California's Hunt for Cleaner Air Smells Like Opportunity

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(Bloomberg) -- California’s push for cleaner air means extra cost for giant oil refiners and an opportunity for small companies using new technologies to help them pollute less.

In 2017, the state’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that expands refinery emissions monitoring rules and seeks to improve the air quality for neighboring communities. For Anoosheh Oskouian, it’s a chance to grow her 18-year-old Long Beach-based company Ship & Shore Environmental, Inc., which employs about 100 people.

“Refiners as a whole have always managed to lobby against tighter rules as something not being achievable,” she said in a telephone interview.

That’s getting harder to do in Southern California, where local regulator SCAQMD oversees emissions from seven refineries. Oskouian, a 20-year industry veteran, works closely with the watchdogs and refiners as she serves on the board of SCAQMD advising on best available control technologies and helping rulemakers determine what’s achievable.

One example: out-of-sight flaring, which uses a mesh cover to distribute flames across the top of refinery stacks, concealing the candlesticks of fire that neighbors are accustomed to seeing.

“As a whole, refiners do not like having to go back in and retrofit a lot of existing equipment,” she said. But as advancements take hold, refining companies forced to make changes are running out of options. “I don’t think they can prolong it much longer, because the technology is here now.”

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