It's been just over a year now since the Portland Press Herald broke the news about Global Partners' years-long violation of the Clean Air Act. The consent decree finalized this winter was seen by many as a slap on the wrist. This is an update on an urgent matter that is important for the public to understand. At the end is a request for action you can take.
This whole case was set in motion when the Obama administration started clamping down on some of the worst violators by requiring actual air quality testing to be done. Historically, the industry has relied on a mathematical formula created by the American Petroleum Institute to estimate a facility's capacity to emit. Tank farm operators report their estimated emissions to regulators themselves, with no actual testing performed. We see this as "the fox guarding the hen-house."
A lot has happened since a year ago. Residents have expressed outrage through city council workshops and comments submitted through the consent decree process. The Maine DEP began ambient air testing. The city created the Clean Air Advisory Committee and State lawmakers have passed two bills related to oversight of the tank farms.
Now the Maine DEP is considering Global's application for a license revision, as required by the consent decree. The company is applying for a minor license revision that would still exempt them from the more stringent requirements of major emitters. The consent decree outlined a really unusual provision that we've struggled to understand. It set "limits" on how much product Global is allowed to move through its facility. Those new throughput "limits" are 5X higher than what the company currently processes. We couldn't understand why, or why such a change wouldn't result in them being classified as a major emitter. No one at the DEP was able to explain.
Now we know. Trump has been true to his vow to deregulate the fossil fuel industry and his actions are affecting us here in South Portland. Here's how.
The American Petroleum Institute has rewritten the mathematical formula to estimate potential emissions of the oil tanks. The new formula took effect late last year. Using the old formula, Global self-reported emissions of 18.65 Tons of VOCs/year in 2017. The two prior years were higher. Global has retroactively applied the new formula to its 2018 emissions. The company is now reporting total VOCs for that year as 4.81 T/year. We know of no significant change in operations that could account for such a significant drop in emissions.
Global is licensed to emit up to 21.9 T/year under a license that expires in 2023. Global does not address the revised formula in its license update. But it does include the throughput "limits" outlined in the consent decree. If approved, the license update would allow Global to dramatically increase its business by 500% without violating its license emissions threshold. An increase in business, means an increase in toxic emissions.
The coronavirus pandemic we are facing is most dangerous for people with compromised health, including asthma and heart disease. The Trump administration is using the crisis as cover to continue the president's stated mission of gutting environmental regulations, including the Clean Air Act which is meant to protect our communities from toxins in our air.
We are calling on the Maine DEP to step up and require Global, as part of it’s response to its EPA violation, to pay for installation of 24/7 infrared fenceline monitoring with real-time public reporting. Air monitoring is the only thing that will provide the transparency and accountability we need. It is the only way we see to counter the fuzzy math the oil industry uses to get its way. We deserve to know what toxic emissions are in the air we breathe. We need monitoring and we need it now!
Federal and state regulators are supposed to insure that industry conducts its business responsibly. Members of the oil industry operating in South Portland cannot be allowed to continue to profit at the expense of the health and well-being of our community.
The industry is tinkering with the math. Regulators, thus far, are looking the other way. The public needs to know that deregulation of the oil industry is taking place right here, right now, at a time when the stakes are especially high for our most vulnerable neighbors.
The Maine DEP is accepting public comments right now on their review of Global's permit. We urge you to ask the DEP to require Global Partners to pay for 24/7 infrared fenceline monitoring with real-time public reporting. It is helpful to personalize your comments.
Written comments may be sent to: Air-Global.DEP@maine.gov
Thank you and we hope you will stay safe & keep well during this difficult time.
Coming together as community,
Protect South Portland