Thursday, July 21, 2005

Refineries face new rules in Bay Area

Refineries in the San Francisco Bay area are facing new rules for burn-offs.

In a decision praised by environmentalists and labor unions, Bay Area air quality officials imposed the toughest regulations in the nation Wednesday to reduce flaring at the East Bay's five oil refineries.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District board of directors overwhelmingly approved a plan that requires refineries to minimize routine flaring, which can release a toxic brew of gases and chemicals that critics say cause health problems and increase air pollution.

"I think it's really noteworthy that we're taking this leadership position on a very complicated issue and are going to provide not only cleaner air but better health protection,'' said district spokeswoman Teresa Lee. "We are going to show in the Bay Area that it can be done efficiently and effectively.''

Other areas in the nation where refineries are located, including Southern California, may follow the groundbreaking plan, Lee said.