From: Roger Straw Sent: Friday, July 06, 2018 9:45 AM Subject: FW: [BAAQMD Coalition] Questionable community outreach for Industrial Safety Ordinance audits
This is amazing – read below, from bottom, up. (Click on the image for larger display.) And then come back and ask a couple of questions:
Does Solano County have to report to the public like this now – even under current regulations? Do they publish a notice like the one Nancy sent from Crockett? Is this something that our newbie “CUPA” needs to be doing on our behalf?
If/when we have an ISO, what assurances do we have the Hazardous Materials staff (Contra Costa OR Solano) would be any more attentive to Benicia citizens’ needs. (Randy Sawyer should be embarrassed by this.)
I think the Working Group could be making a big deal out of this! I think I’ll post about it on the BenIndy.
Begin forwarded message:
On Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 3:28 PM Nancy Rieser via BAAQMD Network wrote:
The Contra Costa Health Department considers a booth behind an elementary school two blocks away from a street fair in Crockett as a “public meeting..” They reckon that the booth where they will be twiddling their fingers while the locals drink and dance a few blocks away will meet its obligation to hold a face-to-face public meeting.
Guess we are lucky. Martinez gets its face-to-face at a Christmas tree farm in August on National Night Out.
I called the Health Department: The gentleman who answered the phone said that apparently nobody cares enough to hear this kind of information and they won’t hold a meeting unless they can get a guaranteed audience of 25 people. Neither will they mail notices to individual homes about their meeting to hustle the crowds. “It is too expensive.”
LATER, VERY INTERESTING!
From: Ralph Dennis
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 12:26 PM Subject: ISO related
I noticed in the Benicia Herald this morning two public notices for Risk Management Plans prepared by Solano County Department of Resource Management, one for Praxair and the other for Benicia’s Water Treatment Plant. These are part of the 5-year audit review process, I believe, the same reports referenced in the Contra Costa County notice you sent around the other day.
I figured there ought to be one for Valero, so I called the Solano County Department of Resource Management. Turns out the Valero plan was filed in Dec. 2017 and is still under review. The staffer I spoke with who is doing the review is suppose to call me about status. Interesting, I guess: no public meetings planned, copies of plans not available in our library (as in Contra Costa County). He seemed surprised at my question about public meetings, said he could check with management.
Pruitt resigns, but replacement Wheeler ‘should scare anyone who breathes’
July 6, 2018, By Eric Wolff
U.S. environmental groups declared victory yesterday with the resignation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, following months of unremitting scandal. But they’re already gearing up for a fight against his replacement, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a veteran coal lobbyist who Politico describes as “smarter and more plugged in to Washington than Scott Pruitt was”.
“Wheeler is much smarter and will try to keep his efforts under the radar in implementing Trump’s destructive agenda,” said Jeremy Symons, vice president for political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund. “That should scare anyone who breathes.”
Most of Wheeler’s professional career “has been devoted to resisting attempts to improve the quality of our air and our water and the safety of our communities,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “He fought against safeguards to limit mercury poisoning. He fought against protections to limit the amount of ozone in our skies. He fought against [controlling] air pollution from neighbouring states. He’s a climate denier. So, sadly, he fits in well with EPA leadership.”
While Wheeler will take over EPA on an acting basis Monday morning, Pruitt’s permanent replacement will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Some news reports yesterday suggested that may not happen before mid-term elections November 6, when there is at least a passing possibility of Democrats regaining control of the chamber.
Pruitt finally left his post under a cloud as “one of the most scandal-plagued Cabinet officials in U.S. history,” the Los Angeles Times reports, with 19 federal investigations—18 of them still in progress—into his conduct while in office. “The departure of the anti-regulatory crusader Pruitt ends a bizarre and tumultuous chapter of the Trump administration that puzzled even some of the president’s staunchest supporters.”
Trump reportedly held on to Pruitt for as long as he did because the former Oklahoma attorney-general, who previously made a name for himself by avidly suing to block the Obama environmental agenda, was also one of the most effective Cabinet secretaries in implementing Trump’s priorities, including attacks on climate policy, basic science, and clean air and water standards.
In the end, he became an embarrassment to Trump as well as a disgrace to his country.
“The spendthrift EPA chief has been a political liability for the White House for months, drawing the attention of federal investigators with scandal after scandal, many of which were linked to his lavish spending of taxpayer money and the use of his position to enrich his family,” the Times notes. “The transgressions include Pruitt’s deal with the wife of a top energy lobbyist for deeply discounted housing, huge raises he gave friends against the instructions of the White House, and his penchant for flying first class. Pruitt used his office to try to secure his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise and also enlisted aides to try to help her land lucrative work elsewhere. He had a $43,000 phone booth installed in his office.” The only Pruitt investigation completed so far concluded that that phone booth broke federal spending laws.
In the Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank gets at the paranoia Pruitt brought to an office once devoted to protecting Americans’ air, water, health, and safety. “Pruitt spent the past 16 months turning the Environmental Protection Agency into a paramilitary operation, with the sole purpose of protecting him,” he writes. “Pruitt had spent some $4.6 million on security, enlisting a round-the-clock detail that followed him everywhere, even to Disneyland and Italy, whisking him from his office — where a $43,000 soundproof phone booth cocooned him and a panic alarm connected him directly to the security office—to the $50-a-night room in a condominium that he had rented from a lobbyist.”
Milbank introduces a new unit of measure for the duration of Pruitt’s tenure.
“Pruitt survived—for 503 days from swearing-in to resignation,” he writes. “That’s an eternity in the Trump administration. Anthony Scaramucci set the standard, lasting just 10 days in his job managing White House communications. If we take Scaramucci’s 10-day figure to be the standard of measurement—one ‘mooch’—then Pruitt survived an amazing 50.3 mooches, even while enduring more than a dozen scandals, any one of which would have doomed a lesser man.”
“Scott Pruitt’s corruption and coziness with industry lobbyists finally caught up with him,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica told the Times. “We’re happy that Pruitt can no longer deceive Americans or destroy our environment.”
But much as the U.S. environmental community is taking a victory lap for the campaigns and advocacy that helped push Pruitt out the door, Wheeler will be a different sort of challenge.
“The man taking the reins at the Environmental Protection Agency after Scott Pruitt’s downfall is a longtime Washington insider and coal lobbyist who is set to pursue the same anti-regulation agenda—only without all of Pruitt’s baggage,” Politico notes. A former chief of staff to climate-denying Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and lobbyist for coal baron and avid Trump ally Bob Murray of Murray Energy, “Wheeler is a smooth insider with a penchant for policy details and a reputation for working well with both friends and adversaries. But those who have dealt with him say he’s on board with the broad deregulatory agenda that Pruitt and Trump are pursuing.”
“The problem with the Pruitt approach is it’s like a sugar high,” Democratic lobbyist and former Energy Department staffer Jeff Navin told Politico’s Eric Wolff. “It feels really, really good for a moment, but if you’re not following rules and procedure, not laying down substance for the decision you’re making, you’re not going to last very long.”
“He’s like Mike Pence is to Trump,” another unnamed source told Wolff. “He’s behind the scenes. He’ll get a lot done and doesn’t need to be in the news.”
“The impression he creates is very personable, respectful, good listener,” said one EPA employee. “He’s very interested in being involved in the substantive issues. He’s ready to get involved in our issues.” But there’s little doubt that his job will be to advance the radical deregulation that defined Pruitt’s tenure.
“I think that Andrew is well aware of the president’s agenda, and the parts of the agenda that are the responsibility of the EPA,” said lobbyist and political consultant Andy Ehrlich, a longtime associate of Wheeler’s. “I would expect based on my experience with Andrew to do what he can to see that the president’s agenda at the EPA is fulfilled in a methodical and thoughtful way.”
“Pruitt and Wheeler may have some small differences: The Democratic aide said Wheeler might offer more support to the agency’s research, in contrast to Pruitt,” Politico states. “But people who know Wheeler see him as a ‘true believer’ in rolling back regulations who is comfortable in the weeds of policy.”
And “that’s the worry of environmental groups, which note the years Wheeler spent working with Inhofe, who calls human-caused global warming a ‘hoax,’ and Murray, a fierce opponent of EPA’s climate regulations.”
Meanwhile, “in his short time at the EPA, Pruitt managed to do more to undermine the environmental protection work of its career scientists, analysts, and enforcement officers than any leader of the agency since the early days of the Reagan administration,” the LA Times notes. “Former agency chiefs—including some who served GOP presidents—were shocked by Pruitt’s denial of climate change and his hostility toward many bedrock environmental rules.”
The paper adds that Pruitt “often was unabashedly at war with his own agency, alleging it was under the control of activist bureaucrats working in tandem with environmental groups to impose a radical agenda. His stewardship of the agency reflected a Republican Party that has grown disenchanted with environmental rules and an administration that has little regard for the concerns of voters outside its base.”
On Grist, meanwhile, reporter Zoya Terstein explains why she’ll miss the ethically-challenged administrator—and asks readers to hear her out before they bring their toddlers to Grist HQ. (Her “love letter to Scott Pruitt” also contains a bunch of helpful, one-by-one links to the multiple Pruitt scandals that we consistently under-reported on The Mix, rather than letting it crowd out the more productive news going on in climate and energy.)
“No wonder the administration rails against ‘fake news.’ Real journalism was able to take down a Trump loyalist.
“Now, someone else wears the tactical pants at the EPA. His name is Andrew Wheeler. He’s been the agency’s deputy administrator since April, and we haven’t heard a peep out of him. Under his leadership, we’re probably in for far less scandal. But you can bet he’ll keep rolling back regulations.”
This 4th of July we are reminded again of our fight to break from Great Britain and to become one nation…with liberty and justice for all. Since 1776 our country has had many assaults from within and without. Many of these assaults brought about changes that helped our country be better aligned with the aspirational values expressed in our constitution. Yet the assault we face from some within our government today is one of the most dangerous. With an unstable, prejudiced, egotist in the White House, we realize how much power is in the office of president, and it truly is up to us to preserve, protect and defend our country and the rule of law.
All that said, while I continue to be alarmed by the actions of our President and many on his staff, and the complicity of Republicans in Congress, I am uplifted by the victories of progressive women and men in elections across our country since the 2016 election. These victories reaffirm that when we engage voters and give them optimism that they DO have a voice and that together we have the power to do better, those voters see that their vote makes a difference. When we make the case to potential voters to make the effort to engage and to vote, everything changes. That is our challenge.
Today most people I know are helping with political campaigns, and/or working on the frontlines to support our immigrants, to solve our homeless crisis, to protect the environment, to provide healthcare for all, to improve education. Many people I know, of all political persuasions, want to halt or significantly reduce the influence of the “leader” in the White House. We are making a difference. All this is happening as too many in Washington are working to dismantle or severely curtail the power of government to take proper and constructive initiatives, misusing taxpayer dollars AND attacking our values — thus this multi-level response is critical.
This 4th of July I say thank you for making a difference.The solution to what ails us is engagement — engagement even when it is hard, even when the outcome is not assured. When we saw last weekend’s nationwide protests to stop the inhumane separation of families and the attacks on our values, it was confirmed once again that we are not alone.
We are the majority, and our work is to fight to have our compassionate, patriotic values represented at the ballot box and in our elected offices, to let freedom ring, as it has for more than 200 years.
I hope you enjoy your celebrations wherever you are on this 4th of July,
At the Progressive Democrats of Benicia membership meeting of June 18, PDB voted unanimously (with one abstention) to ask Benicia City Council to support the issuance of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) for the City of Benicia and approve Mayor Patterson’s request to direct City Staff to review a Draft ISO. The PDB recommendation was that staff report findings back to the City Council no more than 90 days from June 19, 2018.
Acting PDB Chairperson Craig Snider drew up a resolution following our meeting expressing our concerns, and presented it at City Council the following evening, June 19.
After much discussion lasting until 1 AM, the City Council voted 3-2 to reject Mayor Patterson’s request and to wait and watch what Valero and regulatory agencies do based on recent new regional and state air monitoring regulations, and to engage Valero and regulatory agencies in discussions.
Two Council members qualified their rejection of the proposed ISO. Council members Campbell and Schwartzman stated for the record that if Valero does not install certain Air-District-required “fenceline” air monitors within 6 months, they would vote to impose an industrial safety ordinance. All five Council members also would like to see “community” air monitors.
On motion of Council Member Hughes, seconded by Council Member Schwartzman, Council approved Option #2 in the staff report, directing Staff to monitor Solano County’s implementation of Program Four, directing Staff to meet with Valero and the appropriate regulatory agencies to address the few gaps that exist between Contra Costa County’s ISO and Program #4, including more effective and frequent communications with the City, Valero, and the community, fence line monitors installed within 6 months (while that was going on, the community monitoring could be negotiated), an evacuation plan, and having a report back to the City Council the first meeting in November, on a roll call by the following vote: Ayes: Campbell, Hughes, Schwartzman Noes: Young, Patterson