Increased refining of tar sands in Bay Area would threaten health of local communities, says’s Tzeporah Berman

November 19, 2018

Notable Canadian environmental activist speaks to Bay Area air quality board, says proposal for San Francisco refinery to bring in more oil tankers would worsen air quality, increase risk of devastating oil spill

Traditional Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone Lands (SAN FRANCISCO, CA) — Notable Canadian environmental activist and international programs director Tzeporah Berman traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area today, Monday, November 19, to present to the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) on the air pollution impacts from the extraction, transportation, and refining of tar sands crude oil. 

BAAQMD is currently considering permits for Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery to expand its wharf capacity and more than double the number of oil tankers traveling to its refinery through San Francisco Bay. Some of those oil tankers would carry tar sands from Canada.

“The Board’s responsibility is to protect the health of people in the Bay Area — an increasingly difficult task given the wildfire smoke right outside the door,” said Tzeporah Berman, international programs director at “Increased production, transportation and refining of tar sands threatens our air, water, biodiversity, climate, and our health – on both sides of the border. The board has an important responsibility to ensure that local communities do not bear the toxic burden of increased refining of tar sands in the Bay Area.”

MORE ONLINE: Watch a video of the speech and download the presentation and notes.

Berman was invited to speak at the BAAQMD Board of Directors meeting alongside Charlene Aleck, councilmember with Tsleil-Waututh Nation in British Columbia, Canada, and Pennie Opal Plant, co-founder of Idle No More SF Bay.

Bay Area residents are concerned about the potential for increases in tar sands tankers coming to California from Canada’s existing Trans Mountain Pipeline and the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. Residents are also concerned about how Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery expansion to bring in more oil tankers and process more heavy crude oil like tar sands will increase refinery emissions, worsen local air quality for nearby communities, and increase the risk of a devastating oil spill. 

“Permitting Phillips 66’s marine terminal expansion would dramatically increase the number of tankers threatening San Francisco Bay,” said Tzeporah Berman, international programs director at “Tar sands spills have repeatedly proved hazardous. Following a spill on the Kalamazoo River in 2010, the diluents evaporated, leaving the heavier oil to sink into the water. Cleanup costs were an estimated $767 million, including dredging to remove submerged oil and contaminated sediment. A tar sands tanker spill in the Bay Area would be similarly devastating.”


In August 2018, BAAQMD Chief Air Pollution Control Officer Jack Broadbent, a key decision maker on Phillips 66’s permits for the wharf expansion; John Gioia, a member of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and board member of BAAQMD; and other BAAQMD board members traveled to Canada to meet with industry and First Nations representatives about the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. Watch a YouTube video by Gioia about the trip and his thoughts on the risks to the Bay Area from the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.

In September 2018, Indigenous leaders from British Columbia and elected officials and local activists from the Bay Area hosted a panel on the climate and air pollution connections between Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline and Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery expansion. Read more and watch a recording of the panel: How resistance to pipelines, tankers, and refinery expansions connects frontline communities in US, Canada.

Media contacts: 

Virginia Cleaveland, Press Secretary, virginia@stand.earth510-858-9902 (US) & 778-984-3994 (Canada)
Tzeporah Berman, International Programs Director,,  604-313-4713