Category Archives: Valero Benicia Refinery

Air Quality District to host Benicia meeting on long-awaited new Air Monitoring Station

[BenIndy editor: Residents of Benicia have for years expressed serious concern about the lack of adequate air monitoring in our “refinery town.”  For an excellent background on the lead-up to this important meeting, see Marilyn Bardet’s “Letter to BAAQMD: Must Enforce Refinery Air Monitor Requirements”.  Mark your calendar & plan to attend on June 30.  – R.S.]

Virtual Meeting on Benicia Community Air Monitoring Site Selection

Invitation to public, sent via email on May 27, 2021

Dear Benicia Community and Stakeholders,

You are invited to attend a virtual community meeting to learn about air quality monitoring and help shape the future of community air monitoring in the Benicia area.

In a joint effort with the City of Benicia, the Air District identified candidate locations in Benicia for a new community air monitoring station. At this meeting, Air District staff will share the sites under consideration and information about how the sites were selected. Community members and stakeholders will have the opportunity to inform final site selection.

When:

The workshop will be held using Zoom and will take place on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Login information to follow in a subsequent notice.

Why:

The Air District monitors air quality as part of ongoing efforts to inform and protect public health. One of the ways the Air District does this is by collecting fees to install, operate, and maintain air monitoring stations in communities near refineries. These air monitoring stations will provide additional information about the levels of pollution experienced by these communities.

The Air District invites you to participate in this community meeting to discuss and review the site selection process and provide feedback on a community air monitoring station within the Benicia community.

Air District staff want to ensure a fair and equitable virtual workshop experience and provide opportunities for all interested parties to participate. Workshop materials will be available on the Air District’s Special Air Monitoring Projects web page beginning June 7, 2021.

Simultaneous language interpretation can be provided upon request at least 72 hours before the event. Contact Brian Butler at bbutler@baaqmd.gov or 415-603-7721 to request interpretation.

Questions may be sent by e-mail to iperkins@baaqmd.gov.
Para información en español, llame al 415-749-4609
中文聯絡電話 415-749-4609
Nói Tiếng Việt xin gọi 415-749-4609

Working to protect public health, air quality, and the global climate,
Your Air District

Benicia Valero Refinery – oil spill in Sulphur Springs Creek

Valero Benicia Refinery Reports Oil Sheen

The refinery deployed a boom to contain the sheen and the Benicia Fire Department is monitoring the situation.
Benicia Patch, by Maggie Fusek, Mar 9, 2021 at 7:33 pm PT
[BenIndy Editor: See also: Benicia Fire Department Level 2 Notification, and CA Hazardous Materials Spill Report.  – R.S.]
The refinery is seen from Interstate Highway 680. (Shutterstock / Frankie WO)

BENICIA, CA — Personnel with the Benicia Fire Department were monitoring an oil sheen reported Tuesday by the Valero Benicia Refinery in Sulphur Springs Creek.

The refinery notified the fire department that at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday, a sheen from an unknown type of oil was spotted in the waters of the creek, Benicia Fire Department officials said.

“Valero Benicia Refinery commenced mitigation efforts at 3:20 p.m.,” fire officials said. “The sheen has been contained and proper clean up, notification and mitigation procedures were underway.”

The incident was not a threat to drinking water or public safety although fire personnel will continue to monitor the situation and will update the public if conditions change, fire officials said.

According to a hazardous materials spill report issued by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, Valero Energy discovered the sheen at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday. The cause of the Petroleum sheen was not known, nor had the source been determined. Refinery personnel contained the sheen by deploying a boom; cleanup was underway and an investigation was ongoing.

Oil Train derails, burns near home of environmental activist

[Editor: With help from neighbors near and far, including Stand.earth, we stopped our own Valero Benicia Refinery from bringing tar-sands oil trains across California in 2016!  – R.S.]

Train cars carrying crude oil derail, burn north of Seattle

San Francisco Chronicle, by Lisa Baumann, AP, Dec. 22, 2020
A firefighter sprays foam on a burning, derailed train car Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Custer, Wash. Officials say seven train cars carrying crude oil derailed and five caught fire north of Seattle and close to the Canadian border. Whatcom County officials said the derailment occurred in the downtown Custer area, where streets were closed and evacuations ordered during a large fire response.
A firefighter sprays foam on a burning, derailed train car Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Custer, Wash. Officials say seven train cars carrying crude oil derailed and five caught fire north of Seattle and close to the Canadian border. Whatcom County officials said the derailment occurred in the downtown Custer area, where streets were closed and evacuations ordered during a large fire response. Photo: Elaine Thompson, AP

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Seven train cars carrying crude oil derailed Tuesday and five caught fire, sending a large black plume of smoke into the sky north of Seattle close to the Canadian border, authorities said.

The derailment in the downtown Custer area closed nearby streets and spurred evacuation orders during a large fire response, Whatcom County officials said on Twitter. Interstate 5 was temporarily closed in the area in both directions.

Later Tuesday, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that the fires were under control and the evacuation order had been lifted but roadblocks would remain in place. Fires at the site remained active, the Sheriff’s Office added, and residents were asked to stay inside once they returned home.

“Everyone’s in danger at a scene like this, but fortunately there were no injuries,” Sheriff Bill Elfo said at a news conference.

Jenny Reich, who owns Whimsy Art Glass, was preparing to open her shop and told The Seattle Times that while she is accustomed to train noises, “all of a sudden it was a really big noise, and everything was shaking.”

Black smoke obscured her view, emergency personnel arrived, and Reich said she was advised to evacuate her business. She grabbed her wallet, keys and dog and left.

Home to five oil refineries, Washington state sees millions of gallons of crude oil move by rail through the state each week, coming from North Dakota and Alberta, Canada, according to the state Department of Ecology.

The seven cars derailed at about 11:46 a.m. Tuesday, BNSF Railway spokesperson Courtney Wallace said at the news conference. She said two people were on board the 108-car train headed from North Dakota to the Ferndale Refinery, owned by Phillips 66.

“BNSF is working with local authorities to assess and mitigate the situation,” the railway said on Twitter. “The cause of the incident is under investigation.”

The state Department of Ecology said a command center had been set up at the scene with the railway and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials.

Matt Krogh, director of U.S. Oil & Gas Campaigns for the environmental group Stand.earth, is based in Bellingham near the derailment and told The Associated Press he could see the smoke. He said the incident was another example of how transporting crude oil by train – especially in large numbers of tankers — is “very, very dangerous.”

He cited the 2013 fiery derailment of a train carrying crude in Lac Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people, and a 2016 derailment in Mosier, Oregon, along the Columbia River that caused people to evacuate.

Krogh said crude oil is volatile and there are often track maintenance concerns. Among other things, Krogh and his group would like to see a reduction in the number of tank cars allowed per shipment.

“I think we got lucky today,” he said, referring to the derailment in Custer.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said in a statement Tuesday he was concerned about the derailment. Larsen is a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“I worked closely with the Obama administration to create strong rules to make the transport of oil by rail safer,” Larsen said. “Clearly there may be more work to do.”

Custer, a small town of several hundred people, is about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Seattle.

Benicia cares – Oil Train derails and catches fire in Custer, Washington

[Editor: Thanks goodness we stopped our own Valero Benicia Refinery from all this in 2016!  See also coverage of this Washington story in the San Francisco Chronicle.  – R.S.]

Evacuations ordered as train carrying crude oil derails, burns near Custer

Bellingham Herald, by Denver Pratt, December 22, 2020

A train derailed and caught fire in the Custer area Tuesday morning and residents and visitors within a half-mile were being evacuated, according to Whatcom County Public Works, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol.

The northbound train carrying crude oil derailed around 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22, in the Custer area, according to Courtney Wallace, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesperson, and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. It is a BNSF train and track, Wallace said.

The train derailed near the 7500 block of Portal Way, according to the sheriff’s office on Twitter. The sheriff’s office evacuated people within a half-mile of the derailment. Shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said on Twitter that the evacuation order was lifted for local residents of Custer. Once residents return home, they are asked to shelter in place and stay inside, the sheriff’s office said. Residents must show proof of residency in order to return home, the sheriff’s office said.

Roadblocks in the area will remain in place.

Seven railway cars derailed from the train and a fire started in two of the seven derailed cars, the sheriff’s office said. The fire was under control as of 3 p.m., but a few were still active as of 5 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.

There have been no reported injuries at this time, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director John Gargett told The Bellingham Herald about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Gargett said it’s unclear at this time whether there was damage to nearby structures or buildings. While he didn’t know the exact number of people who were evacuated, he said evacuations were ordered within a half-mile around the center of Custer.

He said the train was carrying Bakken crude oil, so evacuations were ordered out of an abundance of caution. People are asked to avoid the incident site, as it’s not safe to approach, the sheriff’s office said.

BNSF has set up a claims hotline for people who have been impacted by the evacuation at 1-866-243-4784.

Wallace, with BNSF, said the first priority is safety issues and BNSF is working with local authorities to assess and mitigate the situation.

She said the cause of the derailment is under investigation.

“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this incident,” BNSF said on Twitter.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman said there were still a few small pools of oil on fire as of 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Axtman said fire officials determined the fires would burn themselves out in a little while. Axtman said at this time it’s believed there was no damage to nearby structures from the derailment.