Tag Archives: Port of Benicia

4-Alarm Fire at Port of Benicia – video and report

Crews battling large fire at Benicia Port

ABC7 Bay Area News, April 9, 2022

BENICIA, Calif. (KGO) — A blaze at a Benicia port has grown to a four-alarm fire, officials said on Saturday.

The fire started just after noon at a dock along 1200 block of Bayshore Rd.

Most of the longshoremen working at the dock have been evacuated, officials said.

“Fire at Port of Benicia, a dock ramp is fully engulfed,” tweeted Cornell Barnard who is at the scene.

Officials say there is no shelter-in-place order but could change depending on the wind direction, but in a tweet, Benicia fire department says, “wind conditions are favorable…there continues to be no threat to the public.”

Benicia police are asking motorists to avoid the area due to “heavy police and fire presence.”

At a 4:30p.m. press conference, an official said no injuries have been reported.

Valero Hit With Suit Over Bay Area Petroleum Coke Pollution

[BenIndy Editor: Last October, Baykeeper announced a Notice of Intent to sue, offering 60 days for a settlement.  Evidently there was no agreement to settle.  Today’s news below.  See also: earlier reports on the Benicia Independent.]

SF Baykeeper Sues Water-Discharging Businesses

Law Street Media, by Jose Rascon, March 2, 2022
On Thursday, plaintiff San Francisco Baykeeper filed suit against Amports, Inc APS West Coast, Benicia Port Terminal Company, and Valero Refining Company in the Northern District of California. San Francisco Baykeeper is claiming that the defendants have unlawfully discharged pollutants into public waters.

The defendants, according to the complaint, are a group of corporations that conduct business in the automotive processing industry, while the plaintiff is a nonprofit organization “whose main focus is to hold polluters and government agencies accountable to create healthier communities and help wildlife thrive”

The complaint states that the defendants have “directly discharge petroleum coke into the Carquinez Strait at the Port of Benicia and that Defendants do so without a valid permit under the Clean Water Act and in violation of California law.”

The plaintiff is claiming that the defendants have gone out and discharged harmful toxins in the Port of Benicia through several means. Some of these means have been through “the washing of petcoke and pollutants off the deck of the ship and other loading-related equipment, directly into the Bay,” as well as the direct “aerial deposition of particulate matter into the water from Amports’ conveyance system and operations.”

According to the plaintiff the substance that the defendants have allegedly been discharging, known as Petroleum coke, or petcoke is a harmful byproduct of petroleum refining. Some of the properties that Petcoke contains are heavy metals such as copper, zinc, nickel arsenic, and mercury. This substance is being claimed to be “a harmful and deleterious to aquatic ecosystems, animal and plant species in and around waters, and poses risks to human health”.

Other allegations that the plaintiff is asserting is that the substance Petcoke makes its way into the public waters of the Carquinez Strait where the defendants do not have the proper authorization to work in.

Ultimately, the defendant is facing 10 counts, including NPDES permit violations, Clean Water Act violations, and violation of unfair competition law.

The Plaintiff is being represented by Schute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP

ALERT: MONDAY AT 7PM – KPIX to air expose on Valero/AMPORTS polluting of Carquinez Strait at Port of Benicia

Tune in to KPIX5 TV, CBS SF Bay Area at 7pm on Monday, October 25 – Featuring our own Marilyn Bardet!

Amports’ Port of Benicia, petcoke spill in the Carquinez Strait. Photo: SF Baykeeper
INVITATION
Email, from Marilyn Bardet, 10/24/21

Hello friends,

I’m following up on the letter I posted Oct 7th, to let you know that BayKeeper and KPIX Channel 5 news were in Benicia on Oct 12th, filming all around the port area, and Channel 5 also interviewed me– in my studio, since I have a direct view of the Port. The announcement that BayKeeper is filing an official complaint within 60 days has prompted Channel 5 to tell the story…

If you happen to be watching KPIX for local news during the storm, you might see one of their promo ads for the petcoke story segment they’ll be airing on Monday on their Nightly News at 7. (They even used me in the promo! Very strange!)

As long as you’re safe at home, enjoy the rain!

🙂 Marilyn

Marilyn Bardet: Petcoke pollution in Benicia, photos going back to 1995

[See also: Baykeeper notice of intent to sue Amports; Video and photos at Port of Benicia show fossil fuel polluter in the act; Cracking Down on Refinery Emissions – all about “cat crackers”]
Petcoke pollution, Port of Benicia. Photo by San Francisco Baykeeper
Email from Benicia activist Marilyn Bardet, October 7, 2021

On the Baykeeper article with drone video and photos of petcoke pollution at Port of Benicia

Marilyn Bardet

I first heard a report about the petroleum coke plume spreading on the Strait from Benicia’s port on KQED radio yesterday, and now the Vallejo Sun (online news source—see link above)) has run an article that includes a drone video of what appears to be a plume from a coke ship at the Valero dock. Clearly, this can’t be a “first” incident. Thanks to Roger Straw,’s catch, the Benicia Independent ran the story yesterday.

The revelation is no surprise to me, although I’ve never had a drone to capture from the air what I’ve witnessed with my own eyes and photographed from near the port. In 1995, I snapped a picture of a “dust cloud” wafting up into the air from petcoke being dumped into the open hull of a coke ship. That “cloud” had been visible to the naked eye on a misty grey day. I’d reported this to the Air District then, (with photos taken from old camera) and similarly, over the years, to no avail. Petcoke is unregulated by Fed-EPA. (see “why” below).

I also took photos in 2013-2014 of coke trains traveling from the refinery along Bayshore Rd, and I’ve collected petcoke off railroad ties that had sifted out from the hopper cars’ undercarriage (from which hinged flanges open up for dumping coke onto underground conveyor belt at the port, which is then trasferred to the petcoke silos. (see photos below). The coke can still be seen along the tracks–proof of how coke gets airborne from its transport from trains to silos to ships’ hulls.

Petcoke is a dangerous particulate (PM 10 and PM 2.5) that settles on the water and all around the lower Arsenal area in the vicinity of the arts community and Arsenal Historic District. Tiniest invisible particles blow around, becoming part of the carbon grit that settles on cars, window sills, etc. etc.

As most of you know, I’ve railed for years, since 1995, about how petroleum coke is a serious airborne pollutant in our local environment. In 1995, Koch Carbon Industries (subsidiary of Koch Industries) came to Benicia proposing to build a mega-industrial 24/7 petcoke storage and shipping terminal operation that was to serve all five Bay Area refineries including Exxon Benicia (now Valero). That project would have been disastrous for Benicia, creating a massive “toxic coke dump” at our port, with all the cumulative consequences to public health and the environment. We, the public, fought the project fiercely and forced Koch Industries to abandon their proposed “Coke Domes” project. But they went up river and built a smaller coke terminal in Pittsburg instead— speaking of environmental injustice).

If you read no further, the announcement yesterday underscores my point, made over many years and currently, that residential development in the lower Arsenal should not be allowed, because doing so would deliberately create an environmental injustice: the area is inherently industrial and dangerous and polluted by the various specific operations of Valero and Amports. Check it out! Active crude oil pipelines run from the refinery behind our historic Officers’ Row and Clocktower to the Valero tanker dock, (located just east of the Clocktower); petroleum coke is is transferred from the refinery two or three times per week by train along Bayshore Rd to Valero’s petcoke shipping dock (immediately adjacent to Amports’ car import dock); diesel exhaust contributes toxic gases to the air from ships’ engines running while in port and on the Strait. To my knowledge, the cumulative amount of pollution produced everyday in the vicinity of the port has not been calculated.

ABOUT PETCOKE

Petcoke collected from train tracks along Bayshore Road in Benicia (Marilyn Bardet, Oct 9, 2013)

For those of you not sure about how petcoke is produced and why it’s dangerous to human health: Petroleum coke is the name given to the residue left in the hydrocracker processing unit during the refining of crude oil’s distillates. This residue is an oily, black crumbly carbon substance that must be scraped out of the hydrocracker everyday, and transfered to a “coker” for more processing. to create what’s called “petcoke”. The heavier (dirtier) crude oil refined, the more coke residue is created. The coker unit at Valero transforms the coal-like rocks into a fluffed up powdery-fine granular particulate which is marketed as a product, sold mainly to Asia as a cheap fuel for use in place of more expensive coal in steel furnaces and for other domestic uses. With few exceptions, petcoke cannot be used as a fuel in the US.

Burning petcoke as a fuel contributes to global warming, every bit as much as burning coal or any other fossil fuel. It is also hugely dangerous to human health when inhaled. The coke particulates contain heavy metals, depending on the source of crude oil being refined on any given day. Nickel is a carcinogen when inhaled. PM2.5 particulates of petcoke lodge in the lungs and send other toxic gas molecules—which have piggy-backed onto airborne petcoke particulates—into the bloodstream, thus cumulatively affecting circulatory, heart and lung functions from chronic, daily, low-level exposures breathing airborne petcoke. Of course, petcoke ending up in the water on a regular basis can be ingested by fish and waterfowl and other organisms, contaminating the Strait. Much more investigation of this issue is urgently needed!

Petcoke plume in Carquinez Strait, Benicia. Photo by San Francisco Baykeeper

The sad, unethical fact is that long ago the oil industry lobbied Fed-EPA to exempt petcoke from regulation as a toxic waste, arguing that petcoke becomes a marketable “finished product” when further processed, and therefore belongs in the same category that includes gasoline, kerosene, diesel, and all other liquid distillates produced by refineries. As more and more heavy crude is being refined in California, our refineries will be producing much more petcoke for export as fuel for burning….

To date, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) responds to residents’ complaints about petcoke only if it is visible as an opaque dust cloud when backlit in the air! (This was told to me by BAAQMD staff member).

I hope this helps everyone understand why petcoke is a human health and environmental danger, and why we should NOT be allowing residential development in the lower Arsenal Historic District, for all the enviro reasons cited above. Period!

Please share with your friends!

On the side of public health and safety, social and environmental justice,

Yours truly,
🌻 Marilyn