Category Archives: Toxic pollutants

Valero emissions alerts – personal update with photos from Marilyn Bardet

An email from Marilyn Bardet, Benicia

From: Marilyn Bardet
Subject: About Solano ALERT notice: Valero’s Scrubber releasing toxic particulate matter–pet coke
Date: March 24, 2019 at 8:16:22 AM PDT

Good morning all,

I just received both a phone call and email from Solano ALERT at 6:59 a.m. regarding the ongoing problem at the refinery that’s resulting in continuous release of PM from the Scrubber, (main stack). I see emails circulating now among Benicians— and so you’ve all probably rec’d the advisory by now to “stay indoors, with doors and windows sealed, if you have asthma or other respiratory condition”. The advisory declares that they’ve tested the pet coke emissions and did not find (dangerous levels) of heavy metals. (Which is not to say there are no heavy metals being dispersed over the last ten days).

My concern:
This problem has been happening since at least March 13th, when I first saw the plume, having been alerted by a friend who had called to report its smokey color.  That day, following her phone call, I drove along  Park Road and Industrial Way (east of the refinery’s processing block) to see it for myself and take pictures.

The release of dark smoke from the Scrubber signals an “up stream” on-going problem with the coker unit. My question: is the coker still operating or has it been shut down? If it’s not operating, when was the unit shut down?

Yesterday, I was driving over the Benicia Bridge toward town and saw the plume and again noticed the smokey color, so went directly to Industrial Way to take pictures. I made a 1 minute video, holding my camera outside my car window to get it. This meant that I could see and smell the smoke— a very dirty, nasty smell. Anyone working in the Industrial Park yesterday downwind of the Scrubber  would have been greatly exposed.  I could smell the gases inside my car when I rolled up the window.

You’ll notice that in the still shots from yesterday, the plume rises, drifts and falls. . . the wind was light, the molecules heavy!

I can’t send the video via email, because the file is too large, but Constance will be able to circulate it.

I want to know about the test for heavy metals and which ones they did find and in what concentrations. Was there any nickel found? Nickel is a known carcinogen when inhaled.

All it would take would be a shift in the wind to bring the PM into our neighborhoods.

— Marilyn

The following pictures I took on March 13th,  between 11:33 a.m. and 11:35 a.m (click to enlarge):

The following pictures I took on March 23, at 2:21 pm
(click to enlarge):

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    Attorney General letter may be terminal for ORCEM / Vallejo Marine Terminal

    By Roger Straw, November 30, 2018
    Nov. 7 2018 letter from Deputy Attorney General Erin Ganahl

    Take heart, Vallejoans!  The letter sent to your City by the Attorney General may just do the trick.  (See Times-Herald Nov. 12 coverage.)

    I remember back in Benicia’s crude-by-rail days, when Deputy Attorney General Scott Lichtig of Attorney General Kamala Harris’ staff wrote to the City of Benicia.  He wrote first in 2014 urging revision of an “inadequate”  Draft EIR, and again in 2016, defending the City’s right to deny a land use permit.  Lichtig advised our city leaders, “For Benicia to turn a blind eye to the most serious of the Project’s environmental impacts, merely because they flow from federally-regulated rail operations, would be contrary to both state and federal law.”

    There were a LOT of us who worked long and hard to defeat Valero’s dangerous and dirty oil train proposal.  Local activists and folks from far and wide disagreed with City staff and Valero’s execs and highly paid attorneys.  We criticized, protested and sent volumes of comments over the course of 3 ½ years.  Scientific and environmental experts and friendly attorneys weighed in.  But it was eye-opening for everyone when the Attorney General’s office got involved.

    But… note that the AG letter wasn’t enough.  It’s important here for us to not dwell on the past or get too optimistic.  Stay tuned via Fresh Air Vallejo and keep up the good work.

    …because ORCEM/VMT wants to run 552 trucks a day up and down Lemon Street!  We stand in solidarity with residents, business owners and all of our neighbors in Vallejo.  And it’s important to realize that the truck exhaust will travel by air west to east, settling, surely, in Glen Cove and Benicia.

    Let’s hope the Vallejo City Council has the backbone Benicia had in 2016, to DENY THIS PROPOSED CATASTROPHIC PROJECT!

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      Vallejo city manager critical of ORCEM / Marine Terminal’s deceptive paid advertisement

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
      [Editor –  Good news that Vallejo’s City Manager has raised eyebrows about ORCEM’S paid advertisement masquerading as news in the Times-Herald’s Nov. 22 edition.   View the Attorney General’s scathing 13-page letter.  Let’s hope the Vallejo City Council has the backbone Benicia had in 2016, to DENY THIS PROPOSED CATASTROPHIC PROJECT!  For more critical perspective, see Fresh Air Vallejo.  For official project documents, see Vallejo’s City website.   – R.S.]

      Vallejo city manager addresses Orcem, VMT insert

      By John Glidden, November 29, 2018 at 2:05 pm
      Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff

      Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff reiterated Tuesday night that a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) being completed for a controversial south Vallejo project won’t be released until early next year.

      Toward the end of the Vallejo City Council meeting, Nyhoff addressed the contents of a four-page advertising insert paid for by the project applicants and published in the Times-Herald on Nov. 22.

      He took issue with a statement printed on top of the insert asserting that the FEIR being prepared for the Vallejo Marine Terminal, Orcem Americas project would be released “within a matter of days.”

      “I just want to clarify — it looks like it’s official news. That’s not the case,” Nyhoff said to the councilors. “No — this report won’t be coming out within a matter of days.”

      VMT and Orcem representative Sue Vaccaro said via email on Wednesday that the Times-Herald’s deadline to submit artwork for the insert was Nov. 9, several days prior to Nyhoff’s original announcement during the Nov. 13 council meeting that release of the FEIR would be delayed.

      “By that time, due to the two weeks of lead time required in accordance with the newspaper’s specifications, there was not an opportunity to update that two-line reference,” Vaccaro wrote. “In short, we were acting in good faith based on the City Manager’s comments at the time the artwork was submitted for print … obviously, had we known what was coming out from the Attorney General’s Office and subsequent delay ordered by the City Manager, we wouldn’t have made that reference.”

      However, in a phone interview on Thursday, Nyhoff disagreed, noting that despite previously saying in September that the FEIR would be released toward the end of November, both the city and applicants knew the report wouldn’t be released in November — even before the DOJ letter was sent to the city.

      “Everyone still knew we weren’t going to meet that deadline,” Nyhoff explained. He said the city and consultants are still waiting to hear back from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), which is still reviewing information about the project.

      Nyhoff said during the council meeting, and again on Thursday, that City Hall will also be looking into additional claims made in the insert, including the $1 million benefits program, and the Lemon Street maintenance program being offered by the applicants.

      He said it’s important to make sure Lemon Street is going to be taken care of, due to the large volume of trucks trips — about 552 — expected daily. Nyhoff said analyzing truck traffic and its impact to surrounding streets near Lemon is also needed.

      Earlier this month, the California Department of Justice sent city officials a 13-page letter warning that environmental documents, a draft final environmental impact report (DFEIR), an Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), and Revised Air Analysis prepared for project are misleading and violate state law.

      “The environmental documents for the project fail to provide adequate legal support for the City of Vallejo to approve the project,” Erin Ganahl, deputy attorney general for the State of California, wrote on behalf of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The DFEIR fails to adequately disclose, analyze, and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the project; the EJA improperly concludes that the project would not disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, and thus misleads decision makers and the public by minimizing the projects significant environmental justice concerns.”

      The Vallejo Planning Commission voted 6-1 in 2017 to reject the VMT/Orcem project, agreeing with City Hall that the project would have a negative effect on the neighborhood, that it would impact traffic around the area and the proposed project was inconsistent with the city’s waterfront development policy. The project also has a degrading visual appearance of the waterfront, City Hall said at the time.

      City officials argued in 2017 that since a rejection was being recommended, an FEIR was not required.

      Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, and in June 2017, when reviewing the appeal, a majority of the council — Jess Malgapo, Rozzana Verder-Aliga, Hermie Suna, and Pippin Dew-Costa — directed City Hall to complete the impact report.

      Once the FEIR is completed, Nyhoff previously said the report will be circulated for at least 60 days prior to the council taking up the appeal again.

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