Category Archives: Solano County Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA)

Questionable community outreach by Air District for Industrial Safety Ordinance audits

From local emails…

FIRST ROUND OF EMAILS…

From: Roger Straw
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2018 9:45 AM
Subject: FW: [BAAQMD Coalition] Questionable community outreach for Industrial Safety Ordinance audits

This is amazing – read below, from bottom, up.  (Click on the image for larger display.)  And then come back and ask a couple of questions:

  1. Does Solano County have to report to the public like this now – even under current regulations?  Do they publish a notice like the one Nancy sent from Crockett?  Is this something that our newbie “CUPA” needs to be doing on our behalf?
  2. If/when we have an ISO, what assurances do we have the Hazardous Materials staff (Contra Costa OR Solano) would be any more attentive to Benicia citizens’ needs.  (Randy Sawyer should be embarrassed by this.)

I think the Working Group could be making a big deal out of this!  I think I’ll post about it on the BenIndy.

Roger


Begin forwarded message:

On Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 3:28 PM Nancy Rieser via BAAQMD Network wrote:

The Contra Costa Health Department considers a booth behind an elementary school two blocks away from a street fair in Crockett as a “public meeting..”   They reckon that the booth where they will be twiddling their fingers while the locals drink and dance a few blocks away will meet its obligation to hold a face-to-face public meeting.

Guess we are lucky.  Martinez gets its face-to-face at a Christmas tree farm in August on National Night Out.

I called the Health Department:  The gentleman who answered the phone said that apparently nobody cares enough to hear this kind of information and they won’t hold a meeting unless they can get a guaranteed audience of 25 people.  Neither will they mail notices to individual homes about their meeting to hustle the crowds.  “It is too expensive.”

LATER, VERY INTERESTING!

From: Ralph Dennis
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 12:26 PM
Subject: ISO related

I noticed in the Benicia Herald this morning two public notices for Risk Management Plans prepared by Solano County Department of Resource Management, one for Praxair and the other for Benicia’s Water Treatment Plant. These are part of the 5-year audit review process, I believe, the same reports referenced in the Contra Costa County notice you sent around the other day.

I figured there ought to be one for Valero, so I called the Solano County Department of Resource Management. Turns out the Valero plan was filed in Dec. 2017 and is still under review. The staffer I spoke with who is doing the review is suppose to call me about status. Interesting, I guess: no public meetings planned, copies of plans not available in our library (as in Contra Costa County). He seemed surprised at my question about public meetings, said he could check with management.

CCHMP public notice meetings July-Aug 2018

    KQED: In Wake of Valero Refinery Incident, Benicia Weighs Whether to Pursue Safety Ordinance

    Repost from KQED News (NPR / PBS)
    [Editor: Also tune in to an incredibly important 8-minute KQED audio report for interviews about asthma and Valero refinery pollution: When Oil refineries flare, what happens to the air.  – RS]

    In Wake of Valero Refinery Incident, Benicia Weighs Whether to Pursue Safety Ordinance

    By Ted Goldberg, Jun 18, 2018
    A power outage on May 5, 2017, at Benicia’s Valero refinery led to a prolonged episode of flaring during which more than 80,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide were released into the air. (California Environmental Protection Agency)

    Thirteen months after a major air-pollution incident at Valero Energy Corp.’s Benicia refinery, city leaders will decide whether to assume more oversight of the facility.

    On Tuesday, the City Council plans to decide whether to direct staff to begin developing an industrial safety ordinance that would require Valero to pay for a set of air monitors, submit a safety plan to the city and provide Benicia with reports on serious refinery malfunctions.

    The issue is the latest to pit Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, other city officials, environmentalists and some residents against the San Antonio-based energy company, which is the city’s largest employer and taxpayer.

    Patterson began pushing for the reforms in the weeks following the May 5, 2017, refinery power outage that triggered the release of more than 80,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide.

    “The space for the city is to be at the table and not be kept in the dark,” said Patterson.

    The outage sent flames and black smoke into the sky, leading to shelter-in-place and evacuation orders. At least a dozen people sought medical attention for breathing difficulties. It took weeks for the refinery to return to full operations, and analysts said the incident prompted a rise in the state’s gasoline prices.

    Patterson says that since the outage, neither Valero nor regulators have given the city detailed information about the incident.

    For instance, city officials learned from KQED, not from Solano County, that county environmental health investigators concluded late last year Valero did not violate state regulations in connection with the accident.

    “We don’t get those reports,” said Patterson in an interview last week. “We never did get a presentation by any state or regional agency, let alone Valero, about what had happened.”

    “The public has a right to know,” she said.

    Valero has consistently opposed a city safety ordinance, which would be modeled after those used in Richmond for the Chevron refinery and in the rest of Contra Costa County for the Shell, Phillips 66 and Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) facilities.

    “We believe you will see there will be no need to pursue a duplicative and divisive Benicia Industrial Safety Ordinance,” Donald Cuffel, the refinery’s director of health, safety, environmental and regulator affairs, wrote in a letter to the City Council late last month.

    Cuffel argued state and county agencies, as well as the local air district, already have similar regulations in place.

    Last October, California officials approved rules similar to Contra Costa County’s ordinance for refineries statewide.

    That prompted Solano County’s Department of Resource Management to spend close to 500 hours inspecting, reviewing and documenting the Valero refinery, according to Benicia city staff.

    Currently, neither the Bay Area Air Quality Management District nor Benicia have air monitors in place to measure air quality after refinery accidents. Air district officials say they rely on monitors in nearby cities to gauge Benicia’s air quality.

    Patterson’s proposal calls for Valero to pay for monitors to be placed throughout Benicia’s residential and industrial areas as well as on the refinery’s fence line. Data from those devices would be placed on a website.

    Last week the regional air district approved a fence-line air monitoring plan by Valero, according to agency spokesman Tom Flannigan. The refinery has one year to install the devices.

    The district is in the initial phases of looking for a location for a community air monitor, said Flannigan.

    Iron Workers Local 378, which represents some of the refinery’s workers, is also opposed to the safety ordinance, calling it a “duplicative, outdated, go-it-alone strategy.”

    “A local ISO won’t make sure our workers, trainees or this community any safer,” Jeff McEuen, the union’s business manager, financial secretary and treasurer, wrote in a letter to the City Council last week.

    But a group brought together after last year’s refinery outage to develop safety reforms says the law is needed.

    “This is a signature moment for Benicia, as it will signal whether the City Council puts the health and safety of Benicia, its citizens and community members over the Valero refinery’s ‘just trust us’ stance to its industrial safety record,” said Constance Beutel, a member of Benicia’s ISO Working Group.

    At least one other member of the council sees the proposed ordinance as a way for the city to get information more quickly when the next refinery accident takes place.

    “There is a problem with getting sufficient information out in a timely manner,” said Vice Mayor Steve Young. “There is a need for greater transparency.”

    Young noted that the conflict over an industrial safety ordinance is the biggest between city leaders and Valero since the council rejected the company’s oil-by-rail proposal in 2016.

    Councilmembers could either direct city staff to draft an ordinance that the council would vote on in the coming months, or the city could continue to rely on Solano County’s work in employing the new state regulations.

    Meantime, the California Public Utilities Commission expects to complete its investigation of the refinery outage this summer, according to Garrett Toy, a CPUC lawyer.

    Valero sued Pacific Gas and Electric after the incident, seeking $75 million for damage to refinery equipment and lost revenue. The company blames PG&E for the episode and claims it “shut off all electricity” to the refinery the day of the outage.

    PG&E hired a third party engineering firm, Exponent, to review the outage. The company submitted that report to the CPUC. Both PG&E and the commission have declined to release that report.

    Valero’s lawsuit is expected to go to trial next year.

      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.