Category Archives: Benicia City Council

Benicia Herald: Mayor requests rehearing of Industrial Safety Ordinance vote

Repost from the Benicia Herald
[Editor: For background and reference, you may want to view Mayor Patterson’s Request for Rehearing of Vote Cast 6_19_18 concerning the Industrial Safety Ordinance.  Plan to attend the Council meeting, 7pm on Tuesday, July 17.  Here is the agenda and other materials.  – RS]

Mayor requests rehearing of Industrial Safety Ordinance vote

By Nick Sestanovich, July 13, 2018
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 - present
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 – present

At its June 19 meeting, the Benicia City Council voted 3-2 to not take any further action on Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s request for an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) in Benicia until November. Now Patterson is requesting a rehearing on the item, which is on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting.

Following a flaring incident and shutdown at the Valero Benicia Refinery in May 2017, Patterson submitted a two-step request which asked the council to consider adopting an ISO in line with Contra Costa County’s ordinance requires refineries to submit safety plans, undergo safety audits and develop risk management plans while incorporating community input. The council voted 4-1 to adopt the first step of this request, but the second step did not appear on a council agenda for another 13 months. Four weeks ago, the council narrowly voted to not adopt an ISO just yet and to direct Valero to fix gaps in communication. Of the three councilmembers who voted down the ISO, two— Tom Campbell and Alan Schwartzman— said they would change their votes if air quality monitors were not installed by November.

However, the issue will be returning to the council even sooner. On June 28, Patterson submitted an application to rehear the item on four grounds: that she felt staff had not adequately prepared the council for the hearing, past settlement agreements and obligations regarding air quality monitoring had not been addressed, new evidence discussing the necessity of fenceline and community monitoring which are not addressed by the planned Bay Area Air Quality Mangement District monitors and the decision to wait for BAAQMD monitors to be installed was “vague and uncertain” and “does not present a viable plan,” Patterson wrote.

For the first reason, Patterson wrote that staff had not done anything substantive in between the discussion of the two steps and that the staff report prepared for the June 19 meeting lacked key information.

“The Staff Report contained almost no meaningful information concerning what actions or costs would be necessary to actually move toward the adoption of an Industrial Safety Ordinance,” she wrote. “Although a thorough draft of the Industrial Safety Ordinance prepared by members of the community was included in the packet, the staff had not reviewed it and was unprepared to comment even preliminarily.”

For the second item, Patterson said the staff report did not mention the past settlements with Valero in 2003, 2008 and 2010 which required fenceline and community monitors, neither of which were installed.

“The City Council should have been advised and taken into consideration Valero’s failure to comply with these agreements as well as its non- compliance with the conditions of approval in rendering its decision, but the Staff Report failed to address these points at all,” Patterson wrote.

For the third item, Patterson said she attended an Airwatch Bay Area conference four days after the council meeting, which noted that BAAQMD’s proposed fenceline monitors were only 1 percent effective at detecting hazardous waste materials.

“Rehearing on the request to direct staff with certain criteria stated earlier to have the draft Industrial Safety Ordinance reviewed should be allowed so that new expert and non-expert evidence can be presented on this important subject,” she wrote. “The BAAQMD monitoring program will not be sufficient in quality…or location to fully protect the community. Time is of the essence.”

Finally, Patterson felt the decision to delay was not specific enough and that waiting presented a potential danger.

“With each additional day that passes, the community faces the risk of another power outage, which Valero has acknowledged it is unprepared for,” she wrote. “The delay in taking any action just puts the community in greater jeopardy of such releases without taking any action to eliminate or mitigate such risks.”

Staff responded to the first two reasons in a report prepared by City Attorney Heather McLaughlin. Regarding the first reason, McLaughlin wrote that as part of the two-step process, staff support for individual requests from individual councilmembers is limited to 15 minutes of staff time and that researching, writing reports and compiling materials would not take longer than 15 minutes unless approved by a majority of the council.

“Staff had collected some background information and provided it with the report to support the Council’s discussion but no analysis or other in-depth work had occurred,” McLaughlin wrote. “Staff had adequately prepared Council for the hearing based on the type of hearing that was scheduled to occur.”

This reasoning was also the basis for the short response to Patterson’s statement that past settlement agreements were not mentioned in the staff report. Staff did not respond to the third or fourth statements.

The council will vote on whether or not to schedule a rehearing on its June 19 vote, which would be slated for a later meeting if approved.

In other matters, the council will vote to approve a resolution placing a tax on port-related activities on the ballot for the general election and confirm Thomas Stanton as Benicia’s seventh poet laureate.

The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 17 in a closed session to discuss legal matters. The regular meeting will start at 7 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.

    Progressive Dems call for Industrial Safety Ordinance, Council votes NO

    By Roger Straw

    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.

    Draft minutes detailing Council’s 6/19 decision read as follows:

    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

    For more, including video segments of the Council meeting, see beniciaindependent.com/iso/.

      Video highlights – City Council votes NO on industrial safety, June 19, 2018

      Video taken from the City of Benicia, edited and reposted by Constance Beutel on YouTube
      [Editor: Scroll down for 5 videos on various portions of the Benicia City Council’s June 19, 2018 review of industrial safety.  Council took over 5½ hours that night – here’s a shorter way to stay informed on the ISO decision.  – RS]

      1. Presentation to support Benicia Industrial Safety Ordinance Review
      City of Benicia video, excerpt by Constance Beutel (32 min.)
      On June 19, 2018 the Mayor and a Citizen Group presented a draft Industrial Safety Ordinance to Benicia City Council to recommend that they refer the ordinance to City Staff for expert review and comments. This video captures the presentation and rationale.


      2. Citizen testimony to support Benicia Industrial Ordinance
      City of Benicia video, excerpt by Constance Beutel (37 min.)
      On June 19, 2018 the Mayor and a Citizen Group presented a draft Industrial Safety Ordinance to Benicia City Council to recommend that they refer the ordinance to City Staff for expert review and comments. Citizens who spoke in favor of the review of this ordinance are shown in this video.


      3. Valero Opposition to a Benicia Industrial Safety Ordinance
      City of Benicia video, excerpt by Constance Beutel (9½ min.)
      On June 19, 2018 the Benicia City Council was asked to refer a citizen draft Industrial Safety Ordinance to City Staff for expert review and comment. Valero spokespersons urged Council not to approve this request for review.


      4. Council discussion and vote on ISO for staff review
      City of Benicia video, excerpt by Constance Beutel (52 min.)
      On June 19, 2018 the Mayor and a Citizen Group presented a draft Industrial Safety Ordinance to Benicia City Council to recommend that they refer the ordinance to City Staff for expert review and comments. This video captures the Council discussion and vote to reject the proposal.


      5. City approves individual as “organized group” (2½ min.)
      Finally here’s a quirky – if not outright stupid – segment of the meeting (taken directly from the City website).  As Larnie Fox put it, “We saw an embarrassing moment” when a citizen claimed to be an organized opposition group.  When asked to define “organized opposition,” the Mayor deferred to City Attorney Heather McLaughlin, whose baffling response (below) allowed the person to speak out of turn as an “organization of one.”  He could have but thankfully didn’t carry on for a full 15 minutes.  It is widely assumed that the City will redefine “organized” support and opposition before this precedent is acted upon again.  – RS, editor