Valero Seeks Permit to Increase Hydrogen Cyanide Emission in Vulnerable Communities – TCEQ documents

BY YVETTE ARELLANO · JUNE 4, 2018


CALL TO ACTION

Attend the Valero Refinery Public Meeting 6/4/18 at 7pm Hartman Park Community Center

We are providing a direct link to the page to submit comments to TCEQ at the link below

HTTPS://BIT.LY/2LZ37W3

DEADLINE TODAY by the end of the public meeting that starts at 7pm

What is Valero asking for?

It wants changes to its permit that would let it emit toxic air pollution without adequate protections for public health and safety. The proposed amendment would allow Valero to emit over 512 tons per year of hydrogen cyanide and remove permit conditions requiring Valero to document benzene reductions. A 2017 stack test shows that this Valero refinery can get its emissions down below 50 tons of hydrogen cyanide per year and it should be able to reduce them even more – but the state is still proposing to let it release over 10 times more than that. If permitted at this rate, Valero’s hydrogen cyanide emissions would account for 60% of total hydrogen cyanide emissions reported from facilities in Texas.


What is hydrogen cyanide?

Hydrogen cyanide is a hazardous air pollutant. Historically, it has been used as a chemical warfare agent. Hydrogen cyanide is known to cause short- and long-term harm to human health.  For example, it can harm the nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, and the reproductive system, including harm to the developing fetus.


What does the TCEQ think about this permit amendment?

The TCEQ Executive Director has preliminarily approved this amendment. The TCEQ Toxicology Division develops short- and long-term health-based environmental screening levels (“ESLs”) that it uses to assess harm to public health. Valero’s hydrogen cyanide emissions will exceed the short-term ESL by 3 times and the long-term ESL by 2.4 times. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a reference concentration level for hydrogen cyanide to prevent harm to the endocrine system from inhalation exposure – this level is much lower (0.0008 µg/m3) than the TCEQ long-term ESL, of 2.0 µg/m3.


What can I do?

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is encouraging the public to share their concerns and comments about the proposed amendment to Valero Refining-Texas, L.P. Air Quality Permit No. 2501A. A public meeting will be held at Hartman Park Community Center at 7pm on Monday, June 4, 2018. The public meeting will begin with an informal question and answer session where the public may ask Valero and TCEQ staff questions about the application. During the second part of the meeting, the public may offer formal concerns and comments on record.  Public comments may also be submitted online at http://www14.tceq.texas.gov/epic/eComment/. Type “2501A” in the Permit Number box, click next, then click on the permit number in the second row. You will be taken to an online form where you can type in your comment and attach files.

What will happen after the public meeting?

The TCEQ Executive Director will have to consider and respond to public comments received and identify any changes the Executive Director made in response to comments. Commenters who provide a mailing address will receive a copy of the response. TEJAS and the community can then decide if there is any follow-up action that may be helpful to take to protect public health.

Important information:

  • Comments in Spanish may be submitted.

  • Your status in this country does not matter. In previous permitting matters, the TCEQ has stated that it does not and would not retaliate against any person voicing any environmental concern. If you do not feel comfortable attending in person, you may send someone else to read a comment on your behalf or submit a comment to [Yvette?] and ask that someone read it into the record.

  • To determine compliance ratings, the TCEQ only considers its own enforcement processes – meaning, complaints made to the Harris County Sheriff and the Harris County Pollution Control Services Department will not affect Valero’s TCEQ compliance rating. Environmental complaints to the TCEQ may be submitted online at https://www.tceq.texas.gov/compliance/complaints and over the phone at 1-888-777-3186 (only accepts voicemails). EPA also takes complaints at this link: https://echo.epa.gov/report-environmental-violations. If you are concerned about toxic releases from Valero or other nearby refineries, please share with TEJAS.

SUMMARY OF CONCERNS TEJAS HAS REGARDING THE PROPOSED PERMIT AMENDMENT


The permit limit for hydrogen cyanide is far too high.  TCEQ admits that it is higher than its own ESLs.  Allowing these emissions is likely to cause additional harm to the community.  TCEQ hasn’t provided any valid basis for letting Valero emit over 500 tons per year of hydrogen cyanide.


The community is already exposed to too much toxic air pollution from Valero and other sources.  TCEQ should be reducing not allowing Valero to emit however much hydrogen cyanide and benzene it wants to emit.

The community is going into yet a new hurricane season and TCEQ should be strengthening prevention to avoid toxic releases of hydrogen cyanide, benzene, and other dangerous chemicals, not allowing more emissions.  The community wants to know what action TCEQ is taking now to reduce and prevent releases as the next hurricane season is now beginning. 


The proposed permit amendment does not appear to require Valero to take any precautions to avoid releases during or after hurricanes, even though it is foreseeable that it will likely face storms very soon.  TCEQ should not finalize the permit without adding more requirements for Valero to monitor and prevent releases during and after hurricane season, and to require additional corrective actions to be taken to protect the community during these storms, and after a release of hydrogen cyanide, benzene, other chemicals occurs.


TCEQ’s proposed amendment does not ensure sufficient reporting and monitoring.  The community has a need and a right to know what Valero is emitting.  TCEQ cannot permit emissions without requiring sufficient monitoring and reporting to assure compliance.


TCEQ hasn’t provided sufficient notice for the public.  It’s unfair to give only 2 weeks’ notice for a hearing and unlawful, as this permit must ultimately meet Title V requirements and TCEQ has failed to do so.  TCEQ didn’t provide notice in Spanish when it is well aware that bilingual notice is essential to ensure a meaningful chance for the community to participate.  TCEQ is not fulfilling the letter or principle of environmental justice in this process.

TCEQ hasn’t shown how it has the necessary legal authority or evidence to issue the proposed amended permit.


The Clean Air Act and Texas regulations do not allow TCEQ to push through a permit amendment like this without ensuring that it meets all applicable requirements and will protect public health.


The community needs to have adequate time to review and comment on this permit and on the upcoming Title V permit renewal.  TCEQ should provide a briefing to the community regarding that renewal, so community members can get on the list to receive information regarding the renewal, and so they can prepare to comment when the renewal is released for public comment.

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