Thurs. 9/12: Sneaky “gut & amend” to AB 1299 – a bill about emergency services becomes a hall pass for an oil refinery.

Action – Call your state senator to vote “NO” on AB 1299

AB 1299 used to be a bill about the CA Emergency Services Act. However, all that has been crossed out and replaced with a cuckoo bird egg from the oil industry.

This bill was created to allow a specific Kern County refinery, Kern Oil, located next door to a neighborhood of about 1,000 people who are 70% Latino, and 1/3 children, escape monitoring the normal side effects of their product – hazardous and toxic air pollutants such as BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene) (See Senate environmental analysis here).

Residents in the Kern Co. area already breathe some of the most polluted air in the nation, thanks to a confluence of vehicle exhaust, industrial operations, and stagnant valley air. In 2016, they sued the EPA over permit issues affecting pollution for a neighboring refinery and in January this year, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted against a plan to allow tanker cars to deliver Bakken crude oil to that same refinery, due to air pollution and safety issues.

These people are fighting for their right to clean air. We stand with them.

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want state senator [___] to vote “NO” on AB 1299.

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (SD-19)SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940, email
Not your people?:


Existing law authorizes the State Air Resources Board or the air district to require the owner or the operator of an air pollution emission source to take any action that the state board or the air district determines to be reasonable for the determination of the amount of air pollution emissions from that source.

A new bill, AB 1647, requires that large refineries that process between 85,000 and 269,000 barrels of oil a day, install a community air monitoring system, with an exemption for smaller refineries with maximum capacities under 40,000 a day. AB 1299 would make AB 1647’s exemption from refinery-related community air monitoring system its own law, redefining “petroleum refinery” to exclude facilities with capacities under 55,000 barrels per day  and within 1 mile of communities under 3,000 residents.

Proponents state that the barrel limitations would limit the scope of this exemption to the Kern refinery, but legislative staff has been unable, due to time constraints, to  verify that claim. We think that there might be more, according to this chart from the CA Energy Commission.

oil stats.jpeg

Excerpts from the Senate’s Environmental report:

  • The Federal Clean Air Act (FCAA)
  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
  • Air Resources Board (ARB)

Kern Oil provides 100% of the gasoline and 87% of the diesel to the southern San Joaquin Valley. The refinery co-processes and blends various biofuels in with their fossil fuel production process in order to reduce the associated carbon footprint. According to, Kern Oil’s profits are in the range of $10 to $25 million annually.

The proponents of this bill have estimated that the upfront costs to establish the systems required under AB 1647 would cost at least $2.6 million, which they claim is untenable for a refinery of their size.

Kern Oil is located within the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), which has not attained NAAQS for ozone and PM2.5 pollutants. According to SJVAPCD’s website, 6% of the district’s volatile organic compound emissions (one of the constituent chemicals of ground-level ozone, or smog) come from petroleum production and marketing.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “Petroleum refineries are a major source of hazardous and toxic air pollutants such as BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene). They are also a major source of criteria air pollutants: particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Refineries also release less toxic hydrocarbons such as natural gas (methane) and other light volatile fuels and oils.”

According to a March 2019 report from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), done in collaboration with ARB and the California EPA’s Interagency Refinery Task Force, there were 188 chemicals identified as being emitted from California refineries at various levels. Of those, 18 were designated as candidates for air monitoring: acetaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, cadmium, diethanolamine, formaldehyde, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen sulfide, manganese, naphthalene, nickel, nitrogen oxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and toluene. OEHHA stated that, “…the release of these chemicals from refineries does not necessarily mean that local communities face substantial exposures or significant health risks. However, it does increase their likelihood of exposure. Air monitoring of these chemicals may inform decisions that could reduce exposures.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s