Category Archives: Contra Costa County

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.

    Andrés Soto Letter: Benicians Deserve Better

    Repost from the Benicia Herald, Forum Page

    Benicia deserves better

    Andrés Soto

    February 21, 2018, By Andrés Soto

    Benicia is the only Bay Area refinery town that does not have the community protection of an Industrial Safety Ordinance, or ISO.

    In 1999, the city of Richmond and Contra Costa County adopted their interlocking ISOs. The Richmond ordinance mirrors the Contra Costa ISO, and Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Division is responsible for enforcement and reporting.

    Their experience with repeated refinery and associated hydrogen plant polluting events caused the elected leaders to respond to pressure from the disproportionally impacted communities in Richmond, Rodeo and Martinez for greater protection and information about polluting incidents.

    How did Benicia miss out?

    Since the adoption of the ISO, there have continued to be dangerous and deadly incidents at these Bay Area refineries, albeit at reduced rates, due to the ISO. Fortunately, the Richmond/Contra Costa ISO allows for corrective provisions that have improved refinery function and provided impacted communities with timely investigative information.

    Under the ISOs, a 72-hour post incident report is available to the public. Monthly reports, or more frequently if necessary, follow that report and are publicly posted. To date, neither the Benicia City Council nor the people of Benicia have received any official reports on the nearly monthlong Valero flaring disaster this past May.

    Based on the success of the Richmond/Contra Costa ISO, the California legislature adopted some of the process safety management portions of the ISO and made them state law, going into effect in October.

    Unfortunately, the legislature did not adopt all elements of the ISOs. Benicia’s ability to receive information, publish the results of investigations to the public and to require Valero to take corrective action simply does not exist. Can we wait for the legislature to strengthen the state law?

    While Valero and PG&E point the finger at each other over who is at fault for the Valero flaring disaster in May, Benicia remains in the dark. We know Valero was given permits to construct an adequate backup generator system but only one co-generator was built and the permit for the other was allowed to expire after several extensions, probably because of Valero’s bureaucrats in Texas.

    Do we Benicians think we can count on Texas oil men to put our health and safety ahead of their profits? The lesson we learned from the successful battle to stop Valero’s dangerous Crude-By-Rail Project is the company seems to stop at nothing to ensure their profits – even at the expense of Benicians.

    Benicia deserves better!

    Andrés Soto,
    Benicia

      TODAY! ISO BENICIA PANEL DISCUSSION TUES. NOV. 14

      TOWN HALL MEETING TONIGHT!
      An Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)
      for Benicia

      To learn more about ISO Benicia,
      please attend a panel discussion with State Officials, and Contra Costa County experts on why and how Benicia can better protect our community.

      Why:  Currently, Benicia is the only refinery town in the Bay Area not protected by an ISO. In Contra Costa County, the county Hazardous Materials Division of the Health Department is responsible for enforcing an ISO that governs the three refineries in the county unincorporated areas – Shell, Tesoro and Phillips 66. The City of Richmond has an ordinance that mirrors the county’s and contracts with Contra Costa County for enforcement activities governing the Chevron refinery and other industries.

      When:   TODAY! Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 7pm.

      Where:  The Benicia Public Library in the Doña Benicia Room at 150 East L St. in Benicia.

      Who:   

      • Gregory Vlasek, Local Program Coordination and Emergency Response, California Environmental Protection Agency
      • Clyde Trombettas, Statewide Manager and Policy Advisor for California OSHA, Process Safety Management Unit
      • Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa County Chief Environmental Health and Hazardous Materials Officer
      • John Gioia,  Contra Costa County Supervisor
      • Staff representatives from Solano County were invited to participate and declined the invitation.
      • You:  There will also be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and make comments at the end of the presentations.

      For more information:  Contact Andrés Soto at 510.237.6866 or andres@cbecal.org  [See also below: Quick Facts, and Where To Write.]

      Event Sponsors:

      Benicians For a Safe & Healthy Community | Progressive Democrats of Benicia | The Benicia Independent | Communities for a Better Environment  |  ALSO: Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown |  United Democrats of Southern Solano County  |  Carquinez Patriotic Resistance


      Quick Facts

      What is the purpose of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)?
      The main goal of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) is to prevent and/or minimize the effects of devastating accidents on the employees close to the accident and the surrounding communities.

      Why does Benicia need this when the State has an ISO?
      After the near-catastrophic May 5th Valero Refinery emergency shutdown and major flaring incident, it was even more apparent that Benicia is at risk without an ISO. Benicia is the only jurisdiction in the East Bay with a refinery or chemical industry that does not have a local safety ordinance such as the City of Richmond and other refinery communities have. The City of Benicia is covered by Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA safety regulations.  However, there are additional concerns not addressed by Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA, such as no direct safety reports filed at the City of Benicia, leaving Benicia in the dark.  An ISO would correct this and other safety matters. 

      How would this improve communications between Valero and the community of Benicia?
      A local ISO would facilitate cooperation between industry, the City, the County, local fire departments, Cal/OSHA, Cal/EPA, other agencies that have oversight of businesses, and the public in the prevention and reduction of incidents at refineries like Valero. An ISO would also establish local air quality monitors for access to real time data.

      Why is the Valero refinery the only Bay Area refinery not involved with a county or local ISO?
      In 1998 Contra Costa County adopted an ISO, and revised and updated it after the Chevron fire. The City of Richmond also has a local ISO.  These ISOs require among other things, refineries and other chemical businesses to submit a safety plan, undergo safety audits, and have risk management plans, each of which would allow more community input and access. The Contra Costa ISO has been praised as the best safety ordinance in the country, so effective that Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA adopted many elements for state regulation and oversight.  Benicia is the only city in Solano County that is home to refinery and currently our County has no plans to develop an ISO.  It is up to the City of Benicia to develop and implement its own. 

      How would the ISO be managed and can Benicia afford it?
      Contra Costa County’s ISO enables the county to collect fees from industrial facilities to pay for comprehensive public safety alerts and local information about environmental risks and exposure to toxins due to an “event”.  

      What are the next steps and how can I get involved?
      Because Benicia deserves to be properly protected and informed, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Progressive Democrats of Benicia, The Benicia Independent, Carquinez Patriotic Resistance, Communities For a Better Environment and additional community groups are urging the City Council to adopt and implement an Industrial Safety Ordinance for Benicia.  To learn more and get involved, visit BeniciaIndependent.com.  To write to Benicia city staff and council members, see below…


      WHERE TO WRITE…

      EMAIL:
      Mayor Elizabeth Patterson (epatterson@ci.benicia.ca.us)
      Vice Mayor Steve Young (syoung@ci.benicia.ca.us)
      Tom Campbell (tcampbell@ci.benicia.ca.us
      Mark Hughes (Mark.Hughes@ci.benicia.ca.us)
      Alan Schwartzman (aschwartzman@ci.benicia.ca.us)
      City Manager Lorie Tinfow (ltinfow@ci.benicia.ca.us)
      Interim Fire Chief Josh Chadwick (JChadwick@ci.benicia.ca.us)
      Police Chief Erik Upson (EUpson@ci.benicia.ca.us)
      City Attorney Heather McLaughlin (Heather.McLaughlin@ci.benicia.ca.us)

      MAIL / PHONE / OFFICES:
      Mail to or visit City Hall: 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510
      Phone numbers are listed on the City’s CONTACT PAGE

      SEND YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE NEWS MEDIA:
      Benicia Herald, 820 First St, Benicia, CA 94510, or by email to the editor at beniciaherald@gmail.com
      AND
      Vallejo Times-Herald, P.O. Box 3188, Vallejo, CA 94590, Fax: 643-0128, or by email to Editor Jack Bungart at opinion@timesheraldonline.com.