A sign is seen in front of the Exxonmobil Baton Rouge Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Celano More HOUSTON (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil has reached an agreement with California state regulators to restart a gasoline unit at its Torrance refinery in Los Angeles that went out of service in February 2015 following an explosion. The agreement with California's South Coast Air Quality Management Board will also require Exxon to pay $5 million in penalties for air pollution and violations that may occur during the unit startup.
News Article | April 4, 2016
Mexico City has found a way to tackle with the escalating problem of smog and air pollution: a stricter car ban from April 5 to June 30. However, past studies and policies have shown that it might not work. In the city of 20 million, considered one of the worst polluted in the world by the United Nations, the previous measure is to ban vehicles on the road on certain days of the week, unless they present an exempt sticker, which shows the car has undergone testing for smog and obtained a low emission score. The new car ban, announced by the country’s environmental commission, covers even sticker-carrying vehicles once a week and a Saturday every month. It will prevail until late June or the start of the rainy season. Added measures include policy changes that will potentially lower the maximum pollution level, as air contaminants are believed to continue accumulating during the dry season. However, is the new “no circulation” policy limiting the number of cars on the road bound to work or fail? Mexico City has implemented similar laws in place since the 1980s, all deemed by experts as a failure. Moreover, previous studies have already taken a look at why ordering cars off the road are not guaranteed to work. Lucas Davis, an energy researcher at the University of California Berkeley who has analyzed the city’s similar attempts in the past, found that these programs actually increased air pollution in the long term. One reason is the hassle factor: people are forced to take public transportation more often, which is slow, inconvenient, and a not-so-tempting prospect given the city buses’ reputation of being dangerous. So what they do is to find other ways to ride cars: investing in second family cars with a different license plate number, taking taxis, or booking an Uber or Lyft service. “I just think that once people become drivers in Mexico City they don’t go back,” says Davis. He adds that the inconvenience could reach more than $300 million a year or $130 for every vehicle owner. While the current “no circulation” rule, too, addressed some loopholes in preceding ones through technology, the city has to get to a point where it is politically ready, added Davis. Just two weeks ago, Mexico City announced emergency ozone status after it suffered the highest air pollution levels since the 1980s. The World Air Quality Index has also identified parts of the city with unhealthy air quality, which can lead to health consequences comprising a range of respiratory conditions. In 2010, studies highlighted savings of more than $760 million annually through slashing pollution by a mere 10 percent. These gains include preventing about 33,000 emergency room cases due to respiratory disease.
"A California utility failed to protect residents from the largest methane leak in state history at its natural gas field near Los Angeles, a regional pollution watchdog said in a lawsuit filed against the company. The suit, filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, seeks penalties against Southern California Gas Co of up to $250,000 a day for each of six pollution-related health and safety code violations. The stench of odorized methane fumes has sickened scores of people since the leak began on Oct. 23 and has forced the utility to temporarily move residents and their belongings from more than 7,700 homes in the Porter Ranch community of northern Los Angeles at the edge of the leaking gas storage field."
A gas company sign marks a fence near the site of the Aliso Canyon storage field where gas has been leaking in Porter Ranch, California, United States, January 21, 2016. A man cycles wearing a face mask near the site of the Aliso Canyon storage field where gas has been leaking in Porter Ranch, California, United States, January 21, 2016. Homes are seen in Porter Ranch near the site of the Aliso Canyon storage field where gas has been leaking in Porter Ranch, California, United States, January 21, 2016. The natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon, just outside the Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch, began on Oct. 23 and ranks as the worst ever in California. Odorized methane fumes sickened scores of people and led to the temporary relocation of thousands of residents from the northern Los Angeles community near the leaking storage field in Aliso Canyon. The 4-1 vote on Saturday by a hearing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), a regional agency, stopped short of requiring the utility to extract more gas from the crippled field than it already had pledged to siphon out, under orders from state officials. Gas extraction is designed to ease pressure on the ruptured wellhead and slow the leak. Lawyers from Southern California Gas Co, the owner of the facility, told the AQMD hearing board any requirement from them could not conflict with the orders from the state Public Utilities Commission and Governor Jerry Brown. "We're going to comply with the law, we are going to do what they've asked us to do," Robert Wyman, a lawyer for SoCalGas, told the AQMD regulators at the meeting in Los Angeles. After that, the board members required the utility to underwrite an independent study on the effects of the leak on local residents and imposed additional monitoring and reporting requirements on the utility. "We may decide in the future to take additional steps but that's no reason not to take these steps now," said David Holtzman, one member of the board who voted for the order. Los Angeles County health officials, who note that Porter Ranch residents have complained of such ailments as headaches and respiratory irrigation from an odorant in natural gas, have said past studies found only short-term health effects from the odorant. But they said continued health monitoring is needed. Even so, disgruntled residents have demanded the 3,600-acre (1,457-hectare) facility, where surplus gas is pumped underground and stored until needed, be shut down altogether. Many community members among the 300 attendees at the meeting at a Los Angeles hotel expressed displeasure at the limited scope of the AQMD's action. Some held up small signs that read "Shut it ALL down." After Wyman, the SoCalGas attorney, addressed the AQMD hearing board, spectators sighed loudly and many of them left the meeting. Tim O'Connor, director of California oil and gas for the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, said the AQMD was limited by an overlap of various government agencies. SoCal Gas, a division of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, projects it may take until late February to plug the rupture through a relief well that engineers began drilling in December.
News Article | March 16, 2016
Researchers in the United Kingdom are studying how smog and other pollutants in the air are spread throughout London through the use of small sensors placed on the backs of pigeons. Air pollution continues to be one of the biggest health threats to people in the UK, with the level of contaminants in the air around the country's capital already breaching annual limits in just the first week of this year. In order to monitor the quality of London air more closely, French tech company Plume Labs, together with marketing consultancy firm DigitasLBI, launched a new program called the Pigeon Air Patrol, which is designed to measure the amount of air pollution in the city. Scientists from the company released 10 pigeons that were fitted with 25-gram (0.88-ounce) backpacks that can detect levels of nitrogen dioxide often produced by cars, buses and trucks. The birds are set to fly around the city from Mar. 14 to Mar. 16 to get a reading on the current state of air pollution. Plume Labs CEO Romain Lacombe said that about 10,000 Londoners die every year because of the negative effects of air pollution on people's health. He pointed out that fitting pigeons with air sensors not only helps raise public awareness regarding the air pollution in London, but it also serves to give people a fast and easy way to access more information about the impact of breathing poor quality air. DigitasLBI creative director Pierre Duquesnoy explained that he took the inspiration of using pigeons to gather information from a similar technique used by soldiers during the first and second world wars. He said that the birds fly at an altitude of about 100 to 150 feet at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour, making them ideal for getting a reading of air pollution in London without having to contend with the city's congested roads. How To Get An Air Quality Reading People can monitor the level of air pollution in London through Pigeon Air Patrol's website. They can also ask for a reading from the sensors on the pigeons' backs by tweeting @PigeonAir. While Pigeon Air Patrol is only scheduled to last for three days, the project of measuring air pollution in the city will be continued through another initiative known as E-Plume. About 100 people will pick up where the pigeons will leave off and wear similar air quality sensors while they go around the city. Readings from these human-worn sensors will then be analyzed and interpreted by researchers at Imperial College London.