SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 6, 2017— An oil spill reported this week in San Pablo Bay near a Phillips 66 refinery is raising new questions about the company’s plans to dramatically increase the number of ships carrying oil through the bay to the facility. The oil apparently leaked from a pipeline on Monday, creating a 20-by-20-foot sheen on the bay.
The Phillips 66 proposal, currently under review by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), would more than double the number of ships carrying oil through the bay to the marine terminal at the company’s refinery in the town of Rodeo in Contra Costa County.
“Harmful oil spills are becoming all too common for refineries in the Bay Area,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Why would the air district allow Phillips 66 to double the number of oil tankers coming into the bay? The next accident could be bigger and spill dirtier oil, which would spell disaster for our beautiful bay and communities around the refinery.”
A substantial portion of the new imports would consist of tar sands oil, which is dirtier than other oil and sinks in water, making cleanup almost impossible. A 2010 spill of tar sands oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River caused catastrophic damage to the environment and nearby communities.
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The Phillips 66 refinery was also the location of a major spill in September 2016. Fumes from that spill sent more than 100 people to the hospital. The air district issued two public nuisance violations, one to Phillips 66 and one to the operator of an oil tanker, for the incident, which resulted in nearly 1,500 odor complaints in the Vallejo area.
More than 24,000 people have formally expressed opposition to Phillips 66’s plan to increase tanker shipments. The Center and other environmental organizations have submitted detailed comments about the plan’s risks to the air district. Those comments are available here.