KQED Audio Report: When oil refineries flare, what happens to the air

Repost from KQED NPR – The Bay

Listen to a fascinating and important 8-minute KQED audio report for interviews about asthma and Valero refinery pollution.  Extended interview with Ted Goldberg morning editor for KQED News, with updates on Benicia and Valero Refinery.  Click the logo above or here: When oil refineries flare, what happens to the air(Be patient – the audio has a slow start.)

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CALL TO ACTION – TODAY! Benicia City Council Agenda & Important ISO Documents – June 19, 2018

By Roger Straw

Staff for the City of Benicia posted an agenda and multiple important attachments for TODAY’S June 19 City Council meeting.  Plan to attend tonight’s Council meeting – doors open around 5:30pm, meeting starts at 7pm.

Most important documents for study are

The Benicia ISO Working Group has studied and worked on the issue for the past 7 months, hosting an expert panel in November 2017, and listening to concerns of residents, elected officials and City staff.  As an aid to City staff, the group enlisted pro bono support from local attorney Terry Mollica to prepare a rough draft of what a Benicia ISO might look like. City Council will decide next Tuesday whether to direct staff to investigate further and return with recommendations.

BACKGROUND & CALL TO ACTION: 

More than a year ago (on 05/23/17), Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson succeeded in requesting that Council direct staff to agendize a future Council discussion of drafting and adopting a community Industrial Safety Ordinance.  The Council voted 4-1 to approve and calendar further discussion.

This item will finally come up TODAY at the June 19, 2018 Council meeting. Mark your calendar and plan to attend! Council doors will open around 5:30pm.  AND… please send an email comment to the City!  (click here for info on where to write)

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS RELEASED JUNE 13 FOR THE JUNE 19 CITY COUNCIL

AGENDA ITEM 15.B SECOND STEP OF MAYOR PATTERSON’S 2-STEP PROCESS REQUEST TO DISCUSS ADOPTING AN INDUSTRIAL SAFETY ORDINANCE

At the May 23, 2017 City Council meeting, Mayor Patterson brought a two-step process request to the Council to discuss consideration of adopting an Industrial Safety Ordinance. The Council directed staff to agendize the item for discussion. Staff has included preliminary research on this subject.

Staff Recommendation:
Discuss the merits of drafting and adopting a City of Benicia Industrial Safety Ordinance and give direction to staff on how to proceed. Two options are provided under the “Options for Council Consideration” section of this report.

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ISO Working Group: Benicia Deserves a Local Industrial Safety Ordinance (Part 3)

Repost from the Benicia Herald

ISO Working Group: Benicia Deserves a Local Industrial Safety Ordinance (Part 3)

By Benicia ISO Working Group, June 19, 2018

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we examined the health effects and costs of particulates and other air pollutants and pointed out the inadequacies of Valero’ proposed air monitoring plan, now under review at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).  Today we will look at other statewide developments on air quality, and the continuing need for a LOCAL Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO).

Valero and others have pointed out that community air monitoring programs are part of the recently adopted California Air Resources Board (CARB) statewide mandate to determine which communities are most impacted by poor ambient air quality.  The expectation is that local air districts will install community monitors on a prioritized basis, and that Benicia might qualify and benefit. This is a reference to AB 617, and we understand that Benicia could self-nominate to seek funds through AB 617. However, City staff has declined to spend time on an application, and even if it did, would likely not benefit much.  Only $5 million is available statewide for communities who qualify, with a priority on disadvantaged communities.

At this point in time, the ISO Working Group expects a draft Benicia ISO to incorporate a provision that requires a communitywide air monitoring program, one which integrates existing programs and data collection to the extent relevant and practical. Any additional air monitoring that becomes available to Benicia through AB 617, CARB, the BAAQMD or other outside source can be integrated into the Benicia ISO’s overall plan for monitoring, oversight and correction.

Benicia deserves better! Benicia deserves a communitywide monitoring program, not fence line only.  Benicia deserves a program that provides data and meaningful analysis and information to the general public on a 24/7, real-time basis. Valero’s current proposal will not do this, and other regional and state monitoring programs on the horizon that may include Benicia have unclear implementation dates and are severely underfunded. In the meantime, what’s in Benicia’s air remains unclear.

A Benicia ISO will give City staff, Council members and representatives of the schools and residents a seat at the table when decisions are made concerning air monitoring and more.  A Benicia ISO will strengthen the City’s response during emergencies and “rare conditions,” and provide detailed reporting to City staff, Council members and the public during and after such events.  A Benicia ISO would improve cooperation and communication between industry and the City, County, local fire departments and regional and statewide oversight agencies.  A Benicia ISO would – after years of waiting – bring community-wide air monitors to Benicia.  A Benicia ISO would bring a strong measure of local control and locally nimble response when it comes to our own health and safety.

Finally – and importantly – an ISO would be budget neutral for the City, supported from fees through implementation and enforcement of the ISO. Benicia’s ISO will engage the experts we need to participate as equals at the table reviewing documents and regulations on behalf of the City and community.

Please contact the Mayor, City Council members, and Benicia’s City Manager to let them know you support a community industrial safety ordinance for Benicia.    


The Benicia ISO Working Group is an ad hoc citizen’s group of about a dozen Benicia residents.  Since October 2017, the Working Group has been studying, writing, meeting with officials and advocating that Benicia join all other Bay Area refinery towns in passing a local community industrial safety ordinance.  More information: beniciaindependent.com/iso.

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