July 29, 2004

Still Above The Law: San Joaquin Air District

The territory of the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District encompasses some 24,750 square miles of agricultural, urban and suburban lands. The district employs 60 inspectors to monitor compliance of 150 stationary sources. The region has been out of attainment with the ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter standards since the 1980s. Recently, in order to gain more time to meet federal air quality standards, the district requested that EPA downgrade their compliance status to "extreme non-attainment."

While much of the Valley's pollution is generated from dispersed sources including agricultural operations and motor vehicles, large stationary sources are also an major contributor to regional air quality. All of the district's worst offenders are either refineries or power plants.

Top industrial air polluters in the San Joaquin air district by penalties paid or number of violations

Facility Total civil penalties paid Number of violations resolved
Equilon Enterprises LLC, Bakersfield $591,176 70
Occidental of Elk Hills, Kern County $587,538 35
Chevron Products, Bakersfield $547,467 78
Vintage Petroleum, Kern County $523,680 8
Texaco California Inc., Kern County $427,308 121
Aera Energy LLC, Bakersfield $355,319 115
Texaco Exploration & Production $287,475 45
McFarland Energy Inc., Kern County $105,666 14
Delano Energy Company $66,121 38
Kern Oil & Refining, Bakersfield $64,991 25
AES Delano $50,512 26
Madera Power LLC, Madera $22,759 14

In 1994, the Air Resources Board reviewed the district's enforcement activities and found that it settled violations in about 49 days. [5] Today the typical settlement time is more than 13 months. During the past five years, the total penalties collected by the district have increased dramatically, while the typical fine has gone up slightly onto to come back down.

Annual median fines in the San Joaquin air district

Year Total number of civil violations settled Median penalty assessed Total penalties collected Average days to settle violations
2000 171 $1,695 $482,726 267
2001 155 $3,000 $600,654 382
2002 234 $2,400 $1,166,446 327
2003 188 $2,608 $1,545,313 408
1st quarter 2004 125 $1,440 $377,474 585