A series of rail terminals proposed by California’s biggest oil refiners could dramatically increase the supply of crude oil from the Canadian tar sands into the state, potentially posing major health hazards to local communities.
In recent weeks, Valero, Tesoro, and Phillips 66 have all announced plans to build rail facilities that could eventually bring as much as 286,000 barrels of dirty oil per day from the Canadian tar sands into California refineries – roughly five 100-car trains full of oil every day.
In the absence of statewide regulations for hydraulic fracturing, Southern California air-quality officials have enacted their own reporting rules for the controversial extraction process driving the country’s oil and gas boom.
On Friday, the governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted a rulethat requires oil companies to notify the air agency 10 days to 24 hours before beginning drilling operations, including “fracking,” which involves injecting large volumes of chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground to break apart rock and release oil.
Oil refiners are sending greater amounts of an especially dirty crude oil product called “tar sands” to their Southern California refineries.
Now environmental groups want regulators to take a closer look
Tar sands hold a kind of semi-solid petroleum. To refine it enough for California standards takes more processing. Oil companies – including Valero, Tesoro and Conoco Phillips – say they’re bringing in more of this raw material because liquid petroleum in California is drying up.
We will need fossil fuels like oil and gas for the foreseeable future. So there’s really little choice (sigh). We have to press ahead with fracking for natural gas. We must approve the Keystone XL pipeline to get Canadian oil.
This mantra, repeated on TV ads and in political debates, is punctuated with a tinge of inevitability and regret. But, increasingly, scientific research and the experience of other countries should prompt us to ask: To what extent will we really “need” fossil fuel in the years to come? To what extent is it a choice?
SAN ANTONIO–Valero Energy Corp. VLO -4.27% won’t try to sell its two California refineries but will instead attempt to bring in low-priced, domestically produced crude to make them more profitable, the company’s chief executive said.
Last year, Valero was said to be trying to sell its 170,000 barrels-a-day Benicia refinery outside San Francisco and its 78,000 barrels-a-day Wilmington refinery outside Los Angeles as refiners in the state were preparing to deal with the impact of stringent emissions laws.