All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

ISO Working Group: Making sense of air monitoring (Part 1)

Repost from the Benicia Herald

Making sense of air monitoring (Part 1)

By the Benicia ISO Working Group, June 15, 2018

Most of the time, you cannot see dirty air – for example you can’t see particulates.  We know that particulates increase the age-specific mortality risk, particularly from cardiovascular causes. In fact, epidemiological studies suggest public health officials are underestimating the effect of acute pollution exposure on mortality and health outcomes.  Other health Issues include those created by oxides of nitrogen, which affect respiratory conditions causing inflammation of the airways – this is often seen as asthma in children and adults.

Every once in a while, we can actually see dirty air such as the May 5, 2017 near catastrophic power loss at Valero and several days and weeks of black smoke.  Each type of air pollution has major public health effects.

According to a California State University study in 2008 and subsequent studies by researchers on the cost of air pollution, dirty air in 2008 dollars cost California $28 billion.  Some have noted that It may be tempting to think California can’t afford to clean up, but, in fact, dirty air is like a $28 billion lead balloon on our economy.  Imagine what could be done if that $28 billion was being spent productively.

The Cal State study applies to Benicia in many ways because it studied two regions with very similar traffic, heavy-duty diesel truck and marine exhaust combined with refineries like those along the Strait including Valero that dominate our region, adding tons of pollutants to the air we breathe every day.

The cost of air pollution in dollars is directly related to premature death, hospitalizations and respiratory symptoms, limiting a person’s normal daily activity and increasing school absences and loss of workday. The $28 billion cost in 2008 reflects the impact these health problems have on the economy. Inflation and little progress on reducing air pollution suggests the costs are much higher now.

Making sense of air monitoring goes hand in hand with public health data.  We don’t have this information.  Each year, the life- and health-threatening levels of pollution cause the following adverse health effects for the two air basins studied by CSU:

* Premature deaths among those age 30 and older: 3,812
* Premature deaths in infants: 13
* New cases of adult onset chronic bronchitis: 1,950
* Days of reduced activity in adults: 3,517,720
* Hospital admissions: 2,760
* Asthma attacks: 141,370
* Days of school absence: 1,259,840
* Cases of acute bronchitis in children: 16,110
* Lost days of work: 466,880
* Days of respiratory symptoms in children: 2,078,300
* Emergency room visits: 2,800

In a March 2018 report prepared by the Solano County Department of Health (SCDH), we learned that Benicia has a higher rate of emergency room visits for asthma than Californians as a whole. The numbers are startling: in Benicia, 202.13 per 10,000 individuals went to the emergency room for asthma in 2011-13. The rate for California was 148.86 per 10,000. (SCDH source: California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.)

The same report showed statistics on hospital admissions due to asthma: Benicia 81.08 per 10,000 compared to California at 70.55. Rates for emergency room visits for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and mortality from chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD) were similarly higher in Benicia than statewide. Air pollution and asthma are contributing factors to these lung diseases.  We need to know what exactly is in our air.  Air monitoring for Benicia makes sense.

In Parts 2 and 3, we will take a look at air monitoring in Benicia and the good reasons for Benicia to adopt an Industrial Safety Ordinance.

Benicia ISO Working Group

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Benicia Herald: Second step of Industrial Safety Ordinance process on council agenda

Repost from the Benicia Herald

Second step of Industrial Safety Ordinance process on council agenda

June 15, 2018 by Nick Sestanovich

More than a year after the Benicia City Council approved the first step in a two-step process to consider bringing an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) to Benicia, the council will resume its discussion Tuesday when the matter is brought back for the second step of the process.

Following the flaring incident at the Valero Benicia Refinery on May 5, 2017 where a power outage resulted in black smoke being released, causing the Industrial park to be shut down and shelters in place established at nearby elementary schools, Mayor Elizabeth Patterson brought a two-step process to discuss consideration of an ISO at the May 23, 2017 council meeting. Patterson requested an ordinance similar Contra Costa ISO, which was adopted in 1998 and went into effect in 1999. Under Contra Costa’s ordinance, refineries are required to submit safety plans, experience safety audits and develop risk management plans while utilizing community input. In the event of an accident, regulated industries can provide a preliminary report.

The Contra Costa ISO covers six facilities: the Phillips 66 Rodeo Refinery, Shell Oil Martinez Refienry, Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery in Pacheco, Air Products at Shell Refinery, Air Products at Tesoro Refinery and the Air Liquide-Rodeo Hydrogen Plant. In 2002, the city of Richmond adopted its own ISO that mirrored the Contra Costa ordinance. It covers the Chevron Refinery and Chemtrade West.

Fire Chief Josh Chadwick noted in a staff report that since adoption of the Contra Costa ISO, the severity of major chemical accidents or releases had seen a declining trend with the exceptions of 2004, 2010 and 2012.

“Implementing the ISO in Contra Costa County is generally considered to have contributed to the decline in incidents at refineries in the County although other regulatory changes and improvements in worker safety are also credited,” Chadwick wrote.

The council voted 4-1 at the May 23 meeting to approve the first step of the process, with the lone dissenting vote coming from Mark Hughes, who felt it was too early to have such a discussion but indicated he may support it later on.

Two developments have happened since the council’s vote. Beginning Oct. 1, the state of California updated its regulations to be more in line with Contra Costa’s ISO. Prior to this, Solano County’s Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA) was operating under Program 3 of the California Accidental Release Prevention (CalARP) program. A task force, including members of the Solano County Department of Resource Management, was formed to upgrade regulations at the Valero Benicia Refinery and bring it to Program 4.

“In the first five months since implementing Program 4, the Solano County Department of Resource Management spent 485 hours inspecting, preparing, reviewing, and documenting the Valero Benicia refinery,” Chadwick wrote.

Among the task categories included in the Contra Costa ISO and CalARP Program 4 are reviewing risk management and safety plans, auditing subject facilities at least once every three years and documenting the results, reviewing major chemical accidents or releases root cause analyses and incident investigation reports that are submitted and performing incident investigations, and performing hazard scoring for development projects associated with land use applications.

Both also require public access to reports and incorporating community engagement requirements.

In a letter to the council, Don Cuffel– Valero’s director of health, safety, environmental and regulatory affairs– wrote that an ISO would be “duplicative and divisive” and suggested the refinery meet with city staff to discuss such topics as statewide regulations, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s fence line monitoring program, Benicia’s emergency response and communication systems, and the refinery’s qualifications as a top safety site by CAL/OSHA.

Staff has provided two options for the council: direct staff to draft an ISO to bring to the council for consideration or direct staff to monitor the county’s implementation of Program 4, enabling the activities of an ISO to continue to be carried out by Solano’s CUPA.

In other matters, the council will vote on whether or not to place a measure establishing a tax on cannabis-related activities on the ballot for the November election.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 250 East L St. A live stream of the council meeting can also be found online at ci.benicia.ca.us/agendas.

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Planning Commissioner Kari Birdseye announces Benicia City Council bid

From a press release…

Planning Commission Chair Kari Birdseye announces run for Benicia City Council

BENICIA, CA, June 7, 2018 — Benicia Planning Commission Chair Kari Birdseye today announced that she is running for a seat on the Benicia City Council in the November 2018 election. A resident of Benicia for nearly two decades, Birdseye has served in various volunteer capacities in the community, including Parent Teacher Association President, a 3-year member of the Planning Commission before becoming Chair, and a current member of the Solano County Fair Association Board of Directors.

“The Benicia City Council is the natural next step in my service to the City of Benicia. I plan to make continuing, sustainable economic development in Benicia a key priority while protecting its clean air and water and its historic, small-town charm. My husband James and I chose to raise our family here nearly two decades ago, and that spirit and feel is what I will work to pass along to our children and generations to come,” Birdseye said.

In addition to her numerous volunteer activities, Birdseye is also a full-time working mother. She’s currently the Strategic Communications Manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading international environmental non-profit organization, and has worked for several other environmental groups, as well as four years as Communications Director for the Wine Institute in San Francisco. She was also an Executive Producer for CNN based in Atlanta, where she led a team that won an Emmy for their coverage of the Atlanta Olympic bombing in 1996.

Of all the capacities in which Birdseye has served the Benicia community, she is most proud of her vote against the Crude by Rail decision as a Planning Commissioner in 2015. “Along with my fellow commissioners, I placed the health and safety of the people of Benicia first, by denying the dangerous crude by rail proposal,” Birdseye said.

Birdseye lives in Benicia with her husband James, a director for KRON News, and her two children Julia (a freshman at San Francisco State) and son Joseph, a sophomore at Benicia High School. “Benicia is a community of neighbors, and I look forward to being your neighbor at City Hall,” she said.

Questions can be directed to birdseyeforbenicia@gmail.com.

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