RCAC makes recommendations for new air quality permit

Posted: Sunday, December 08, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) - An environmental watchdog group on Friday approved recommendations for a streamlined air quality operating permit for the Valdez Marine Terminal.

The action by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council now goes to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The agency must consolidate two existing air quality permits into one by November 2003.

The new Title V permit aims to assure continuous compliance with air quality standards. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. has already submitted a number of proposed streamlining amendments.

''We're attempting to clean up some old permit conditions that are outdated and ineffective, that will help us align better under this new permit,'' said Alyeska spokesperson Mike Heatwole. ''It's very much a work in progress with the agencies. There are not going to be any changes in air quality or emissions under our request.''

Susan Harvey, the council's consultant on the air quality permits, disagreed. She said she felt ''some of the amendment requests are to reduce operating hours or to allow an increase in emissions.

''Those are legitimate requests if a company can show that they don't violate the national ambient air quality standards,'' said Harvey, a former DEC regulator. ''In a number of cases, we found that they did not supply the supporting technical data to demonstrate to the agency that the standards would or would not be violated.''

Air quality is a serious issue for people who work at the terminal, said Tom Kuckertz, who led the council's analysis of Alyeska's proposals.

''I don't know how serious an issue it is for the people that live in Valdez,'' Kuckertz said. ''One needs to look at these vapors and see how they are dispersed by air currents and how much people are breathing these vapors.''

Vapor controls at the terminal at the southern end of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline have been in effect since the late 1990s. A huge number of emissions are covered under current air quality permits, ''but we're still looking at whether you have to control emissions from the ballast water treatment facility,'' Kuckertz said.

It's important to know how much of the hazardous air pollutants are being inhaled by residents, he said.

Human health standards for the five main pollutants -- oxides of nitrogen, oxides of sulfur, carbon monoxide, volatile organics and particulant matter -- are currently being met in the Valdez area, Harvey said.

''The question right now is are there carcinogens in the Valdez air shed and is the level of them of concern,'' he said.

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