Category Archives: Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)

Mayor Patterson: Air monitors and public health – Council agenda for Tuesday

From an E-Alert by Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

Much more than fence-line air monitors…

Monday, November 19, 2018

Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 - present
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 – present

The regular council meeting will be at 7:00 and the agenda and staff reports and recommendations are online here.

The main item of interest is the “report” to Council about progress on installation of air monitors by Valero.  The report came about because of the request by the Industrial Safety Ordinance working group – a citizens’ steering committee which researched and developed a draft Industrial Safety Ordinance in response to the near catastrophic melt down of Valero Refinery in May of 2017 and subsequent plumes of black smoke.

The request to the city council was – and is – to have an outside subject matter expert with legal skills to review the proposed ISO and determine its legal sufficiency and report to the council.  For some reason staff does not make this clear but rather states that it is a vote up or down on the ordinance. This is incorrect.

The request to have an expert opinion report on the need, adequacy and value of the Industrial Safety Ordinance is meant to have a neutral party report to council.  I made a request for considering the ordinance in May of 2017 and soon realized that this would not be addressed quickly.  Therefore, I advised the Benicians for Safe and Healthy Community and thus they took the initiative to research, interview, have an expert panel discussion and draft the ordinance.  Naturally, this was done to expedite the process.  The small step of seeking outside advice on the draft Ordinance was voted down by the council majority.

A couple of common objections to the Industrial Safety Ordinance are:

  1. An ISO is not necessary now that the state has adopted many of the Contra Costa County ISO regulations.  It should be noted that none of the cities or county have rescinded their ordinance because they still find it meets specific needs and is subject to better reporting to local government.
  2. Now that the fence-line monitors are in place there is no need for the ISO because the county’s Program 4 suffices.  Actually this is a requirement of the state to coordinate state and local regulations and is incorporated by reference into the draft ISO.  The county does not have regulatory authority, but rather coordinates.  For instance, the county reports on inspections and status of required reports.  The coordination with local government to date has been a booth at the 2018 Peddlers’s Fair.  CalEPA requires a full public participation program for the community air monitor(s) to be implemented.  Neither the community air monitor nor the public participation program has been done.

In short the proposed Industrial Safety Ordinance is much more than fence-line monitors at the refinery or portable emergency air monitors.  It is providing a seat at the table participating with the county and state regulators and the regulated industries.  It is a guarantee to get reports and posting them on city website rather than chasing down reports at the county or state and often with broken links.  It is a fee structure to pay for continuous staff level of engagement rather than driven by budget constraints.  It is memorializing our affirmative duty to protect public health.  It establishes a collaborative relationship with regulators and the regulated refinery and not a co-dependent relationship.

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    Important Benicia City Council meeting this Tuesday Nov. 20

    By Roger Straw, Monday, November 19, 2018
    [Editor:  Highly recommended: Mayor Patterson’s Air monitors and public health – Council agenda for Tuesday.  Also, see Kathy Kerridge’s  invitation to this meeting.  – R.S.]

    Valero and City staff report on air monitor progress required by ISO denial

    You may want to attend the Benicia City Council meeting this Tuesday evening, November 20, or watch it on Benicia TV.

    Last June, City Council chose NOT to review a draft Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) prepared by a local citizen activist Working Group.  However, the presentation and discussion at Council that night highlighted a unanimous concern that Benicia needs better air quality monitors and better communication between Valero refinery and the City.

    At the end of the Council’s discussion last June, Council members Campbell and Schwartzman demanded that Valero install certain air monitors and undertake improved communications with the City in six months, OR ELSE.  Or else, that  is, they would vote in favor of an ISO to better protect the interests of the City.

    Well, the six months has passed, and this Tuesday City Council will hear reports and discuss progress made – or not made.  As always, public comments, written or spoken, are welcome.  (See “Where to write…”)

    IMPORTANT PREPARATION MATERIALS: see the Nov. 20 staff report and attachments here, beginning on p. 6 of the agenda.

    City Council will meet at 7 pm on Tuesday November 20 in chambers at City Hall, 250 East L Street.  The meeting will be broadcast live on your tv at home on Comcast channel 27 or AT&T U-Verse channel 99 or via live streaming on your computer at Benicia TV, https://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/btv.

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      Benicia Herald: City Council candidates discuss issues at Chamber of Commerce forum

      Repost from the Benicia Herald

      City Council candidates discuss issues at Chamber of Commerce forum

      By Nick Sestanovich, September 13, 2018
      (Left to right) City Council candidates William Emes, Kari Birdseye, Lionel Largaespada and Christina Strawbridge answer questions from the audience at Wednesday’s Candidate’s Night forum. (Photo by Nick Sestanovich)

      Viewers of Wednesday’s Candidate’s Night forum, sponsored by the Benicia Chamber of Commerce, had an opportunity to ask questions of the City Council candidates and learn their perspectives on hot-button issues facing the city.

      The forum was held in the Council Chambers of City Hall and moderated by James Cooper, the president of the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce. All the candidates were present, including Planning Commission Chair Kari Birdseye, retired carpenter William Emes, Economic Development Chair Lionel Largaespada and former Councilmember Christina Strawbridge. Prior to the forum, audience members wrote down questions on cards, which Cooper read to all the candidates. Below is a sample of the candidates’ answers.

      Industrial Safety Ordinance

      The candidates were asked their stance on a proposed Industrial Safety Ordinance for the city, which among other things would include a more community-involved approach to safety procedures at the Valero Benicia Refinery and other local industries. A draft ISO went before the council in June, but the council voted to delay the ISO to give Valero more time to address some of the concerns resulting from the 2017 flaring incident.

      Birdseye felt the proposal should be reviewed.

      “I’m all for communications between our great neighbor, Valero Refinery, and the community at large,” she said. “The heart of the ordinance is better communications and better data on what’s in our air.”

      She proposed the ordinance should be renamed the “Community Involvement Ordinance.”

      Largaespada made five points. He said his top priority was public safety, the city should have an active climate environmental policy, he supports the installation of more air monitors, the council should be vigilant over the council’s execution of Program 4— the state version of the ISO and he supported the expansion of command centers with every vulnerable entity in town, including Amports and schools.

      “We didn’t have to wait for there to be a flaring incident at Valero to take all these actions,” he said. “I assure you as the next councilmember, public safety is what I will think about every day, working with fellow councilmembers and city staff. We will correct and amend our ordinances and our processes along the way.”

      Strawbridge said she was concerned about the way the ordinance was presented, namely that she felt the public did not have much oversight and the councilmembers and staff did not have much time to review it.

      “I think we need more time to review it,” she said. “I think that it has brought people to the table, which has been really important.”

      She noted that the ISO discussion has created opportunities for communication with Valero and suggested people wait and see what the refinery will do in the time given.

      Emes felt Valero should be given time to meet the minimum requirements, including installing monitors.

      “Over time, my 15 years experience working refineries, they have continually become better,” he said. “It takes time to do this. To demand that it occur instantly in five years is unrealistic given the historic record.”

      Water rates

      Candidates were asked about the city’s decision to restructure water rates and their views on continued rate increases.

      Birdseye noted her family was among those impacted by the water rate increases, and she noted in her experiences going door to door, many residents wanted relief and action. She felt that addressing the city’s “crumbling infrastructure” was the right thing to do.

      “We want future generations of Benicians to have access to clean water, and that’s not a god-given right,” she said, citing the incidents of Flint, Mich. and Newark, N.J. as examples of failed leadership resulting in lack of access to clean water.

      However, Birdseye felt the city should explore its options and figure out alternatives to rate increases.

      Largaespada said he was frustrated by the rates and had been protesting them since 2016 via public comments at council meetings and letters to the editor. He offered a plan for the next council to freeze rates, bring back discounts to those with fixed incomes and extend them to nonprofits such as the Benicia Teen Center, ask for money from state and federal representatives and look at public/private partnerships.

      “The reality is Benicia will never have enough money to pay for this,” he said.

      Strawbridge said she was the swing vote when the council voted to increase water rates but felt further discussions should be held with residents and advocated freezing the rates to figure out where the city stands with its water and sewer funds. She also suggested developing a water hotline to address the complaints.

      Emes felt assistance should be provided to those who need help and the commercial enterprises that use a lot of water should carry their weight.

      “My feeling on this sensitive subject is that those in need should get help, and those that can give help should help carry the burden,” he said. “It is that simple.”

      Cannabis

      The candidates were asked their views on the city’s decision to allow cannabusinesses.

      Largaespada rejected assertions that he was a “prohibitionist” or “moralist,” and he accepted the statewide voters’ decision. However, he did not feel the council’s ordinance was well-implemented, particularly the decision to do away with buffers around parks, places of worship or youth centers.

      “It is the responsibility of the City Council to ensure that Benicia remains a family-friendly community,” he said. “Those businesses are welcome, but families come first and we will do our best to accommodate the locations that will not come at the expense of the families and children here in Benicia.”

      Strawbridge said she felt the decision was made too fast and felt Benicia should have waited to see how cannabis legalization was impacting other communities.

      “I have no problem with legalized marijuana,” she said. “I think it’s been helpful, especially for people for medicinal use for people trying to find relief and pain, but I do have a problem with the fit for here in Benicia.”

      Strawbridge said she would continue to fight to ensure cannabis is not used by youth.

      Emes agreed with Largaespada and felt there should be zones where cannabis is not allowed.

      Birdseye, who was on the Planning Commission that recommended a zoning ordinance, said ensuring public safety in the wake of legalization will be a top priority.

      “Our chief of police was there every step of the way in legalizing cannabis and bringing cannabis to our community,” she said. “He will ensure that cannabis will not be a safety nuisance. In addition, because we took advantage of the timing of the state in legalizing cannabis, we will have additional funds to enforce cannabis laws and keep it away from our kids and also education in our schools. I felt that was a very valuable part of what we did.”

      The televised broadcast of the forum will be shown again at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 26; 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6; and 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15 on Comcast Channel 27.  [Editor: …and streamed on the City website for local access channel 27.]

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