BY RON STEIN:

I can’t for the life of me figure out what beef the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has against local businesses and blue collar pocketbooks.  It’s like the Hatfields vs the McCoys vs the McCoys. At every turn of the stone the District is taking potshots at industries moseying down the road minding their businesses by the codes the District established.  Then the agency changes those rules.

The recent threat by President Trump to close the borders got the attention of all 40 million residents of the state as that closure would have temporarily increased the cost of their guacamole! Most of the residents are unaware of the efforts of the SCAQMD that would permanently, not just temporarily, increase the costs of their fuels statewide and hit the blue collar workers pocketbooks for the foreseeable future as the SCAQMD has proposed an option that would ban a critical refinery processing technology currently used at two southern California refineries to manufacture cleaner burning gasoline that the District previously supported – MHF.

Via Proposed Rule 1410 the agency is planning to develop a regulation by May 2019 that would better mitigate the risk from, or possibly phase out, the use of MHF.  MHF is a modified form of HF – hydrofluoric acid. This modified formula is the latest advance in catalyst technology that enhances worker and community safety. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the downstream-energy-refining-sector has reduced injuries for over 20 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics charts show that the petroleum-refining sector of health and safety is one of the safest industries to work in. According to the BLS, it’s safer to work in a refinery than an office building!

HF or MHF technology is currently in use at 50 U.S. refineries.  Banning the District previously supported technology in California would negatively affect all 40 million residents economically and environmentally.  According to the California Energy Commission (CEC), this would result in permanent spikes in fuel costs and higher GHG emissions.  The unintended consequences of importing aviation, diesel, and gasoline fuels from other countries or states with less stringent environmental regulations seems counterproductive in that the SCAQMD’s main objective is to preserve the air quality of the region and this new proposal would do quite the opposite.

In addition to the fifty U.S. refineries currently using HF or MHF in their alkylation units:

  • HF has been used in manufacturing since the 1700’s – which is over 250 years.
  • HF alkylation has been used in California refineries since 1966.
  • Today, the refining industry makes up less than two percent of HF use.
  • Many major industries in southern California and across the country use HF to create common consumer products like computers, televisions, cell phones, medicines, refrigerants, and countless other items we use every day.

California imports over 57% of its oil needed to support its infrastructure. The current price California pays to foreign countries for imported oil is 60 million dollars a day.  You can say, bye-bye to that number in the rear-view mirror if SCAQMD makes the changes to MHF technology it is proposing which will effectively shut down the two major refineries in Southern California while they retool or possibly decide the expense is beyond recapitulation and elect to close down permanently.

What is majorly important here is there are inadequate storage facilities to manage importing fuels for aviation, trucks, and cars at the increased level a phase-out would require.

If the SCAQMD’s actions result in the shutdown of the PBF and Valero refineries, the economic impact would be devastating to the State.  Banning MHF at the two refineries would:

  • Eliminate 30% of the jet fuel supply for the Los Angeles International Airport.
  • Eliminate more than 75% of the marine diesel fuel for ships at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
  • Eliminate 30% of Southern California’s gasoline supply.
  • Raise the costs of thousands of products made from petroleum materials used by every infrastructure in Southern California.

Not only does this affect California but it sets up the world for more emissions, and greater costs across the board for blue collar workers.  Sulfuric acid process, the alternative to MHF, brings increased emissions and with it, acid trucks driving through communities and across our highways. Good luck getting CEQA to permit increased emissions and any uptick in the truck traffic they’ve spent decades trying to eliminate.

Californians already pay almost $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country due to a) the state sales tax per gallon which are some of the highest in the country; b) refinery reformatting costs per gallon; c) cap and trade program compliance costs per gallon; d) low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs per gallon; and e) renewable fuels standard program compliance costs per gallon.

If the SCAQMD wanted to win its ongoing feud with southern California’s businesses and blue-collar wallets, this would undoubtedly do it.  The South Coast Air Quality Management District needs to look at the entirety of their proposal and the financial impact it would have on all residents of the state.  Upon review they will find the current way is the safest, most efficient and cost effective alternative available. If it ain’t broke…

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