Sometimes when the Bay scores a big win, you might not be aware of it. There's not a fireworks show or a victory parade. Most often, the developer with a bad proposal or the industrial company with a harmful expansion plan just doesn't get that last permit approved. Their bad idea is rejected and fades away, and the polluter moves on to another plan.
That's exactly what went down with Phillips 66.
Last year, the oil refinery applied to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for permits to expand its marine terminal so it could accept more tar sands oil. Then earlier this year, Phillips 66 announced that it intended to stop refining crude oil at its Rodeo facility entirely, and switch to making renewable diesel instead. But it still wanted to expand the marine terminal, just in case some cheap tar sands oil from Canada became available.
Tar sands crude is heavy and sinks, making it impossible to clean up with any existing technologies—and that means it could be disastrous for wildlife and Bay Area communities, even years after a spill. More oil tankers carrying this heavy oil through the Golden Gate is a colossally bad plan for the Bay.
So the Air District, perhaps recognizing that Phillips 66 was dealing double, deep-sixed the refinery's proposal. If it's the company's goal to transition away from refining fossil fuels in Rodeo, then their tar sands expansion plan is unnecessary.
Baykeeper had vigorously opposed Phillips 66’s plan to refine more tar sands crude, and even co-authored a new state law that makes it harder to transport non-floating oils on the Bay. The agency’s permit denial was a win to celebrate – but it came and went without fanfare.
And there aren’t many details available on Phillips 66’s new plans. What feedstock will the refinery use to make the alternate fuel? How will it be transported? What will happen if it spills into the Bay? And can Phillips 66 support its workers to make a just transition from dirty fuels to what—we hope—will be a clean energy future?
Baykeeper will be keeping an eye on Phillips 66. And we’ll let you know if they have another bad idea for the Bay that needs to go away.
Photo of an oil tanker under the Richmond Bridge, leaving the Bay, by Daniel Parks, Flickr/CC