 – 3-12.

[22] MOP, Vol. II, pt. 2, at 2-5.

[23] Id.

[24] Specifically, Form P-101C (Application for SMOP) has specific instructions for confidential information and requires the responsible official to acknowledge the District’s procedures governing such information. The instruction is as follows:

IMPORTANT: Under the California Public Records Act, all information in your permit application will be considered a matter of public record and may be disclosed to a third party. If you wish to keep certain items separate as specified in Regulation 2, Rule 1, Section 402.7, please complete the following steps:

(a) Make a copy of your permit application with the confidential information blanked out. Label this copy “Public Copy”.
(b) Label the original copy “Confidential.” Circle all confidential items on each page. Label each page with confidential information “Confidential”.
(c) Prepare a written justification for the confidentiality of each confidential item. Append this to the confidential copy.

BAAQMD, Form P-101C, at 2.

In addition, BAAQMD Regulation 2-1-129 requires every exempt source be included in any application for a SMOP. If an application is from more than a decade ago, the District and the public cannot be assured that all of the source identification is current.

[25] Condition 1b and 1c, Evaluation, at 21.

[26] Howekamp.

[27] Howekamp.

[28] Evaluation, at 5.

[29] In 2006, Pacific Steel’s Vice President of Operations stated in his declaration:

Pacific Steel is a jobbing foundry, meaning that Pacific Steel produces steel castings pursuant to customer specifications, which therefore requires Pacific Steel to produce many varied types, sizes, weights and configuration of castings. . . . As a jobbing foundry, Pacific Steel’s castings will on any given day vary considerably as to the type of casting.

Pacific Steel is able to produce 80 different alloys of steel.

Declaration of Joe Emmerichs submitted in Communities for a Better Environment v. Pacific Steel Casting Company, Case No. C 06-4184 BZ (Aug. 30, 2006).

[30] Evaluation, at 4.

[31] National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Iron and Steel Foundries, 69 Fed. Reg. 21905, 21913 (April 22, 2004).

[32] Howekamp.

[33] Howekamp.

[34] The Avogadro Group, LLC, Source Test Protocol, 2005 Emissions Source Tests, for Submittal to Bay Area Air Quality Management District, prepared by Erick M. Mirabella (Nov. 9, 2009).

[35] The Facility Search Tool is available at https://www.arb.ca.gov/ei/disclaim.htm. Plant 2 appears to have been renamed with a Facility ID number 22605 (formerly 703).

[36] Id. In 2014, ROG emissions are reported as zero from all three plants. Id. The Alliance and Berkeley Citizen are not aware of any reasons for this change from information reported for previous years.

[37] Howekamp.

[38] Beginning at page 27, the Evaluation includes Source Test Requirements for criteria pollutants PM10 and CO, as well as the “full set of metals” covered by the permit. For example, Condition 33 states that, “[n]o later than 120 days from the issuance of this SMOP or the date a source . . . begins operating . . . , the owner/operator of the facility shall conduct District approved PM10 source tests at each Baghouse . . . to determine initial compliance with the emissions limits in Parts 1 and 2.” Evaluation, at 27.

Note: Where this comment refers to “Conditions,” we mean to refer to the numbered paragraphs beginning on page 21 of the Evaluation. The District may refer to these as “Parts.”

[39] Howekamp.

[40] Howekamp; see also Comments of Matt Haber on Proposed SMOP (Sept. 9, 2016) [“Haber”], 3-4 (concerning CO data gathering).

[41] Evaluation, at 29.

[42] See Yuhuang, at 18.

[43] Evaluation, at 13-14.

[44] Howekamp.

[45] Evaluation, at 12.

[46] Evaluation, at 8.

[47] Haber, at 1-3; Howekamp.

[48] Haber, at 1; Howekamp.

[49] Haber, at 1; Howekamp.

[50] Haber, at 2; Howekamp.

[51] Evaluation, at 12; Howekamp.

[52] Evaluation, at 26.

[53] Berkeley Citizen hosts a website that shows pictures of the facility, some of which show the open vents and doors. See http://www.berkeleycitizen.org/photo/album10/index.html.

[54] See, e.g., Building Science Corporation, Pressure in Buildings, https://buildingscience.com/documents/digests/bsd-109-pressures-in-building.

[55] See Haber, at 2.

[56] See also Haber, at 4.

[57] Id.

[58] Evaluation, at 24.

[59] Evaluation, at 4.

[60] The estimated PTE for Plant 3 at page 9, Table 4 in the Evaluation was apparently calculated “[u]sing District records of the maximum design capacities of individual PSC sources as well as requested maximum annual throughputs.” Evaluation, at 8. Therefore, the estimated PTE in Table 4 does not represent the PTE unlimited by operational constraints. For PSD purposes, emissions increases are calculated based on a “potential” to emit, not on “requested maximum annual throughputs.” E.g., BAAQMD Regulation 2-2-603. For the purposes of these comments, the Clinic has not determined the applicable State Implementation Provisions in effect in 1981 or at the time Plant 3 would have needed a PSD permit.

[61] See also Haber, at 3.

[62] See section VI below.

[63] See section II above.

[64] Evaluation, at 11.

[65] Id.

[66] See Cal. Govt. Code § 6254.7; 42 U.S.C. § 7414(c); BAAQMD Form P-101B.

[67] Govt. Code § 6254.7(a)

[68] Govt. Code § 6254.7(e)

[69] 42 U.S.C. § 7414

[70] Disclosure of Emissions Data Claimed as Confidential Under Section 110 and 114(c) of the Clean Air Act, 56 Fed. Reg. 7042, 7042 (1991).

[71] BAAQMD Regulation 2-1-402.7

[72] See Exhibit 3.

[73] Consent Decree, Communities for a Better Environment v. Pacific Steel Casting, Co., Case No. C 06 4184 BZ (Mar. 16, 2007) (attached as Exhibit 4).

[74] Id. at 4-5 (“Injunctive Relief – Scrap Metal Selection and Inspection”) and Exhibits A and B.

[75] Evaluation, at 5-7.

[76] Howekamp.

[77] MOP, Vol. II, pt. 2, at 2-3 (“If a source is operated without a valid permit, the District will collect retroactive fees for the period of operation (the fees that would have been paid if the source had been properly permitted), plus penalty fees to provide disincentive for illegal operations. This policy is designed to be fair to facilities that properly obtain permits.”).

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