Gasoline Terminals

Portland, Oregon has one of the most toxic airsheds in the nation, according to EPA’s National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment.  Pollutants emanating from several giant fuel holding tanks situated directly northwest of the city are one of the many contributors to this problem. These tanks store petroleum products like gasoline, diesel and industrial lubricant oils. They are operated by Chevron, Kinder Morgan, BP, Conoco, Shore Terminals (formerly Exxon Mobil) and Equilon Enterprises (formerly Texaco doing business as Shell). Fuel reaches these tanks via railroad cars, marine vessels and the Olympic pipeline, which is an underground pipeline operated by BP. Environmental reporter Paul Koberstein estimates these tanks leak hundreds of tons of gasoline each year.

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There have been numerous incidents where NW residents have complained of gasoline odors and resulting headaches. For example, in the spring of 2009, NW Portland residents experienced “unburned fuel” odors that lasted approximately two weeks. These residents’ complaints triggered Oregon DEQ’s odor response plan. Each gasoline company is required to contact DEQ if there has been a leak, spill or control equipment malfunction.  However, it’s difficult to trace the source of an acute odor incident if companies fail to report.

I photographed these tanks from two vantage points: up close in NW Portland and also from the east side of the Willamette River at the Skidmore Bluff.

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Chemicals like benzene, toluene and hexane are associated with gasoline storage. The federal minimum pollution prevention rules require gasoline holding tanks to be equipped with floating roofs, and primary and secondary seals. These rules also set pollutant emission limits and establish trigger levels for leak detection.

Neighbors for Clean Air is a coalition seeking to make public health a priority in the development of Oregon’s air quality standards. NCA’s website has a feature that lets you can map and track the locations of suspicious industrial odors reported in Portland! Here is a link to  NCA’s petition asking the state to “establish enforceable standards that address the risk of spikes of emissions in the toxic hot spots.” Whether to sign is your prerogative.  I intend for this blog to simply present facts and photos.

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Below is footage from a devastating gasoline storage tank explosion in  Puerto Rico (2009).

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Consumer Demand for Specialty Cars Puts Manufacturers at Higher Risk for Clean Air Act Violations

Despite the economic climate, an increasing number of Americans are willing to pay around $200,000 for a specialty car.  High-performance Japanese models featured in the “Fast and Furious” films are in high demand.  Also, classic pony car replicas such as the 1960 Camaro or Mustang are making frequent appearances on American highways.

To meet consumer desires for speed or nostalgia, Japanese vehicle importers and domestic manufacturers of classic car replicas are emerging to cash in on this trend.  In fact, the number of manufacturers listed in Kit Car Magazine’s 2008 Buyer’s Guide increased 20 percent from previous years.  Because this is a growing and lucrative business, manufacturers, retailers and importers of Japanese high-performance cars and classic car replicas are at a higher risk of liability under EPA’s Clean Air Act Kit Car Policy.

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EPA’s Kit Car Policy applies to both types of cars.  Japanese high-performance cars constitute “kit car packages” if imported as a series of parts.  Domestically manufactured classic car replicas are simply “kits,” which typically contain new bodies, used drivetrains, and new or used chassis.

The Japanese high-performance kit car packages become “motor vehicles” if the importation shipment includes major components needed for assembly such as the body, chassis, engine and transmission.  Classic car replica kits become “motor vehicles” once they are fully assembled.

As “motor vehicles,” these cars are subject to Clean Air Act emissions standards for highway vehicles found at 40 C.F.R. Parts 85 and 86.  For each vehicle or engine family, a certificate of conformity must be issued to the “manufacturer,” which can include an importer or retailer.  To become certified, the manufacturer must conduct emissions tests on a number of prototype vehicles and prove that the emissions pass EPA standards.  Once a manufacturer is certified, it can import or assemble identical vehicles without violating the Clean Air Act.

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For specialty car manufactures to produce EPA-certified cars, there are two options.  First, the manufacturer could become the certificate holder by hiring a third party laboratory to conduct the prototype vehicle emissions tests.  This can cost approximately $50,000 per engine family and an additional $33,838 to cover the EPA certification fee for light-duty vehicles.  In the alternative, a manufacturer could enlist an Independent Commercial Importer (ICI) to convert each uncertified vehicle into a certified one.  As a result, the ICI holds the certificate and charges a fee to convert each vehicle.  A list of eligible ICIs can be found on EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/imports/icilist.pdf.  The choice of whether to apply for a certificate or utilize an ICI usually hinges on the number of vehicles that the manufacturer plans to sell.  In the context of specialty cars, where the manufacturer sells only a few vehicles at high prices, an ICI may be the best choice.

Because the certificate can be so costly, many specialty cars are uncertified in violation of the Clean Air Act.  Without a certificate, manufacturers can import or build cars without emission controls that could emit more nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide and volatile organic compounds than the normal certified car.  Without the required emission controls, these dirty cars disproportionately contribute to public health problems and climate change.

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According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), increasing numbers of uncertified Japanese high-performance cars are smuggled into the US.  These fully functioning cars are disassembled in Japan and imported as a series of parts.  At the time of sale however, these vehicles are assembled.  These importation packages contain all of the major components needed for assembly, but are fraudulently labeled as “used automobiles and parts.”  By labeling these greymarket vehicles as a series of parts, these importers claim that the kit car package is not a “motor vehicle” under EPA’s Kit Car Policy and therefore not subject emission regulations.  If the government proves the packages were fraudulently labeled, these importers and retailers can be liable for a variety of statutory penalties.

If kit car packages are fraudulently imported, ICE could enforce 19 U.S.C. § 545, which regulates smuggling goods into the United States.  The Department of Transportation could also enforce 49 U.S.C. § 30112, which prohibits the importation of non-complying motor vehicles and equipment.  Finally, EPA could bring an action for failure to import a certified vehicle under Clean Air Act Section 203(a)(1).  This Section also prohibits the manufacture of uncertified vehicles.  Thus, EPA could bring an action against a classic car replica manufacturer who constructs cars domestically without emission controls.   Government awareness of increased consumer demand requires specialty car industries to be cognizant of the responsibility to produce clean cars.

Because it’s slightly related, check out the documentary, “Who Killed The Electric Car”:
http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf