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Opinion: Carbon capture in Montezuma Wetlands is a dangerous plan

[Note from BenIndy Contributor Kathy Kerridge: Here’s a great editorial that sums up the Montezuma Carbon Capture and Dumping project.  It proposes to link up to Valero in its second phase so we really need to keep an eye on this one in our own backyard. Please share.]

The Montezuma Wetlands in Suisun City, Calif. The Montezuma CarbonHub project would require a massive build out of underwater pipelines through San Francisco Bay. | Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group.

Collect 1 million tons of Bay Area CO2, compress it, then transport it to injection site. What could go wrong? Plenty

SJ Mercury, by Chirag Bhakta, February 8, 2024

Last May, a Bay Area company curiously named Montezuma Wetlands submitted an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to build a “CarbonHub” in Solano County’s Montezuma Wetlands.

According to the proposal, the project would involve drilling a well for carbon injection and establishing an extensive expansion of submerged pipelines across San Francisco Bay. Almost immediately the project rightfully came under fire from our organization and many others due to the reality that such a venture would threaten public health, degrade the local environment and stall legitimate climate action.

Indeed, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) — the process of trapping and storing climate pollution before it enters the atmosphere — has never worked in the real world and, in an ironic twist, has mostly been embraced by major polluters who see it as a way to claim they are cleaning up their act without changing anything.

According to the application, the Montezuma CarbonHub project’s initial plan is to rely on CCS to collect 1 million tons of CO2 from multiple power plants and industrial sources across the Bay Area. The CO2 would then be compressed and transported from capture sites to Montezuma’s existing offloading dock, directly across the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers from Antioch and Pittsburg, and then to the proposed injection location one mile north of the dock.

Threat of CO2 leaks

There are ample reasons to be skeptical of this scheme. For starters, CCS is an extremely expensive technology that requires significant investment and infrastructure, and there is no proven track record of it helping us reach our climate goals. In fact, most CCS projects have been total failures and the only carbon capture “successes” use the captured CO2 to get more oil out of existing wells.

In the Bay Area, there are no power plants or oil refineries currently using carbon capture technology, so it is hard to assess how the process will be successful at several different facilities. Worryingly, the Montezuma project would also require a massive buildout of underwater pipelines through San Francisco Bay, from Antioch to Richmond.

Further, the transportation and storage of captured carbon can lead to leaks, accidents and explosions that can result in severe health risks that often disproportionately affect communities already facing the effects of the climate crisis.

In 2020, a CO2 pipeline leaked in a small Mississippi town, resulting in the emergency evacuation of over 300 people and the hospitalization of 45. Victims were found unconscious, foaming at the mouth and experiencing other alarming symptoms. An even grimmer example dates back to 1986, when a natural release of massive CO2 quantities from Lake Nyos in Cameroon led to the displacement of oxygen for miles around and caused the tragic death of over 1,700 people.

Finally, CCS also threatens the lives of the other species we share our planet with. Any CO2 leak along the proposed 45-mile pipeline route could cause substantial harm to Bay Area ecosystems and species.

Air quality concerns

While these reasons are more than enough for the EPA to reject Montezuma Wetlands’s application, even if this scheme was successfully deployed, carbon capture will likely worsen the air quality in already overburdened communities. This is for the simple reason that the facilities would continue to spew pollution into the air. That means increasing levels of pollutants associated with asthma, poor birth outcomes, heart attack and cancer, exacerbating the already existing stark health inequities in California. Indeed, the Montezuma CarbonHub project’s location near disadvantaged communities highlights a persistent trend of environmental racism.

Adding to the complexity and danger is the current lack of comprehensive regulation surrounding CO2 pipelines. The federal pipeline agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, is undertaking an overhaul of safety regulations. However, these regulations are not expected to be ready until the end of 2024.

Upcoming public hearings on the Montezuma CarbonHub project by the Pacific Southwest EPA will provide an opportunity for Bay Area community members and experts to voice their concerns. Similar carbon pipeline schemes have already run into substantial opposition in the Midwest, thanks to grassroots organizers who have helped communities understand the risks of such projects.

However, halting this project in the Bay Area is not enough. Similar projects are being proposed across California, particularly in communities in the Central Valley, who are already disproportionately experiencing the effects of the drought, including dry and contaminated wells. And California leaders like Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Representative John Garamendi must throw their full weight behind federal action, namely a national moratorium on the CO2 pipelines leaving their constituents at serious risk.

Our path forward must be focused on ending our reliance on fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy systems. This means redirecting public and private funding from flawed climate scams like CCS toward proven solutions that are essential for building a sustainable and equitable future.

Chirag Bhakta is the California director of Food & Water Watch

Our Voices – Use Them Wisely

Sheri Leigh
Sheri Leigh, Benicia resident and educator.

By Sheri Leigh, February 9, 2024

I talk with a lot of people – men, women, People of Color, white people, community leaders, young and older – and I want to point out something that deeply concerns me. 

Four of my friends, who happen to be Black and who live and/or work in Benicia, have shared some hurtful experiences directed at them by other Benicia residents.  I offered to write an article about their experiences, even anonymously, so Benicia can learn to recognize and challenge acts of racism, yet my friends prefer to keep quiet about it, rather than expose the situations.  Each of them is an educated and professional individual of a mature age.  What they experienced was clearly unjust and downright racist.  And yet, they don’t want to share their story because they are afraid the perpetrator of the comment or act may see themselves in my article and may be upset and/or because they are concerned about the ramification if they complain.    

Let me give you two very real examples: one of these friends eventually moved their business from First Street to Vallejo because of the ongoing hostility of the customers and neighboring businesses; another was directly asked how they feel about being promoted  because of the color of their skin rather than their experience. 

Clearly these incidents are not just well meaning but ignorant comments or even microaggressions.  This is blatant racism, and my friends have every right to express that.

In comparison, look at the comments on Next Door or Benicia Happenings.  I see people complaining about the littlest things all the time.  Someone is upset about a neighbor’s guest using the parking space in front of their house.  Another is angry because their trash was picked up late and the can was knocked over when it was finally emptied.  And my personal favorite – someone complained that it’s disrespectful for a dog walker to put a baggie of droppings into their trash can.  Would they rather the dog walker disrespectfully left the droppings on their lawn?  Really, people?! 

Yes, these things are annoying, but let’s keep it in perspective.  And when I look at the photos of the people complaining, they don’t appear to be of color. Why is it that white people feel they can gripe about relatively insignificant and not personally intended slights when People of Color don’t always feel safe exposing something very deeply and morally wrong?   

Ever since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Black community on the whole has been admirably vocal and active about individual and collective experiences with racism.  Their response to the obvious inequities in this country helped make some very hard-earned and very slow progress towards equity.  But we’re not there yet, and it came at a very high cost.  Many people lost their freedom, their health, their sanctity, and even their lives. Here we are sixty years later, and there are still injustices and inequalities, and yet, not all people feel safe speaking up.  I get it.  Who wants to be hated, harassed and alienated, particularly from within a small community?   I wouldn’t like it, would you?  But just because my friends don’t complain doesn’t make their experiences acceptable.  

Here’s what I would love to see happen.  First of all,  for those of you who use public forums to air your frustrations, please think about your need to complain.  Is it really something important that needs to be addressed, or is it something that can be easily resolved or quietly let go?  

Secondly, everyone should feel safe and supported speaking up when they have been directly or even inadvertently targeted by an individual or community.  A caring and inclusive community supports all of its residents and should help to right injustices.  Finally, racism is ugly and unjust.  It’s a blight on humanity, and it needs to stop.  We are all humans. Let’s treat each other with respect. 


Read more stories by Sheri Leigh

Benicia resident Andrew Smith: Your vote for Christopher Cabaldon will keep California strong

State Senate Candidate Christopher Cabaldon. | Kevin Fiscus / CabaldonforSenate.com.

By Andrew Smith, February 6, 2024

Dear Editor,

Christopher Cabaldon is running to become the next state senator to represent us in District 3 (D3).* He has been endorsed by the Democratic Clubs within this district including the United Democrats of Southern Solano County, Northern Solano Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats of Benicia, Rio Vista Democratic Club, West Sacramento Democrats, Woodland Democratic Club, and Sacramento Stonewall Democrats. Besides this impressive list he has also received the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Northern California Action Fund, Reproductive Freedom for All California, Sierra Club, and Equality California. With the current threats to reproductive freedom, LGBTQ rights and climate change, he is needed to keep California’s laws strong.

But part of what makes Cabaldon an impressive candidate is his history of being the longest serving mayor of West Sacramento. During his long tenure the city received  an award for “America’s most livable small city,” and was cited as “America’s most interesting small city” and  one of the world’s “21 Smart Cities to Watch.”

Under Cabaldon’s leadership many innovative initiatives were started including guaranteed universal access to preschool, urban farms, free college for local students, sustainable land use, and building market and affordable housing at one of the fastest rates in California—while shrinking the housing footprint and protecting even more habitat and agricultural land.

He also served as the chair of the Jobs, Education and Workforce Committee at the US Conference of Mayors. President Obama appointed Cabaldon to the National Advisory Board for America’s College Promise, chaired by Dr. Jill Biden. All this experience makes him a great choice for the next State Senator and worthy of your consideration.

Andrew Smith, Benicia Resident

*Senate District 3 includes the counties of Solano, Napa, and Yolo as well as portions of the counties of Sonoma, Contra Costa and Sacramento.


Note from BenIndy: The race to become the state senator for District 3 is heating up, and we are interested in hearing from you! To submit your recommendations for this or any other office, or ballot measure, please email us. Publication is subject to factchecking and, ultimately, the BenIndy’s discretion.

Solano Together Sends Strong Message Against California Forever At Community Rally

[Note from BenIndy: Now that  Solano Together has officially launched, sign up to support or learn more about the organization and is mission HERE. Some images shown below are not original to the Solano Together news release and were added by BenIndy.]

From left to right: Fairfield resident Mario Cisneros, Rio Vista resident Aiden Mayhood, Suisun City Mayor Pro-Tem and Sierra Club of Solano County Chair Princess Washington, Representative John Garamendi, Solano Farm Bureau President William Brazelton, Vallejo Councilmember Charles Palmares, Representative Mike Thompson, and Solano County Supervisor Mitch Mashburn. | Solano Together.

Solano Together, February 5, 2024

SUISUN CITY – A diverse group of organizations, residents, and local leaders came together to celebrate the launch of the Solano Together coalition, rally for a community-driven vision for the future of Solano County,  and speak against Flannery Associates’ planned sprawl development California Forever, on Sunday, February 4.

Not even the storm deterred over 200 people from packing the room at the Nelson Center in Suisun City, greeting old friends and meeting new ones. And those who could not join in person were able to participate via the livestream. Watch the full recording for complete speeches.

A powerful line-up of speakers—representing diverse voices throughout the County—and local residents denounced the vague and deceptive language of California Forever’s ballot initiative, the drain that the development will cause on much needed public resources for existing cities, the crushing threat to the livelihood of farmers, and the importance of an alternative community-driven and inclusive vision for the County’s future.

They shared a clear message: Solano stands together for these values—open spaces, agricultural lands, and investing in existing cities. With the anticipated ballot initiative proposed by California Forever for the upcoming November elections, the Solano Together coalition will continue to inform the public about potential impacts of the project.

Highlights from the speakers:

Suisun City Mayor Pro-Tem Robinson at a November 2023 event. |  Robinson Kuntz / Daily Republic.

“Picture, if you will, Solano County stripped of its open spaces, devoid of its precious agricultural lands. What would remain of our beloved County without its marshlands and delicate delta ecosystems? Our very identity is intertwined with these natural landscapes, and their preservation is non-negotiable.” — Princess Washington, Mayor Pro-Tem of Suisun City & Chair of the Sierra Club of Solano County.

“Farmland is not just a commodity. It is a finite resource that sustains our local economy, provides jobs, and ensures food security. There is something fundamentally wrong with our society if our farmers have to fight for the land they steward.”— William Brazelton, Solano Farm Bureau.

“You build communities where the people are. You build cities where the economy is. California Forever has neither. I’ll say this to the developers and investors who are paying attention. Build in Solano County cities. Build in Suisun City. Build in Rio Vista. Build in Fairfield and build in Vallejo.” — Charles Palmares, Vallejo Councilmember.

Aiden Mayhood at a November 2023 town hall. | Chris Riley / The Reporter

“It’s telling when one of the most vocal opponents of California Forever is a young person, a member of a generation set to reap the supposed benefits of the project. (…) Young people like me will watch as the cost of living skyrockets if California Forever is approved. Ultimately, young people like me will bear the true costs and burdens of the project.” — Aiden Mayhood, Rio Vista resident.

“Why did they choose Solano County? Is it because they saw a low income community of Black and Brown residents? Because they think we’re the path of least resistance? That’s a colonialist mentality.” — Maria Cisneros, Fairfield resident.

 “This initiative is shockingly light on real details. Should the initiative qualify for a November Ballot, our community will be asked to provide an up or a down on the project. We’d be asked to make this choice without the basic facts needed to make an informed decision. That should make everyone concerned.” — Mitch Mashburn, Chair of the Solano County Supervisors.

Representative John Garamendi (file photo).  | Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press.

“The citizens of Solano County will not stand for what is proposed. Flannery Associates have set about putting a dagger in the heart of Travis Air Force Base. We cannot let that happen. This plan is a disaster for this entire region.” — John Garamendi, Congressman (D-CA 8th District)

“No one who got on this stage has anything to gain from this. But we all believe in the planning process and the need for orderly and safe growth. And all of us have been misled by (Flannery Associates) who want to take over our County. Trust is something you can’t buy, with money or false promises.”— Mike Thompson, Congressman (D-CA 4th District)

About Solano Together:

A group of concerned residents, leaders, and organizations who came together to form a coalition that envisions a better future for Solano County, focuses development into existing cities, and strengthens our agricultural industry. Our work is driven by an alternative vision for Solano in the face of Flannery Associates’ claims about California Forever’s benefits—our vision is guided by local voices and perspectives. Learn more at solanotogether.org