An Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)
for Benicia

To learn more about ISO Benicia,
please attend a panel discussion with State Officials, and Contra Costa County experts on why and how Benicia can better protect our community.

Why:  Currently, Benicia is the only refinery town in the Bay Area not protected by an ISO. In Contra Costa County, the county Hazardous Materials Division of the Health Department is responsible for enforcing an ISO that governs the three refineries in the county unincorporated areas – Shell, Tesoro and Phillips 66. The City of Richmond has an ordinance that mirrors the county’s and contracts with Contra Costa County for enforcement activities governing the Chevron refinery and other industries.

When:   TODAY! Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 7pm.

Where:  The Benicia Public Library in the Doña Benicia Room at 150 East L St. in Benicia.


  • Gregory Vlasek, Local Program Coordination and Emergency Response, California Environmental Protection Agency
  • Clyde Trombettas, Statewide Manager and Policy Advisor for California OSHA, Process Safety Management Unit
  • Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa County Chief Environmental Health and Hazardous Materials Officer
  • John Gioia,  Contra Costa County Supervisor
  • Staff representatives from Solano County were invited to participate and declined the invitation.
  • You:  There will also be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and make comments at the end of the presentations.

For more information:  Contact Andrés Soto at 510.237.6866 or  [See also below: Quick Facts, and Where To Write.]

Event Sponsors:

Benicians For a Safe & Healthy Community | Progressive Democrats of Benicia | The Benicia Independent | Communities for a Better Environment  |  ALSO: Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown |  United Democrats of Southern Solano County  |  Carquinez Patriotic Resistance

Quick Facts

What is the purpose of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)?
The main goal of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) is to prevent and/or minimize the effects of devastating accidents on the employees close to the accident and the surrounding communities.

Why does Benicia need this when the State has an ISO?
After the near-catastrophic May 5th Valero Refinery emergency shutdown and major flaring incident, it was even more apparent that Benicia is at risk without an ISO. Benicia is the only jurisdiction in the East Bay with a refinery or chemical industry that does not have a local safety ordinance such as the City of Richmond and other refinery communities have. The City of Benicia is covered by Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA safety regulations.  However, there are additional concerns not addressed by Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA, such as no direct safety reports filed at the City of Benicia, leaving Benicia in the dark.  An ISO would correct this and other safety matters. 

How would this improve communications between Valero and the community of Benicia?
A local ISO would facilitate cooperation between industry, the City, the County, local fire departments, Cal/OSHA, Cal/EPA, other agencies that have oversight of businesses, and the public in the prevention and reduction of incidents at refineries like Valero. An ISO would also establish local air quality monitors for access to real time data.

Why is the Valero refinery the only Bay Area refinery not involved with a county or local ISO?
In 1998 Contra Costa County adopted an ISO, and revised and updated it after the Chevron fire. The City of Richmond also has a local ISO.  These ISOs require among other things, refineries and other chemical businesses to submit a safety plan, undergo safety audits, and have risk management plans, each of which would allow more community input and access. The Contra Costa ISO has been praised as the best safety ordinance in the country, so effective that Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA adopted many elements for state regulation and oversight.  Benicia is the only city in Solano County that is home to refinery and currently our County has no plans to develop an ISO.  It is up to the City of Benicia to develop and implement its own. 

How would the ISO be managed and can Benicia afford it?
Contra Costa County’s ISO enables the county to collect fees from industrial facilities to pay for comprehensive public safety alerts and local information about environmental risks and exposure to toxins due to an “event”.  

What are the next steps and how can I get involved?
Because Benicia deserves to be properly protected and informed, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Progressive Democrats of Benicia, The Benicia Independent, Carquinez Patriotic Resistance, Communities For a Better Environment and additional community groups are urging the City Council to adopt and implement an Industrial Safety Ordinance for Benicia.  To learn more and get involved, visit  To write to Benicia city staff and council members, see below…


Mayor Elizabeth Patterson (
Vice Mayor Steve Young (
Tom Campbell (
Mark Hughes (
Alan Schwartzman (
City Manager Lorie Tinfow (
Interim Fire Chief Josh Chadwick (
Police Chief Erik Upson (
City Attorney Heather McLaughlin (

Mail to or visit City Hall: 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510
Phone numbers are listed on the City’s CONTACT PAGE

Benicia Herald, 820 First St, Benicia, CA 94510, or by email to the editor at
Vallejo Times-Herald, P.O. Box 3188, Vallejo, CA 94590, Fax: 643-0128, or by email to Editor Jack Bungart at

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KQED: Benicia Still Looking for Answers from Valero Six Months After Refinery Outage

Repost from KQED News
(See also Town Hall on Benicia ISO – TONIGHT)

Benicia Still Looking for Answers from Valero Six Months After Refinery Outage

By Ted Goldberg, November14, 2017
A power outage on May 5, 2017 at Benicia’s Valero refinery led to a prolonged episode of flaring during which more than 80,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide was released into the air. (California Environmental Protection Agency)

When a massive refinery outage sent flames, black smoke and toxic gas shooting into the sky from Valero’s Benicia plant last spring, the city’s mayor said the local government had little information about what was going on.

Days later Mayor Elizabeth Patterson called for the city to develop regulations that would give Benicia more oversight over the oil giant it hosts. She proposed regulations similar to those in Contra Costa County, home to several refineries, that require oil refining facilities to undergo safety audits and share their risk management plans.

Those rules would be part of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) that would require Valero to provide Benicia with more data about its plant.

But six months after one the Bay Area’s worst refinery malfunctions in the last five years, the refinery oversight measure has not moved through the City Council. And according to Mayor Patterson and Councilman Steve Young, Valero has not provided the city with enough information.

“They have given the Council nothing. They have given the public nothing,” said Patterson.

“The City has still not received a report from Valero and has instead had to rely on media reports from KQED and others,” Young said in an email. “Significant questions remain unanswered.”

Valero rejects the notion that it has not been forthcoming.

“We find Mayor Patterson’s statements puzzling,” said company spokeswoman Lillian Rioijas in an email. “We’ve been very up front and open with the city as well as other regulators about what we know.”

The May 5 outage led to shelter-in-place and evacuation orders throughout the city and at least a dozen people sought medical treatment for breathing difficulties.

The refinery released more than 80,00 pounds of sulfur dioxide on the day of the outage and in the weeks afterward.

Two investigations, one by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and another by the Solano CountyEnvironmental Health Division, cleared Valero of wrongdoing. Another probe, by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, is yet to be completed.

City officials only became aware of the county’s investigative findings after KQED obtained them and asked for a comment, according to Patterson.

The mayor says an industrial safety ordinance would get the city that kind of information directly.

Patterson and a coalition of local environmental and community groups want the city to move forward on an industrial safety ordinance.  A town hall meeting to educate the public on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday night.

The ordinance would allow Benicia to audit Valero’s safety plans and take part in inspections of its refinery.

Valero is lobbying against the proposal.

“A local ISO would not have prevented this power outage,” Don Wilson, the refinery’s vice president and general manager wrote the Council in a letter in June. “A local ISO will be costly and duplicative of existing state and and local programs,” Wilson said.

The company has blamed Pacific Gas and Electric and has sued the San Francisco-based utility, seeking $75 million in damages and lost revenue.

“Let’s remember, PG&E abruptly shut off all power to the refinery without any notice,” said Riojas, the Valero spokeswoman.

PG&E hired a third party to investigate the outage. That report has been submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission.

In October California adopted new statewide refinery oversight regulations. Refineries are now required to adopt safety designs and systems, conduct periodic workplace safety culture assessments and investigate causes of serious refinery malfunctions.

Councilman Young, Councilman Tom Campbell and Terry Schmidtbauer, the director of Solano County’s Department of Resource Management, which conducts audits on the refinery, say they’re unclear on whether a city ordinance would add anything the state’s new rules don’t already cover.

“An ISO may be a great idea but I don’t want it to somehow get in the road of other already existing state and federal regulations,” said Councilman Campbell in an email.

“My only hesitation revolves around my desire not to have an ordinance that overlaps with recent Cal-OSHA requirements,” said Young.

Mayor Patterson says a local ordinance would go further: it would require Valero to report information about a refinery malfunction and the company’s proposed actions to prevent a similar incident directly to the city.

“The ISO would give us a seat at the table,” Patterson said.

Tuesday’s town hall meeting takes place at the Benicia Public Library at 7 p.m.  [More info]

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New California Regulations Improve Safety at Oil Refineries

Press Release from CalEPA

New California Regulations Improve Safety at Oil Refineries

For Immediate Release:
August 4, 2017

Media Contacts:
Erika Monterroza, California Department of Industrial Relations
(510) 286-1161,

Alex Barnum, California Environmental Protection Agency
(916) 324-9670,

Sacramento — State agencies today announced final approval of new regulations to strengthen workplace and environmental safety at oil refineries across the state. The regulations take effect on October 1, 2017.

The regulations implement key recommendations of the Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety, created after the Aug. 6, 2012 Chevron refinery fire. They are the result of a multi-year effort, including extensive public input and consultation with workers, industry, non-governmental organizations, local agencies, and communities.

Developed by the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), the regulations make California refineries safer for both workers and surrounding communities.

“California now leads the nation in protecting the safety and health of refinery workers and people in nearby communities,” said David M. Lanier, Secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

The new regulations overhaul Cal/OSHA worker safety regulations as they apply to refineries and the California Accidental Release Prevention program (CalARP), which is designed to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances that could harm public health and the environment.

“These new regulations increase overall preparedness, provide greater accountability and implement a nation-leading approach to public safety and emergency prevention at refineries,” said California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci.

“The goal of these regulations is to hold refineries accountable for the safety of workers and communities,” said Matthew Rodriquez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection. “Thanks to input from refinery workers, industry leaders and environmental and community organizations, we can better anticipate problems and prevent accidents that might pose serious risks to the public and environment.”

Key features of the regulations include:

  • Increased employer accountability for the mechanical integrity of refinery equipment
  • Requirements to adopt inherently safer designs and systems to the greatest extent feasible
  • Increased employee involvement in all aspects of the safety and prevention program
  •  Periodic workplace safety culture assessments to evaluate whether management is appropriately emphasizing safety over production pressures
  • Authority for refinery personnel to shut down a unit, if needed, in the event of an unsafe condition or emergency and provisions for anonymous reporting of safety hazards
  • Requirements for investigations to determine root causes of any incidents that occur and develop interim and permanent corrective measures in response
  • Annual public reporting of refinery safety metrics under CalARP

California has 15 oil refineries, most of which are located in densely populated areas of Los Angeles and the eastern San Francisco Bay Area. During the past decade, many of these refineries have adopted some of the practices outlined above and have seen significant improvement in safety performance as a result.

However, the industry still experiences major incidents that pose a significant risk to refinery workers and nearby communities. For example, a February 2015 explosion at the Torrance refinery sent ash raining down on nearby communities and shut down most of the facility for more than a year. Unplanned incidents at refineries also cause disruptions to fuel supplies that are estimated to cost Californians an average of $800 million a year.

Following the 2012 Chevron refinery fire, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. called for an Interagency Working Group to examine ways to improve public and worker safety through enhanced oversight of refineries and strengthen emergency preparedness in anticipation of any future incident. The Working Group consisted of participants from 13 agencies and departments, as well as the Governor’s office.

Over an eight-month period, the Working Group met with multiple stakeholders, including representatives from industry, labor, communities, the environment, academia, and local emergency response. It also worked closely with the Contra Costa County Health Services Hazardous Materials Division, which implements an industrial safety ordinance that served as a model for the refinery safety regulations. In February 2014 the Working Group issued a final report with recommendations to improve safety practices at refineries and develop more reliable and effective emergency response plans. The regulations implement one of four key recommendations of the final report.

California now has an Interagency Refinery Task Force, headed by CalEPA with participation from DIR, its division Cal/OSHA, and 11 other federal, state, and local agencies and departments. The task force works collaboratively to achieve the highest possible level of safety for refinery workers and local communities, and prepare for and effectively respond to emergencies if they occur.


Air Resources Board • Department of Pesticide Regulation • Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery • Department of Toxic Substances Control • Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment • State Water Resources Control Board • Regional Water Quality Control Boards

1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 • P.O. Box 2815, Sacramento, CA 95812 • (916) 323-2514

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For safe and healthy communities…