SF Press Conference & Speakout At Bay Area Air Quality Control District-Rehire Whistleblowers Bachmann and Steele And CA Attorney Gen Becerra Investigate and Prosecute BAAQMD Bosses
Wednesday March 1, 2017 9:15 AM Press Conference
Speak Out at BAAQMD Meeting 9:45 AM
375 Beale St., San Francisco
The Bay Area Air Quaility Management District which is run by politicians from throughout Northern California is in charge of protecting our air quality. This is a life and death health issue for all the people of the Bay Area yet the managers of this agency have blatantly and criminally retaliated against two staff members who were opposed to the destruction of thousands of documents of violations by some of the biggest polluters in the region including refineries like Shell, Chevron and Tosco along with companies like Pacific Steel Casting.
Micheal Bachmann was the manager of records at BAAQMD and contract employee Sarah Steele were working to preserve the records and were bullied, harrassed and fired after they tried to stop the illegal destruction of these government records and documents. The purpose of the firings was to give these polluters a break with a reduction of fines and penalties for their illegal discharges of toxins into our communities.
There is also an epidemic of workplace bullying against public employees who are trying to defend our health and safety or expose financial corruption by top officials. This cannot be allowed to continue and Bay area environmental activists, health and safety experts and worker rights advocates will be speaking out before the Board meeting on March 1, 2017 at 9:15 and will speak out during the public comment at the BAAQMD meeting at 9:45 AM.
It is time for justice and to make sure that the agencies that are supposed be protecting us are allowed to do their jobs and public workers are not retaliated for speaking out against corrupt practices.
Bring Back Bachmann and Steele NOW!
Attorney General Becerra Investigate and Prosecute BAAQMD Bosses!
Stop The Epidemic Of Workplace Bullying, Protect Public Worker Rights!
United Public Workers For Action http://www.upwa.info
Injured Workers National Network
For information (415)282-1908 info [at] upwa.info
BA Air Quality District BAAQMD Bosses Fire Workers For Exposing Illegal Destruction of Records https://youtu.be/QuMHn1FqDAE
Two Bay Area Air Quality Management District employees Michael Bachmann who was a manager of records at the agency and Sarah Steele a contract employee who was also working on retention of documents charged at a press an Oakland press conference on February 22, 2017 that they had been bullied, retaliated against and fired for exposing the illegal destruction of agency documents that are required to be maintained for a record of the violations of air pollution by corporations. They said that they had tried to stop the destruction of the documents but that the agencies top managers has been engaged in destroying compliance records and settlement agreements for air pollution control violations by major companies like Chevron, Shell, Tosco, Pacific Steel Casting and many other companies.
According to their lawyers, destroyed regulatory documents, notices of violation, enforcement records and flare reports for refineries in the East Bay and microfilms in cabinets were dumped as well.
Bunger, Legal Counsel Bill Guy and Director of Enforcement Wayne Kino according to the the complaint ordered Sarah Steele to return the documents from the file cabinet to an unsecured room in the old headquarters, according to the claim. The documents then were disposed of even though they were critical to many continuing cases and history of these company's violation of air quality laws.
Bachmann and Steele both said they were concerned with protecting the health of people in the bay area and the disposal of documents was not only a violation of the law and policies but put the health of the bay area in jeopardy.
Attorneys for Steele and Bachmann also released a set of records from 1990-91 involving Tosco refinery, which is now owned by Tesoro, that were saved by the pair. It shows a list of penalties against Tosco, including a $1,000 penalty reduced to $750 that involved an “excessive visible emission” at the acid plant. Major bay area polluters have been able to significantly reduce their fines if there is no record of previous violations and this organized destruction of documents was allowing these companies to limit their liability for violating air quality control standards over many decades.
Attorney J. Gary Gwilliam also said that these documents were required for court cases and settlement agreements and this made them protected documents that must not be destroyed. He also reported that an alleged "independent investigation" by the Agencies management done by San Francisco attorney Emily Prescott had been biased against the whistleblowers and was a continued cover-up of the destruction of documents.
The BAAQMD are still denying that they destroyed documents in a statement. http://www.baaqmd.gov/~/media/files/communications-and-outreach/publications/news-releases/2017/2017-019-22117-pdf.pdf?la=en
According to one of the whistleblower's attorneys Alison Carp, the board members of the BAAQMD are politicians from throughout the bay area and some were aware of these serious problems over the past two years. She also said they are in discussion with government agencies for possible investigation and prosecution for criminal destruction of legal government documents. The California Attorney General Becerra is responsible for investigating and prosecuting officials who violate the law at independent agencies such as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Bachmann and Steele's lawyers announced that they were filing a complaint for illegal retaliation for being a whistleblower and also were filing other complaints against the agency.
Additional media: http://www.dailycal.org/2017/02/22/whistleblowers-file-claim-bay-area-air-quality-management-district/ http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/02/22/whistleblowers-mystery-file-cabinet-dumped-boxes-of-pollution-records-part-of-air-regulators-document-destruction/ http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Ex-air-quality-workers-say-district-illegally-10949383.php http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/02/22/former-bay-area-air-quality-agency-workers-file-whistleblower-claim/ http://www.berkeleycitizen.org/Pacific%20Steel/pacific8.htm
Production of Labor Video Project http://www.laborvideo.org
(BAAQMD) and Pacific Steel Castings http://www.berkeleycitizen.org/Pacific%20Steel/pacific8.htm
Berkeley's Insidious Incinerator
Berkeley's Insidious Incinerator
L A Wood, Berkeley Daily Planet. April 19, 2005
Gilman Street and I-80 mark the entrance to Berkeley’s Oceanview District. The highway exit is also delineated by the puffing white smokestacks of Pacific Steel Castings, one of Berkeley’s last remaining foundries. All who drive through northwest Berkeley knows it’s time to roll up the car windows because of the burnt smells that permeate the area.
Several weeks ago, Pacific Steel was finally given another Notice of Violation by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) for odor nuisance. However, neighbors around the facility should expect nothing from the air district. Fines are mostly small in comparison to profits, so businesses like Pacific Steel simply shrug off the expense as part of the cost of doing business.
This time though, the odor violation has turned the focus onto the foundry’s incinerator, which was installed in 1998, and has sparked a debate over the air district’s permitting practices. Residents are asking how “a green community” like Berkeley, which has the reputation of “not liking anything,” could buy in so completely to this industrial incinerator. The answer to this question lies within the permitting process, a regulatory morass more insidious than the incinerator itself.
Follow the Money
It is unclear whether Pacific Steel’s incinerator was the brainchild of the foundry or was more a promotion effort by the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB). This state-funded agency works with clients like Pacific Steel in waste reduction and recycling efforts by offering low-interest loans and technical assistance including project coordination.
Since CIWMB also helps with expediting the necessary permits, the agency must have realized that the only way to force this “burn barrel” technology onto any city within the San Francisco Basin, much less Berkeley, was if the public was kept unaware of what it really was. California Integrated Waste must have also known that the regulatory shelter created by the Bay Area air district made Pacific Steel Castings, and Berkeley, the best candidate for the incinerator. Ironically, as it turns out, the best place to hide an incinerator is amidst a big stink, like in Oceanview.
So, in 1997 the foundry was awarded a loan for $648,950 to help purchase the incinerator. CIWMB quickly managed to line up broad support for the pilot project by simply calling it “green.” Of course, CIWMB enjoyed ample industry support for the incinerator because of its potential economic impact on the foundry industry in the Bay Area and elsewhere.
Even Congresswoman Lee was enticed into Berkeley to help the city and council receive the Ed McMahon-sized check for the Pacific Steel’s Second Street incinerator. And with that, Berkeley was turned into the poster child for this “new” incinerator technology and used to sell it to other communities. All the political kudos, awards and celebration of this grand regional enterprise obscured a serious dilemma created by the incinerator: its land use incompatibility.
Public Health and Land Use
The incinerator pilot project was certainly not a difficult sell when it came to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. When the permitting request for the incinerator was finally presented, backroom deliberations reveal that the air district had questions about the proposal and the legal need for an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Unfortunately, that discussion quickly evaporated.
It appears that to assuage the political pressure associated with this incinerator permit, BAAQMD trespassed beyond the legal limits of the law to offer Pacific Steel a categorical exemption. The air district realized a CEQA review would daylight more than the foundry’s incinerator and would go further to expose a decade of corrupt BAAQMD permitting practices at Pacific Steel Castings.
The air district has a history of taking the regulatory low road, but in Berkeley, they managed to hit a new low. Although the categorical exemption successfully screened the public from knowing about the incinerator, it did not relieve BAAQMD of its legal obligation under CEQA for an environmental review. In fact, the trigger to require a CEQA evaluation for the incinerator is based on the state’s land use restrictions as pertains to the proximity of schools and childcare facilities. BAAQMD was well aware of the existence of the Duck’s Nest on Fourth Street and within two blocks of the new Pacific Steel incinerator. In 1988, the air district was asked by parents of this childcare center to evaluate the emissions coming from the steel foundry.
In 1999, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which oversees the permits handed out by BAAQMD, came to Berkeley to investigate Pacific Steel and related public health questions. CARB took one look at the urban incinerator along with its questionable air permits and hightailed it back to Sacramento.
Instead of addressing this crucial public health concern, the state and regional air agencies have both chosen to propagate the myth that Pacific Steel’s emissions are harmless and that all of its pollution is being captured by a carbon scrubber. Nothing could be further from the truth! The record shows that the steel foundry clearly has process emissions that have no air pollution controls.
Title V and Environmental Justice
The roots of this environmental injustice run so deep as to have even distorted Pacific Steel’s accountability under its federal Title V permit. This permit is required under the Clean Air Act, which is overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, direct responsibility for this federal permit has been farmed out to the Bay Area air district. The Title V program was designed to identify large air dischargers, like Pacific Steel, and to require more environmental accountability from such major facilities. However, as the record shows, BAAQMD’s approval of the foundry’s federal permit totally negates Title V’s stated purpose.
Changes to the Title V program in the mid 1990s allowed some major facilities to petition for reclassification as minor facilities thus reducing their permit requirements for reporting, monitoring, and assessments. Unbelievably, the air district allowed Pacific Steel this lower reporting status. BAAQMD argued that even though the three main buildings of the foundry are located on Second Street, one building was classified as “noncontiguous.” Hence, Pacific Steel Castings received two minor facility permits instead of one major facility permit.
The net result was to allow the foundry to report in a piecemeal fashion, which made Pacific Steel’s operations appear much smaller on paper than they really are. The air district then used this to justify less environmental accountability from the foundry. For over a decade, this has conveniently kept Pacific Steel from showing up on the EPA’s regulatory radar. It’s no wonder that residents have been waiting three years for a simple health risk screening from the air district, and why the regulatory folder on the foundry is so thin! And yes, Title V should have flagged the new incinerator.
BAAQMD’s regulatory machinations have left our community with less understanding today about the toxic impact of the foundry’s emissions than residents had a decade ago. Now Pacific Steel can smugly stand behind the air district and continue to publicly state that their emissions are not toxic only because their permit does not require those emissions to be tested. This convoluted regulatory fraud has exempted Pacific Steel from answering any embarrassing questions. Even worse, it has allowed BAAQMD to successfully foist this new incinerator with its additional emissions onto a neighborhood already overburdened by pollution.
There are clearly many gaps concerning the public’s protection in mixed-use housing and huge shortcomings in the state’s air regulations. But if BAAQMD and CARB won’t enforce current health and air quality standards, what difference will any future changes and protections really make in California’s air quality, or Berkeley’s? Clean air begins with honest regulation... Shut down Pacific Steel Castings’ incinerator now!
Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board Of Director http://www.baaqmd.gov/about-the-air-district/board-of-directors
Board of Directors
The Air District’s Board of Directors is made up of 24 locally elected representatives from 9 Bay Area counties. Each county’s population determines the number of representatives on the Board, as follows:
• Marin and Napa: 1 representative each
• Solano and Sonoma: 2 representatives each
• San Francisco and San Mateo: 3 representatives each
• Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara: 4 representatives each
The Board has 8 standing committees that assist the District in its mission to improve air quality, protect public health and global climate.
Rules and regulations are adopted by a majority of the Board, with public hearings required before rules are changed or adopted.
Questions or comments to the Board may be sent to the Clerk of the Boards. To ensure your message is presented at the next Board meeting, be sure to send it 24 hours before the meeting starts.
Vice Mayor Liz Kniss
City of Palo Alto
• VICE CHAIR
Vice Mayor David E. Hudson
City of San Ramon
Supervisor Katie Rice
County of Marin
Council Member Abe-Koga
City of Mountain View
Vice Mayor Teresa Barrett
City of Petaluma
Supervisor David J. Canepa
San Mateo County
Supervisor Cindy Chavez
Santa Clara County
Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter
City of San Leandro
Supervisor John Gioia
Contra Costa County
Supervisor Carole Groom
San Mateo County
Supervisor Scott Haggerty
Council Member Rebecca Kaplan
City of Oakland
Vice Mayor Doug Kim
City of Belmont
Mayor Edwin M. Lee
City and County of San Francisco
Supervisor Nate Miley
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff
Contra Costa County
Supervisor Hillary Ronen
City and County of San Francisco
Council Member Mark Ross
City of Martinez
Mayor Pete Sanchez
City of Suisun City
Supervisor Jeff Sheehy
City and County of San Francisco
Council Member Rod Sinks
City of Cupertino
Supervisor Jim Spering
Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht