Category Archives: Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)

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,

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VIDEO: Benicia Town Hall on Industrial Safety Ordinance

Repost of Youtube videos by Constance Beutel

On November 14, a coalition of local groups convened an expert panel to share with Benicians about the importance of establishing an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO).  Organizers believe that a local ISO will give our community a seat at the table and enable a faster response in times of industrial emergency situations.

LEARN MORE: Local videographer Constance Beutel offers a FULL video version of the Town Hall and a HIGHLIGHTS version.

HIGHLIGHTS (13 minutes) – please be patient during opening frame

FULL TOWN HALL (1:20 min.) please be patient during opening frame

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SF Chronicle editorial: Benicia needs an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

EDITORIAL On Pollution
Monday, November 27, 2017

Clear the air about safety – Industrial Safety is a Community Concern

The Valero refinery in Benicia,Ca., as seen on Tuesday June 20, 2017. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle
The Valero refinery in Benicia,Ca., as seen on Tuesday June 20, 2017. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Two Bay Area counties are home to oil refineries, but only one has an industrial safety ordinance directed at preventing accidents that could harm workers and pollute the air — Contra Costa County. Solano County has no ordinance, but Benicia, where Valero operates a refinery, is beginning a conversation on adopting a city safety ordinance.

The push for the city ordinance comes at a time when the state recently has adopted its own industrial safety ordinance modeled on the Contra Costa County ordinance. The regional air quality board also unanimously adopted on Nov. 15 the strictest regulation in the nation to limit emissions of cancer-causing toxic air contaminants. Solano County officials say they are studying the new state regulations but question the need for another layer of governmental oversight.

The goal, said Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, who called the Nov. 14 community meeting along with a coalition of environmental and community groups, “is to get a seat at the table.”

Air quality is always a concern in a refinery town, but a May 5 incident at Valero that sent huge plumes of black smoke and flames soaring into the sky reignited community worries. The flaring resulted in shelter-in-place and evacuation orders and raised the price of gasoline. It was later determined the refinery had released 80,000 pounds of toxic sulfur dioxide — a huge amount, experts said.

Two investigations (one by the state, one by the county) found Valero not at fault, but the county’s findings were never forwarded to the city and only revealed through a public records act request. The regional air board is still investigating.

Valero is suing PG&E over a power failure that preceded the refinery losing control of its process.

An industrial safety ordinance would bring Benicia — and surrounding communities — into the know and give residents directly affected some say.

An ordinance also would require Valero to pay fees to the city, or Solano County if the Board of Supervisors adopts an ordinance, to contract for the engineering expertise needed to oversee prevention programs, audits and inspections. Unsurprisingly, Valero is against the idea.

Contra Costa County adopted its industrial safety ordinance in December 1998 after a series of incidents, and just days before four men were killed and a fifth seriously burned in a gruesome refinery accident. Richmond soon after adopted its own ordinance. Contra Costa’s ordinance is held up by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board as a model. The record shows the number of refinery and chemical facility incidents has diminished since adoption.

Industrial safety is a public concern. The public deserves to be in the know.

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