Because it seemed like Chevron flaring events were on an increasing trajectory, I made an inquiry to Supervisor John Gioia because Contra Costs County Health Services Hazardous Materials Programs Notification is responsible for the notices shown below, and Supervisor Gioia also represents Richmond on the BAAQMD Board.
Good afternoon Supervisor Gioia,
The Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Programs Notification Policy was updated and approved by the Board of Supervisors on January 11, 2022. The changes to the policy went into effect March 14, 2022.
The revision essentially required all flaring incidents at refineries to be reported to the County. The previous policy only required notification to the County for “excessive flaring”. (Consequently, each refinery had a different definition for “excessive flaring”; and therefore, the policy was not being consistently implemented by all refineries in the same manner.)
As a result of this change, the County has seen an increase in notifications for flaring at refineries. That said, there has not been a flaring incident since revising the policy that has resulted in an off-site health consequence.
The purpose of the notifications is for several reasons including:
1. The refineries are required by State laws/regulations to notify the local Unified Program Agency (Contra Costa Health Services) when there is a release, or threatened release, of a hazardous material. Most flaring incidents meet this definition. In Contra Costa County, these notifications from refineries go through the Community Warning System system.
2. Contra Costa Health Services and the County Health Officer are responsible for issuing any necessary protective actions to the community (shelter-in-place or evacuations) to protect the health of our citizens in the event of a hazardous materials incident. Early/immediate notification of a release allows us to assess the incident and issue any protective actions in a timely manner.
3. Contra Costa Health Services often receives inquiries from the media and/or public during flaring incidents at refineries - due to visibility and/or the presence of odors. Therefore, the County felt it necessary to have awareness of flaring incidents in order to respond to media and/or public inquires.
Lastly, incidents lasting longer than 20 minutes that are visible/audible to the public or result in off-site odors are now posted on the County’s website (cchealth.org/hazmat) during the incident. This is to allow the public to access information regarding a hazardous materials incident that they may see, hear or smell in their community.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Matthew S. Kaufmann, Deputy Director
Contra Costa Health Services
4585 Pacheco Boulevard, Suite 100
Martinez, CA 94553-2233
Office: (925) 655-3235
Fax: (925) 646-2073