Category Archives: Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

Mayor Patterson: Benicia needs to plan for the declining role of oil and gas

An E-Alert from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson
[Editor: Mayor Patterson has been falsely accused of wanting to run Valero Refinery out of town.  A careful reading of her position shows that she wants the City to plan jointly with Valero and economic advisers for a stable future as we face into the predicted and inevitable decline in carbon-intensive industries.  Other California cities are planning ahead.  Patterson urges Benicia to do the same.  See below.  – R.S.]

New state laws’ and policies’ impacts on Benicia’s future

By Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia, California, October 2, 2018
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 - present
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 – present

Does the city monitor economic trends to forecast the future revenue necessary to operate city services of public safety, road maintenance, safe drinking water, parks and recreation, library and community services?  To some extent, yes.  To the extent that there is an understanding of shifting economic activity such as declining role of oil and gas, no.  We have not done an in depth analysis of the impact of state policies and the law to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

Brown is calling for the entire California economy to become carbon-neutral by 2045. That would mean deploying a combination of new technologies to vastly reduce the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, plus the widespread implementation of methods to capture the rest, so that the state’s net release of emissions already altering the climate in devastating ways would be zero.  [from KQED, Sept. 24, 2018]

What are the opportunities for the city to benefit from this carbon-neutral goal?  Should there be a working group with the city, Valero Refinery, economists and planners to think about 20 years from now?

What are other cities and counties doing to achieve carbon-neutrality?  Will we be on the leading edge or play catch up?  I will continue to advocate for thinking beyond tomorrow and seizing opportunities for Benicia’s economy to evolve for the future so that we continue to have what I think is the best small town in California.

Below is an article about what San Luis Obispo is doing to meet the challenge of carbon-neutrality by 2045.

Elizabeth Patterson, Mayor, City of Benicia


SLO wants to be carbon neutral by 2035, ahead of California

The Tribune, sanluisobispo.com, by Nick Wilson, September 25, 2018 03:06 PM

The City Council wants San Luis Obispo to be carbon-neutral by 2035, an ambitious target that’s 10 years earlier than Gov. Jerry Brown’s statewide goal of 2045.

The council last week directed staff to move forward with a climate action plan that could mean new building codes and ramping up citywide electrical vehicle charging stations, among several other initiatives.

Carbon neutrality, or net-zero energy, is the concept of reducing as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as possible, with the overall goal to achieve a zero carbon footprint. It is achieved largely by replacing fossil fuel energy sources that emit greenhouse gases with renewables like solar and wind.

Greenhouse gases are emitted from cars, homes and businesses, as well as from livestock, among other sources.

An example of an electric vehicle charging station designed by Recargo, a Los Angeles-area company that’s planning to build four new DC fast-chargers in San Luis Obispo.

“This is aggressive,” said Councilwoman Andy Pease. “It’s a really big goal. I think we can do it. But I think it should be a goal within our Climate Action Plan development.”

The specifics of the city’s Net Zero 2035 commitment haven’t been formulated yet, pending the Climate Action Plan update next year.

But efforts undertaken by the city already have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 10 percent since 2005, with a goal of reaching a 15 percent reduction by 2020.

Ideas to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on California Energy Commission recommendations, include:

▪ Reducing solid waste (including making sure people recycle and reuse items they consume, and compost food scraps), eliminating the need for landfills;

▪ Using carbon-free electricity, while transitioning from fossil-fuel based appliances and technologies (such as phasing out internal combustion-based vehicles in place of electric ones, and ratcheting down natural gas-fired furnaces or water heaters in favor of high-efficiency heat pump models that run on clean electricity, for example);

▪ Creating new laws around building codes to ensure efficient, clean energy uses rather than natural gas ones (pending legal and practical study of that possibility to be reconsidered by the council in 2019);

▪ Finding ways to attain carbon sequestration, meaning strategies to manage city forests that convert carbon dioxide into nutritional benefits for tree growth, and other means;

▪ Encouraging efficient use of water and cars (walking and biking whenever possible, versus driving, for example).

Despite its commitment, the council will wait until its Climate Action Plan Update next year to formally decide on the 2035 goal, but it’s united in trying to implement policy to set that timeline in motion, which council members acknowledge is ambitious.

The council was divided on whether to adopt a formal resolution to set the 2035 Net Zero target – immediately creating a formal policy directive to work from, rather than waiting to formalize that goal after more research on how it would affect city residents, builders, existing policy, land use and other considerations.

Mayor Heidi Harmon argued in favor of adopting a resolution, saying that a formal, “bold” statement targeting a 2035 Net Zero goal could make it harder for a potentially new council, after this November’s election, to roll back that policy.

“I think this is so important, and I know how tough culture shift is,” Harmon said. “But this is one of the main reasons I got elected was to be a champion on climate and have real, actionable things that we’re doing.”

But Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said that an “action plan” will better inform the council before it signs off on a 2035 policy.

“There are large numbers of people who emotionally react one way or another on these issues,” Christianson said. “We need to know exactly what we’re talking about, and we kind of don’t (without further staff research).”

    SF Chronicle opinion: Mayors urge governor to end fossil fuel production in California

    Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

    Mayors urge governor to end fossil fuel production in California

    By Elizabeth Patterson and Melvin Willis, Aug. 24, 2018 3:31 p.m.
    FILE – This March 9, 2010, file photo shows a tanker truck passing the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif. A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention has thrown …

    As San Francisco prepares to host Gov. Jerry Brown’s historic Global Climate Action Summit in September, we, the San Francisco Bay Area mayors of cities impacted by the toxic consequences of fossil fuel production, are standing with elected representatives from frontline communities and throughout California in calling on the governor to phase out fossil fuel production.

    Benicia and Richmond both face the toxic consequences of California’s complicity in one of the most toxic, polluting, dangerous industries on Earth and the primary driver of climate change: the oil and gas industry.

    Benicia is home to the Valero oil refinery, and our residents are regularly exposed to emissions during standard operations. In May 2017, a power outage sent flames, heavy black smoke and toxic gases spewing into the air for two straight weeks. Among the pollutants were nearly 80,000 pounds of toxic sulfur dioxide — five years’ worth of “normal” emissions — and carbonyl sulfide, a highly toxic and extremely flammable gas. Accidents are only the most visible of the toxic pollution that impacts our public health, day after day. Our asthma rates are three times the state average.

    The Valero refinery in Bencia,Ca., as seen on Tuesday June 20, 2017. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday is expected to approve the nation’s first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from …

    The Texas-based petroleum giant’s Benicia refinery employs 480 people and supplies nearly a quarter of our city’s tax revenue, but at what cost?

    When Valero proposed a crude-by-rail project to bring 70,000 barrels of tar sands and Bakken crude oil per day by rail through the Sierra, Sacramento and Davis to Benicia, our residents resisted, and our small, historic town stood up to our biggest employer and taxpayer. After three years of environmental review, national attention and a failed effort by Valero to get the federal government involved, the City Council voted unanimously against it.

    Farther south on San Francisco Bay is Richmond, one of the poorest communities in the Bay Area. Our city of largely Hispanic, African American and Asian residents fought against toxic industrial pollution from Chevron’s Richmond refinery that processes 250,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Chevron is our largest employer and taxpayer. Nonetheless, our community has risen up, defeating Chevron-backed candidates in 2014 that outspent us 5 to 1 in our local election, and elected true champions for our community. Richmond forced major environmental conditions on Chevron as it expands the refinery and strengthened our Industrial Safety Ordinance in response to the refinery’s toxic explosion and fire in 2012 that sent 15,000 residents to seek medical treatment.

    Toxic pollution isn’t the only threat we face. With 32 miles of shoreline, more than any other city on San Francisco Bay, Richmond is at extreme risk from sea level rise that will soon cost our community far more than we can afford. So, Richmond, home to an oil giant, became the ninth city in less than a year to bring major fossil fuel companies to court over climate change. We filed a lawsuit against 29 oil, gas and coal companies — including Chevron, along with BP and Exxon — to hold them accountable for their role in climate change and its impacts on the community.

    The fossil fuel industry’s business plan is destroying not only our health and communities, but also the survival of our species.

    Yet, under Gov. Jerry Brown, the state of California has not only tolerated the fossil fuel industry, but expanded it — granting permits for drilling 20,000 new oil wells.

    The Bay Area has had enough of this climate hypocrisy. It is wrong to make communities sick. As one of the top oil-producing states, it is time to bring the fossil fuel era to an end.

    While our small towns have the courage to stand up to a billion-dollar fossil fuel industry to protect our public health and climate, why hasn’t Brown?

    On the toxic front lines of climate change, we stand with 150 local elected officials from a majority of counties in California that are taking bold steps to stop fossil fuels. We all are urging Brown to make a plan to phase out oil and gas production in California, to clean up our cities, towns and agricultural lands, and protect our people.

    If our cities can say “no” to expanding fossil fuels, Gov. Brown, you can, too — and we’ll have your back.

    Elizabeth Patterson is mayor of Benicia. Melvin Willis is vice mayor of Richmond.

      Benicia Mayor Patterson on State decision not to penalize PG&E

      From Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s E-ALERT
      [See also: KQED NEWS, California Report.]

      From: Mayor Elizabeth Patterson
      Sent: Thursday, August 9, 2018 9:32 AM
      Subject: State Decides Not to Penalize PG&E for Major Valero Outage

      My full statement to KQED was:

      Without an Industrial Safety Ordinance residents and workers in Benicia are at risk because the CPUC cravenly fails to ensure that PG&E provide adequate training when working on power supply to Valero Refinery.  Without an Industrial Safety Ordinance Benicia has no way to check on the adequacy and timeliness of PG&E training.   

      On top of that the city cannot require Valero to “power down” when major work is being done by PG&E.  The CPUC fails to consider the public – the City of Benicia and its school district are the only public entities in the near catastrophic May 5th PG&E power outage at Valero Refinery. The Public Utilities Commission fails to consider the city in its investigation.  There was no effort to determine the costs to the city for opening and operating the Emergency Center; no cost for deploying our police and fire personnel; no cost for all staff on deck for the entire episode; no cost for the loss of public trust .  No effort to determine the costs to the BUSD for shelter in place.  No effort to determine the cost to loss of business in the Benicia Industrial Park.  Without the ISO the City of Benicia could not present this information to the CPUC.  Sleeping on the “Public” of the CA Public Utilities Commission does not extinguish the need for Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services.

      • Mission Statement:  The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services.
        CPUC Investigation Conclusion:
      • My [CPUC] investigation found that PG&E violated General Order 174, Rule 12 because: 1) PG&E failed to maintain the CCTV for its intended use and also2) PG&E failed to provide adequate training, documents, or diagrams for its operators to identify the CCVT as part of the anti-islanding protection scheme since the documents, diagrams, and training on the protection scheme did not provide enough clarity on the activation conditions and how they relate to the failed CCVT.