Category Archives: Rodeo

Call to Action: Air District as apologist for Big Oil, Phillips 66

Letter to the editor by Larnie Fox, Benicia
August 15, 2017

Phillips 66 Marine Terminal Permit Revision

Larnie Fox, Benicia CA

Last night I attended a Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) presentation on Phillips 66’s plan to expand their marine terminal. It was sponsored by Solano County Supervisor, Monica Brown, and held in Benicia’s City Hall. Five or six BAAQMD staff members were present, as were many members of the community and members of community organizations. Monica Brown deserves our thanks for bringing this issue to light.

The BAAQMD made a short and somewhat vague presentation. It is now soliciting public input before preparing an environmental impact report. The project would allow Phillips 66 to double the amount of tankers coming through the Bay to their refinery in Rodeo, (4½ miles upwind of us in Benicia), but they couldn’t say what kind of crude the tankers would be carrying.

In the ensuing Q & A, it became clear to everyone present that the company plans to bring in crude from the Canadian tar sands – the BAAQMD staff members did not deny this. It also became apparent that taxpayers would bear much of the cost of any fires or spills.

Not all crude oils are alike. Tar sands crude is dirty, heavy, and corrosive. Because of its density, it will sink to the bottom of the Bay (and kill everything there) if it is spilled, making an effective cleanup nearly impossible. In order to ship it, it needs to be mixed with benzene and other volatile carcinogens prone to explosions and fires. It is dirty – releasing more toxins and carcinogens when processed than ordinary crude. It is considered a “sour” crude, which means it has a high sulfur content. This makes it more likely to corrode tanks, pipes, and oil tankers – leading to leaks and explosions.

I was very disappointed to see that BAAQMD staff were acting as apologists for big oil in our City Hall. Their mission is to protect our air, not to protect the profits of Phillips 66.

Most of the oil refined here will be shipped to Asia. The cost in terms of the environment and our health is not worth it. California now produces one-third of its electric power from wind and solar. Electric cars are becoming affordable; many homes have solar panels on them where they can charge their new electric cars. As we enter the age of clean fuels, we are free to move away from fossil fuels, and their associated environmental catastrophes.

I don’t aspire to be an activist. I am a working artist, and I would much rather be in my studio. Perhaps you don’t aspire to be an activist either, but what Phillips 66 is proposing is an unacceptable threat to all downwind of it and will contribute to climate change and environmental degradation. It requires a concerted effort to stop it, now.

What to do:

Contact the BAAQMD before August 28 with your views on the Phillips 66 project. The email they provided for this purpose is <>.

Contact your elected officials, local, state and national, and urge them to ask the BAAQMD to deny the project.  [Editor: Find Your Elected Officials]

Post information about the project on social media and write letters to editors.

Editor: More info here:
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Phillips 66 refinery fire in Rodeo, California

Repost from the Contra Costa Times

East Bay: Rodeo’s Phillips 66 refinery fire extinguished

By George Kelly, 08/03/2015 06:27:13 AM PDT
A photo shows a fire that broke out Sunday afternoon at the Philips 66 refinery in Rodeo.
A fire broke out Sunday afternoon at the Philips 66 refinery in Rodeo. (Courtesy of Jason Sutton)

RODEO — A small fire Sunday at the Phillips 66 refinery spurred the county health department to issue a public health advisory for the towns of Rodeo and Crockett.

The fire began around 3 p.m. at the refinery site in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue, spurring a response from refinery fire staff and Rodeo-Hercules fire district firefighters, Phillips 66 spokesman Paul Adler said in a statement. No injuries were reported, and the fire’s cause is under investigation, Adler said.

The Contra Costa County incident warning system issued an alert just before 3:15 p.m. that staff concerned with hazardous materials were responding to a report of a fire at the refinery. County officials advise people with respiratory sensitivities to avoid the area or stay inside and rinse any irritated area with water but added that most people should not be affected.

The county’s hazardous materials incident response site listed the refinery’s last major incident as a little more than three years ago. On June 15, 2012, an overpressured sour water tank left splits in two tanks, sending chemical vapors into the air and leaving odors detectable in surrounding communities, according to a tally of major accidents at the county’s chemical and refinery plants.

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Contra Costa County: Supervisors order recirculation of environmental report on Rodeo refinery project

Repost from The Contra Costa Times
[Editor: Note the 8th paragraph (emphasis added).  Back in January of this year, the BAAQMD itself has – according to this article – “weighed in … saying the environmental report should include calculations of toxic air contaminant emissions from the refinery and assess cumulative health risks of other refinery projects in the region“.  Surely then, this is also true for the Valero Benicia EIR.  Can the City’s consultant be charged with calculating cumulative emissions Bay-Area-wide as part of its EIR?  Or should the BAAQMD issue its own inclusive estimates DURING the proposal’s 45-day comment period?   – RS]

Contra Costa County: Supervisors order recirculation of environmental report on Rodeo refinery project

By Tom Lochner Contra Costa TimesPosted:   06/09/2014

MARTINEZ — Health impacts related to a propane and butane recovery project at the Phillips 66 petroleum refinery in Rodeo should be studied before moving ahead with approvals, according to county officials, but the refinery claims that delay could doom the project.

The board voted last week 5-0 to recirculate the project’s environmental impact report and continue the public hearing, which also includes consideration of two appeals of the project’s land use permit, to Sept. 23.

Conservation and Development Director Catherine Kutsuris noted that the EIR does not include a cumulative study of health impacts on the surrounding communities recommended under a 2011 revision of the guidelines of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The health study must be completed and submitted for public comment before the EIR can be certified, Kutsuris said.

The Phillips 66 Liquid Petroleum Gas Recovery Project calls for installing new equipment to recover and sell propane and butane instead of burning the fuel at the refinery or flaring off excesses. The refinery says the project will reduce pollution while creating well-paying jobs and generating taxes.

“The economic realities are, if we recirculate and we have another delay, we will be canceling this project,” Sam Parino, operations manager at Phillips 66 Rodeo, told the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors at the June 3 public hearing, although the company later softened its stance.

The project has suffered a string of recent setbacks after breezing through the early stages of the approval process, beginning with the endorsement of the Rodeo Municipal Advisory Council last summer, followed by county Planning Commission approval of a land use permit in November.

A packed January hearing on the EIR and appeals of the Planning Commission land use permit led to passionate testimony from both sides.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District also weighed in at that time, saying the environmental report should include calculations of toxic air contaminant emissions from the refinery and assess cumulative health risks of other refinery projects in the region. There are pending projects at Chevron in Richmond, Shell in Martinez and Valero in Benicia. Also pending is an oil storage and transfer joint venture in Pittsburg by WesPac Energy and Oiltanking Holding Americas, with rail, marine and pipeline components.

Refinery spokesman Mark Hughes urged the board to order the health study without recirculating the EIR, saying it would be “tragic” if the refinery suffers economic loss and the community misses out on emission reductions and jobs promised as part of this project.

On Monday, Phillips 66 appeared to be backing down from its threat to scuttle the project.

“We will continue to pursue the land use permitting approvals of the LPG Recovery Project to ensure the long-term viability of the Rodeo refinery and the many jobs it provides,” Hughes said in an email. “We are confident that a revised EIR will ultimately help decision-makers and our community to better understand the benefits of the project and approve the application.”

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at

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