Decision favors communities, environmental groups in challenge against Valley air district re oil terminal permitting violation

On Jun. 23, 2017 a decision was rendered by the California Court of Appeal for the 5th District, whereby the court ruled in favor of a coalition of community and environmental groups who sued the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the legal action stemming from environmental concerns related to the expansion of a Kern County-based crude oil operation. The ruling for the lawsuit plaintiffs, as it happens, is a huge victory.

Background

From an earlier report:

“‘Community and environmental groups filed suit … over the expansion—orchestrated mostly in secret—of a crude oil operation in Kern County that could lead to a 1,000 percent increase in the amount of crude imported by rail into California each year,’ reported Earthjustice in the ‘Groups Sue to Stop Daily 100-Car Train Deliveries of Toxic Crude Oil to Bakersfield Terminal: Coalition sues over illegal permitting of major crude-by-rail project in Central Valley,’ press release.”

Unit train of oil tank cars

Further and from the same post there is also this: “‘The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited the Bakersfield Crude Terminal for 10 violations of the Clean Air Act, declaring the California crude-by-rail facility a major air pollution source that should have been subjected to rigorous environmental review during the permitting process. The federal agency found that the terminal’s permit is invalid and that the facility lacks required pollution controls and emissions offsets, and that it is in violation of the Clean Air Act’s public notice and environmental review requirements.'”

June 27, 2017 announcement

“A lawsuit brought by community and environmental groups concerned about the risks of such a large terminal – and the movement of millions of barrels of oil through their communities – challenged the permitting process, which was conducted largely in secret,” wrote the Center for Biological Diversity in a Jun. 27, 2017 press release.

“A public-records request revealed that Air District officials gave the terminal’s project manager advice about avoiding public noticing and pollution controls. The Air District approved the challenged permits under a ministerial permit that allowed for no public scrutiny,” the Center for Biological Diversity added.

“In addition to the emissions of volatile organic compounds from the offloading of crude oil, the facility endangers Bakersfield and other communities in California by increasing the amount of crude transported by rail through the state. In 2009, 10,000 tank cars transported crude oil in the entire United States. This terminal alone proposed bringing in 73,000 [such] cars a year.”

This issue was first written about here on the Air Quality Matters blog on Feb. 17, 2015 in “Permitting of south Valley oil operation prompts lawsuit.”

According to that post, the oil terminal is actually located nearby to Bakersfield in the community of Taft, both of which are located in Kern County in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

There is more on the court ruling here.

Image above: Elizabeth Forsyth, Earthjustice

Leave a Comment