Correspondence now public, “for the record” – City to provide copies at workshop on Oct. 22
Following is an email thread between Benicia activist and environmental watchdog Marilyn Bardet and City Councilmember Tom Campbell, in which they richly detail the need for air monitoring in south and west Benicia.
The exchange follows, first from Bardet, then Campbell, and finally from Bardet:
From: Marilyn Bardet
Sent: Thu, Oct 17, 2019 9:55 am
Subject: Fwd: [refineries-rule-group] We finally know what caused the refinery blast that rocked Philadelphia
Good morning, Mayor Patterson, Councilmembers, City Manager Tinfow and Fire Chief Chadwick,
The article, published yesterday (see link below) about the root cause analysis performed for understanding the Philadelphia Energy Solutions explosion and decimation should give us all pause.
The explosion of Philadelpia’s refinery is a clarion call, especially in light of the “teachable moment” of the Nustar Energy tank farm explosions and fire two days ago. Rodeo and Crockett residents are duly and rightly alarmed, as we all should be, at Phillip66’s plan for extensive expansion that would include construction of 6 new propane/butane spheres in a liquifaction zone within only ~2,300 ft of a residential neighborhood.
A point of fact: portions of the Lower Arsenal Historic District and port area are in a recognized liquifaction zone with live pipelines crisscrossing the area, including behind Jefferson Street’s Officers Row, and 3 petroleum coke silos and pet coke terminal operations at the end of Tyler Street.
Why is this important to address now?
Our City is in the process of reviewing and considering adoption of a draft set of new design standards applicable for residential and mixed use development in the Arsenal and Downtown historic districts, and throughout the rest of town. While form-based code, established more than a decade ago, aimed to especially address the appearances of our historic districts, the code does not specifically address the overarching goal of our General Plan that calls for sustainable development. As well, the General Plan, in the Community Health and Safety chapter, also directs that new residential development should not put people in harm’s way, e.g. in close proximity to known hazards where soils may be contaminated from former uses. I would extend that concern to airborne toxic emissions, such as in the case where residential development is considered for specific locations in close proximity to pipelines, valves, stacks, and petroleum coke port terminal operations that could impact residents’ health and safety, (whether from acute or chronic exposures to PM).
For example, refinery pipelines carrying flammable products and crude oil run behind the entire Arsenal Historic District’s “National Register C” which encompasses Jefferson Street and Jefferson Ridge. Unfortunately, residential condos were long ago permitted along Buchanan Street behind which are refinery pipelines. The whole lower Arsenal, from Jefferson St to Grant St, to the Port area present multiple dangerous hazards, including daily truck traffic that enters and leaves the Lower Arsenal and port area often using Park Road.
I will be submitting comments and recommendations for the new form based design standards within the framework of these concerns for new residential and mixed use developments, which I have often written about, especially during the review of the Arsenal Specific Plan EIR that was not adopted.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
From: Tom Campbell
Sent: Sat. Oct 19, 2019, at 9:34 AM
Subject: RE: Fwd: [refineries-rule-group] We finally know what caused the refinery blast that rocked Philadelphia
What the Nustar explosions and the recent Martinez flaring prove is that we need a community air monitoring system and information system to get that live time air monitoring information to the public. The south side of Benicia has no such system in place or even being contemplated. With the prevailing wind patterns and recent history it is essential in order to protect Benicians that there be air monitors in the south and southwest side of Benicia. There are none and none contemplated. Mobile monitors only give a short term transit set of information at best and are not enough for daily protection on the south and west side. This is why your approach is not going to work. Also putting the one air monitoring system near Valero is nothing put a redundant system that will only check on the fence line monitors and leaves the entire south and west side of Benicia naked. While you have chosen to concentrate on Valero you have missed all of the air pollutants coming from the refineries south of Benicia. And that is why the Good Neighbors’ choice of spending so little settlement money on air monitors was flat out wrong.
“If you can’t breath nothing else matters” American Ling Association
Marilyn Bardet <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 19, 2019 11:03 PM
Subject: Re: [refineries-rule-group] We finally know what caused the refinery blast that rocked Philadelphia
Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the workshop on Tuesday, and that’s why I’m writing to address your letter sent personally to me and why I’m copying all the others to whom I’d sent my original message. I appreciate receiving your conments and your concern to provide a real-time, 24/7 community-based monitoring station located in the vicinity of downtown neighborhoods in the southwest area of Benicia, for all the reasons you cited: those neighborhoods are downwind of the Phillips 66 refinery and NuStar tank farm, and depending on wind direction, the Chevron refinery. I had written the message that your letter responds to about the dangerous risks posed to our community in the event of such explosions and fires as we experienced last week. I took pictures at 5pm, downtown from Maria Field and also from the Marina Green of the huge, dark sooty cloud drifting broadly across our city and likely Vallejo from southwest to northeast.
I am certain that other GNSC members and new BCAMP board members agree— a second monitoring station located in a southwest side neighborhood could/would be desirable to catch those “downwind” air quality conditions. However, I disagree with your assessment of the location of the BCAMP station as “flat wrong” and that our station would somehow (impossibly) be primarily focused on refinery emissions and be thus redundantly measuring gases already captured by Valero’s fenceline openpath monitors. That just ain’t so.
The GNSC, and now the new BCAMP board, accepted that the location of the first BCAMP monitoring station was in part determined by the availability of a secure location with access to power—a small former cell tower cement block building now owned by Ruszel Woodworks and located on their property along Bayshore Rd. The site will sample air in the general vicinity of the port, I-680 corridor, industrial park, Southern Pacific tracks, and the Valero southeast tank farm nearest residential neighborhoods of the upper eastside.
Our mission is to sample ambient air quality. BCAMP’s location was not chosen to selectively focus on refinery emissions, even if that were possible.
We have worked to get the Air District, meeting with Eric Stevenson, to agree to establishing a District-operated and funded monitoring station within a Benicia community neighborhood.
It is my understanding that they will be looking to assess particular opportunities with the City to identify a possible City-owned securable site for a permanent “real time” community-based monitoring system.
The GNSC is well aware, as is the BCAMP’s board, that in the future our monitors can be moved, housed in our trailer, and relocated to another secure site somewhere else in town. Perhaps BUSD could make assessments for siting a trailer on one of their school properties? The caveat: any location identified must allow for access to the station by persons contracted to operate the systems and perform routine maintenance and re-calibrations of equipment as necessary.
Have you got suggestions for such an optimum location for sampling ambient air quality? I see no reason why you couldn’t be involved on the part of the City in such an effort to find that additional site!
Thanks for your comments. I’m always willing to discuss!
Summary background: Bardet & Campbell: Benicia needs air monitors on south and west sides
Please attend the City workshop on air monitoring on Tues Oct 22, 6pm at City Hall, 250 East L Street Benicia.
Fascinating email conversation between environmental watchdog Marilyn Bardet and Councilmember Tom Campbell
Longtime Benicia activist and environmental watchdog Marilyn Bardet wrote to Benicia City Council members and staff in anticipation of the October 22 City workshop on air monitoring.
Councilmember Tom Campbell replied, and Bardet responded.
It is newsworthy that both are calling for monitoring of the air that blows our way from refineries and petroleum storage farms south and west of Benicia in Contra Costa County.
There are currently no monitoring stations in south and west Benicia.
Taking off from new findings detailed in a CNBC report, “We finally know what caused the refinery blast that rocked Philadelphia” and in light of the recent massive fire at Nustar Energy tank farm, Bardet wrote about toxic hazards affecting businesses and homes near Valero Refinery.
Also responding to the Nustar fire – and recent flaring in Martinez – Campbell wrote about the need for more monitoring of air on Benicia’s south and west sides. Bardet agreed emphatically, calling for suggestions for the location of air monitoring stations in southwest Benicia.
The City plans to provide a written copy of their exchange at the workshop on Tuesday. The conversation may be read here on the Benicia Independent: Bardet & Campbell correspondence.
And… please attend the City workshop on air monitoring on Tues Oct 22, 6pm at City Hall, 250 East L Street Benicia.
Massive fire at refinery in Crockett sends flames, black smoke into airSFGATE, by Katie Dowd, Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 3:33 pm PDT [BenIndy Editor: Alert Solano sent out this message by text and email at 3:27pm today.: “Benicia Fire Department is currently monitoring the fire at the Nustar Refinery in the Crockett area of Contra Costa County. We are monitoring the air quality in town. As of this time, there are no impacts to Benicia from this incident. We will provide updates as more information becomes available.” – R.S.]
A massive fire has broken out at a NuStar Energy facility in Crockett, sending plumes of flame and thick black smoke into the air on Tuesday afternoon.
The Vallejo Fire Department confirmed to KTVU the fire started in the NuStar Energy storage tanks on San Pablo Ave. Television reports indicate there may have been an explosion as well.
Aerial footage shows at least two storage tanks appear to be fully engulfed. The hills behind the tanks, which are golden with dry grass, have also caught fire. An airplane is currently conducting air drops on the hills.
A video posted to YouTube shows the top of one of the storage tanks being flung into the air as the fire rages.
Nearby residents in Crockett, Hercules and Rodeo should shelter in place and keep their windows closed, as the black smoke could contain contaminants that are hazardous to those with lung problems.
“Go inside, and close all windows and doors. Turn off all heaters, air conditioners, and fans,” cautioned the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. “Unless you are using your fireplace, close your fireplace dampers and vents. Cover any cracks around doors or windows with tape or damp towels.”HEADS UP, COMMUTERS: The NuStar fire has closed I-80
NuStar Energy L.P. is a San Antonio-based company that bills itself as “one of the largest independent liquids terminal and pipeline operators in the nation.” Contra Costa County District One Supervisor John Gioia said on KTVU that their tanks “store products for local refineries.”
“There was an explosion there,” Gioia said. “A couple tanks are on fire.”
A Phillips 66 refinery is located next door, but does not appear to have incurred any damage.
The cause of the explosion and fire are still unknown. No injuries have yet been reported.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated when more information becomes available.Katie Dowd is an SFGATE Senior Digital Manager.