Category Archives: Valero Benicia Refinery

Closing of California’s 4th largest oil refinery will cost thousands of jobs

Shutdown of Marathon’s Martinez Refinery Prompts Calls for ‘Just Transition’ for Oil Workers

KQED News, by Ted Goldberg, Aug 3, 2020
A view of the Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery in Martinez. (Tesoro)

Elected officials, union leaders, industry representatives and environmentalists are expressing concern about the hundreds of workers set to lose their jobs at California’s fourth-largest refinery in the coming months.

That’s after Marathon Petroleum announced over the weekend that it plans a permanent halt to processing crude oil at its Martinez plant.

“The decommissioning of the Marathon refinery means the loss of thousands of good paying, California blue collar jobs at a time of great economic uncertainty,” said Robbie Hunter, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, which represents thousands of people who work at the plant in the course of a year.

Marathon executives told employees at its Contra Costa County and Gallup, New Mexico, refineries on Friday that it plans to cut workers.

“We will indefinitely idle these facilities with no plans to restart normal operations,” the company said on its website.

The company had idled both refineries in April after shelter-at-home orders drastically cut demand for gasoline and jet fuel. That meant processing units at the plants stopped making transportation fuels and other refined products. For months the refineries have been maintained in “standby” mode.

The Friday announcement means “most jobs at these refineries will no longer be necessary, and we expect to begin a phased reduction of staffing levels in October” the company said on its website.

Marathon employs 740 staff workers at its Martinez refinery, which has gone through several owners and name changes. It was formerly known as the Tesoro, Golden Eagle, Tosco Avon and Phillips Avon refinery. Marathon bought the facility in 2018.

In addition to the full-time employees, the refinery relies on between 250 and 2,500 contract workers depending on operational needs, according to Marathon representative Patricia Deutsche.

“There is also the ‘multiplier’ effect. They say for every one refinery job there are eight in the community that support that,” Deutsche said.

“This move is a big loss for our workforce and potentially the economy,” said Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who represents Martinez and has been a longtime advocate for refinery safety.

DeSaulnier said that before the coronavirus pandemic and the oil industry downturn, he began bringing together labor unions, environmental groups and local governments to prepare for a shift to green energy in Contra Costa County.

“The transition needs to be as successful as possible for everyone and we cannot leave workers behind — they need to be guaranteed meaningful and comparable work,” DeSaulnier said in an emailed statement Sunday.

A spokesman for a leading trade group that represents the oil industry in California said he feels for the local economy that relies on the refinery, which can process about 160,000 barrels of crude per day.

“Obviously, this impacts a lot of people, families and the community and we are concerned for them,” said Kevin Slagle, a representative for the Western States Petroleum Association.

The refinery has seen its share of incidents. The worst in the last decade took place in February 2014, when the facility was run by Tesoro. Two workers were burned and 84,000 pounds of sulfuric acid were released. A month later sulfuric acid sprayed and burned two contract workers, leading to an investigation by the U.S Chemical Safety Board that raised concerns about the refinery’s safety culture.

Like the Bay Area’s other four refineries — Valero in Benicia, Chevron in Richmond, PBF Energy in Martinez and Phillips 66 in Rodeo — the facility has had to send gases to its flares scores of times over the years, many times to deal with malfunctions.

Local environmentalists who’ve been critical of the region’s oil industry say it’s time for the refinery, its dangers and pollution to go away, but the change should include a plan for workers.

“This is what an unplanned transition looks like,” said Greg Karras with Community Energy reSource.

It’s “the tip of the iceberg for why we need a planned, just transition to sustainable energy and a livable climate,” Karras said.

Some environmentalists and union advocates have used the term “just transition” to explain a fair way of getting fossil fuel industry workers and their surrounding communities, businesses and local governments to move into a green energy economy.

Hollin Kretzmann, an Oakland attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the air quality benefits of a refinery shutting down are welcome but expressed concern about workers.

“Communities near this dangerous refinery can breathe a little easier now that operations have halted, but the state desperately needs a just transition plan that protects workers when oil companies toss their employees to the curb with little warning,” Kretzmann said.

Marathon says its Martinez refinery will be converted to an oil storage facility. The company says it’s considering turning the facility into a renewable diesel facility.

“The Marathon refinery’s (potential) conversion into a renewable diesel facility is a forecast of the future as the demand for fossil fuels declines over time, resulting in healthier air and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia.

“We will see more future refinery closures as a result of continued decreasing consumption of fossil fuels under California’s policies transitioning our transportation system to zero emission,” said Gioia, who sits on the the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board and the California Air Resources Board.

“We need to immediately start addressing a just transition for these workers as more fossil fuel facilities close,” he said.

Marathon’s decision to end oil processing at its Martinez plant is the latest piece of evidence showing California’s oil industry suffering under a pandemic that’s led to severe drops in fuel demand.

San Ramon-based Chevron, one of the world’s largest oil companies, announced its worst quarter in decades on Friday. The company said it lost more than $8 billion during the three months ending June 30.

“All the oil majors have been clobbered by COVID,” said David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, a firm that specializes in analyzing the transportation fuels market.

Earlier this month, the California Resources Corporation, one of the state’s largest oil producers, filed for bankruptcy.

In May, the Newsom administration granted a request by another oil trade group, the California Independent Petroleum Association, to drop a proposal to add dozens of staff members to the agency that oversees oil and gas drilling that would have cost the industry $24 million. State regulators also agreed to postpone a deadline for oil and gas producers to pay fees and submit plans to manage thousands of idle oil wells.

In April, PBF Energy, the New Jersey-based company that bought Shell’s refinery in Martinez, sold two hydrogen plants at the facility for hundreds of millions of dollars — a move aimed at cutting costs and raising revenue to deal with fuel demand drops.

That same month, more than 1,000 contract electricians, pipefitters and other skilled workers were cut from Bay Area refineries.

Solano County property tax assessments – keep an eye on this

[BenIndy editor: I’ve been around long enough to know that Valero Benicia Refinery routinely appeals its tax assessment, and that Solano County has been known to roll over and “give away the farm.”  Who in Benicia will monitor this and advocate for the City and County?  Check out the Solano County Assessment Appeals Board.  – R.S.]

Solano County assessment roll increases for eighth year in a row

Vallejo Times-Herald, July 6, 2020

Solano County Assessor-Recorder Marc Tonnesen announced Monday morning that the local assessment roll for properties throughout the county for fiscal year 2020, 2021 increased by $2.9 billion — or approximately 4.94 percent — in assessed value over last year.

“This is the eighth year in a row that the total assessed roll value increased countywide,” said Marc Tonnesen, Solano County Assessor-Recorder in a press release. “The real estate market showed steady growth over the past year, while new construction continues to add value to the property tax roll.”

At the close of the roll, the value of all assessable property in Solano County was nearly $60.9 billion ($60,888,053,079). This “net roll” is used by local agencies as a starting point to calculate the distribution of property taxes for the benefit of the cities, schools, special districts and local programs.

“Closing the roll this year involved some unique challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but I am proud to announce the timely completion of this roll,” Tonnesen said in the press release. “As far as values are concerned, since the values in this roll are derived based on the January 1, 2020 assessment date, the overall impact COVID-19 has had on local property values will not be reflected until we begin work on the fiscal year 2021/22 assessment roll.”

As real estate market values continue to rise, the number of properties on Proposition 8 status – which is a temporary reduction in a property value below the established Proposition 13 base year value – has decreased. There are currently 8,507 parcels on Proposition 8 status, a decrease of 367 from the previous fiscal year. The total number of parcels on Proposition 8 status peaked 2012 at 78,000 parcels. There are 149,588 parcels county-wide, spread between the seven cities and unincorporated county.

Letter from Andrés Soto: Chagrined at Valero’s alcohol diversion

By Andrés Soto, April 27, 2020
Andrés Soto, Benicia CA

As we wound down the first shelter in place Earth Day/Week, I was prodded into chuckling at the Herald’s front page story of Valero diverting some of its ethanol production to the making of hand sanitizing liquids! This is like applying antibiotic ointment to a bleeding gun shot wound. Thanks Valero.

Valero and the other fossil fuel companies have been knowingly contributing to the destruction of our atmosphere and trying to exacerbate the problem by moving into refining extreme crudes such a tar sands and fracked crude. Thanks Valero.

It is now understood that those who have been suffering the greatest health burdens over time from the fossil fuel economy are – surprise, surprise – also the most vulnerable to infection from COVID 19! Benicia and other refinery towns are on the front line with children and seniors suffering disproportionately from asthma and other auto-immune diseases. Thanks Valero.

Of course, to protect their position to profit from poison they need political support. The 2018 Benicia election saw Valero and its deep pocket “boots on the ground” building trades union allies spend an obscene amount of money to personally destroy the reputation of Planning Commissioner Kari Birdseye and and pump up the pro-polluter candidates Lionel Largaespada and Christina Strawbridge to victory. Thanks Valero.

If Valero and its fellow oil cartel members really wanted to help Benicia and Earth it would join community members, workers and city representatives in the planning of a managed decommissioning of the refinery and reduce risks to COVID 19, massive wildfires and toxic pollution. Thanks Valero.

Andres Soto
Benicia CA

We will never back down from Benicia’s Big Oil bullies

By Roger Straw, March 4, 2020

Here in Benicia, Big Oil is already setting aside funds to stack our City Council in November.  See Valero PAC report shows $248,111 on hand to influence Benicia’s 2020 election.

As a followup to yesterday’s post, “Wave of oil money hits local Calif. climate candidates” – I am passing on a rather happy email from the California League of Conservation Voters (below).

Please consider supporting the CLCV.

We took on Big Oil and Won!

 

The results of the California Primary speak loud and clear: Californians chose the environment over Big Oil.

Even though Big Oil spent millions of dollars this primary, California voters rejected their best efforts and 95% of CLCV-endorsed candidates are moving on to the General Election in November!

Click here to join our movement, and support our work in the General Election >>>

Through our endorsements, our Environmental Scorecard, and joining forces with key partners in spending strategically in priority races, CLCV is on the front-lines, making sure environmental champions are heading to the November General Election.

Heading into the general election, Big Oil will amplify their efforts to stop our progress. We have a tough fight ahead of us in the fall, but we never back down from bullies – even if it means we are outspent by millions of dollars. Can you chip in today to make sure we can be just as effective come November?

In Solidarity,

Mary Creasman
CEO
California League of Conservation Voters