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Tesoro Refinery Integration Plans Stir More Southern California Air Debates

Tesoro Corp. plans to integrate its two major Southern California refineries are stirring debate about what the proposed $460 million project means to longstanding efforts to curb air pollution throughout the Los Angeles Basin.

On Wednesday, attorneys for the City of Carson, in which one of the two refineries is located, sent a letter to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) outlining local objections to the draft environmental review now being completed by the air quality regulators. The city is alleging the draft environmental impact report (EIR) is incomplete and doesn't address local concerns.

Carson has to provide a conditional use permit for new crude oil tanks that will be built in its jurisdiction, along with right-of-way approvals for new pipelines that are part of the integration project. Otherwise permitting is centered on SCAQMD.

Larger pipelines from the Port of Long Beach to the refinery are included in the project plans, along with a new sulfuric acid regeneration plant to recycle spent sulfuric acid that currently is trucked out of the refinery, eight new storage tanks, a new propane treatment unit, a jet fuel treatment facility, and increased liquefied petroleum (propane) gas rail unloading facilities for added shipments.

SCAQMD is handling the permits to construct, Clean Water Act reviews, permits to operate, soil contamination review and the California Environmental Quality Act review requirements under the EIR process.

A SCAQMD spokesperson told NGI's Shale Dailyon Thursday that there is no current target date for when the certification of the EIR will take place. "It's expected in the coming weeks, though," he said.

A Tesoro spokesperson on Friday said the refiner “remains committed” to the integration project as it continues through the permitting process. “We believe the permitting and review process has been thorough and robust for this project,” she said.

In terms of other permits needed by Tesoro, the SCAQMD spokesperson said that involves the city of Carson and the Alameda (rail) Corridor Transportation Authority overseeing express trucking of goods unloaded at the adjacent Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

The air quality district spokesperson reiterated that the draft EIR is currently being reviewed by the SCAQMD senior management, and the agency typically does not want to make public comments about any project under review.

The spokesperson, Sam Atwood, did tell local news media that emission reductions of some pollutants from Tesoro's project represent only a "small fraction" of total emissions in the area, and any air quality problems will likely remain after the integration of the Carson and Wilmington refineries, which eventually would have a combined capacity of 260,000 b/d.

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