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California’s Bay Area is cracking down on refinery pollution

San Francisco is known as the city by the bay, but just across that bay sit two petrochemical refineries that spew harmful particulate matter and contribute to severe lung and heart disease in nearby communities. Fortunately, after years of advocacy by environmental justice groups, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has voted to require the refineries to clean up their act.

Under the new regulations, the Chevron and PBF Energy refineries will both be required to reduce emissions by 70 percent within five years. Given that these two refineries are responsible for 11 percent of all particulate emissions governed by the district, this is a big improvement.

These emissions reductions will be achieved by installing wet gas scrubbers, mechanisms that work to remove particulate matter from the waste stream of the refinery production process.

This new policy primarily benefits the communities of Richmond and Martinez, whose residents are largely Black, Hispanic, and Asian. The corresponding health benefits are estimated to be between $26 million and $59 million in reduced illness and premature death. Amanda Millstein, a pediatrician in Richmond, tells Grist, the new rules will help address rampant childhood asthma in the region.

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