All posts by Nathalie Christian

Solano boards dissolved, restructured with little notice

Solano County board dissolves agriculture and anti-violence advisory committees

Screenshot with portraits of Solano County Board of Supervisors
On May 2, 2023, the Solano County Board of Supervisors voted to dissolve two advisory committees and restructure several others.

Vallejo Sun, by Ryan Geller, May 5, 2023

FAIRFIELD — The Solano County Board of Supervisors this week dissolved two advisory committees and restructured several others in an effort to transform how the board receives input from residents.

At Tuesday’s meeting in a close vote, the board disbanded the Agriculture Advisory Committee and unanimously dissolved a domestic abuse advisory committee known as the Solano Partnership Against Violence.

“It’s very disappointing that on a 3-2 vote they dissolved an important voice of agriculture. It’s just kind of sad,” said Ian Anderson, a member of the Agricultural Advisory Board and a fourth-generation farmer in Solano County.

The move is part of an annual evaluation the county conducts of advisory bodies and reports to voting members of the county board, who determine if there is an ongoing need for each board, commission or committee. An ad-hoc committee made up of supervisor John Vasquez and Monica Brown reviewed the evaluation and made recommendations to the full board to maintain, restructure or dissolve the advisory bodies.

Read the rest of this article at the Vallejo Sun site . . . 

[Note from BenIndy contributor Nathalie Christian: That’s right, I’m asking you to visit the Vallejo Sun to read the article in full. There is no paywall. While you’re there, please support local independent journalism by subscribing for or donating to the Sun. We’re a few days into the Sun‘s spring subscription drive and they’re looking to add at least 100 subscribers by the end of May. Subscribe today. You’ll be supporting independent journalism in Solano County, which truly needs the illumination the Sun and independent news publications like it provide. —N.C.]


Travis Air Force Base ordered to address dishonorable discharges

[BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian – Here’s more on the latest EPA action in Solano County, this time at Travis Air Force Base. Travis AFB’s 6,368-acre site is located in Fairfield, California. Cheeky headlines aside, jet fuel spilling into creeks and contaminating groundwater is no joke. These spills represent a tremendous danger most immediately to Union Creek’s delicate ecosystem and could create public health impacts down the road. – N.C.]

EPA Orders U.S. Air Force to Address Oil Discharge at Travis Air Force Base

May 4, 2023

Contact Information: John Senn (

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued an emergency order to the U.S. Air Force to enhance and expedite measures to address an ongoing oil discharge into Union Creek from the Travis Air Force Base (Travis AFB) in Solano County, Calif. EPA has determined that a substantial threat exists to local waterbodies and shorelines because of the ongoing discharge and previous similar incidents on Travis AFB.

“This order is critical for ensuring that the Air Force addresses the oil discharge into Union Creek in a thorough and timely manner, and that no impacts to public health occur,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “EPA is committed to fully utilizing our authorities to make sure that the current oil discharge is stopped and similar incidents are prevented.”

The order, issued under the Clean Water Act, compels the Air Force take a series of steps to mitigate the oil discharge, including:

  • Utilizing oil spill recovery equipment and techniques to limit the spread of oil in Union Creek;
  • Investigating and mitigating the source of the oil;
  • Collecting and analyzing water and sediment samples in Union Creek; and
  • Implementing actions to prevent oil from entering the storm drain and creek.

The order also requires the Air Force to enter into a unified command structure that brings together the oil spill response expertise of federal, state and local governments to address the discharge. Agencies actively engaged in the response include EPA, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and Solano County.

Oil discharges to Union Creek from Travis AFB were first identified by the Air Force as early as October 2021, but were not reported to EPA or the National Response Center until February 4, 2022. Since that time, the Air Force has made numerous notifications to the National Response Center regarding an oil sheen on Union Creek, including reporting a spill of jet fuel from a pipeline on the base on August 4, 2022. These spill notifications have continued to occur in 2023. EPA analyses of samples collected from the pipeline spill area and from the sheen on Union Creek indicate the contamination at both areas are likely from a common source. On December 21, 2022, the San Francisco Bay Water Quality Control Board sent the Air Force a notice of noncompliance for discharges of jet fuel to Union Creek.

The Air Force has yet to take action to identify and address the source of the oil discharge to Union Creek. The initial oil spill response efforts implemented by the Air Force at Travis AFB were limited, and these efforts were only upgraded after input from EPA and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

Learn more about EPA’s work at Travis Air Force Base.

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. Connect with us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Save Solano’s drug advisory board — Open letter to Board of Supervisors

Write to Solano County’s Board of Supervisors today (or call in tomorrow) to keep the Alcohol & Drugs Advisory Board active

Image of U.S.A. map with pill bottle spilling pills on map

By Ramón Castellblanch, April 30, 2023.

Solano is at a critical moment in addressing our opioid epidemic.  Its toll has been steadily rising for years.  According to the state opioid dashboard, in the second quarter of 2018, there were five opioid OD deaths annually per 100,000 residents; by the second quarter of last year, it was 22/ 100,000.  Benicia’s rate is no exception, as our second quarter of 2022 annual opioid OD death rate was 14/ 100,000.

The County Board of Supervisors established the Alcohol & Drug Advisory Board (ADAB), “to assure we address drug and alcohol misuse through prevention, treatment and recovery.”  The policy of the Board requires the ADAB to meet at least 6 times/ year and it has done so for many years with facilities provided by the County official in charge of its opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment programs.

In 2019, Drug Safe Solano, our county’s opioid safety coalition, effectively urged the County to become a plaintiff to the national opioids lawsuit.  Last September, the County official in charge of OUD treatment, called the Substance Abuse Administrator (SAA), advised the ADAB that the Solano was about to start receiving its share of the National Opioids Settlement and she asked it for recommendations on spending those funds.  The ADAB was told it would be in the order of $400,000/ year for each of the next 18 years.  The documents found under National Opioids Settlement website explain the money is to target opioid remediation and list OUD treatment at the top of its opioid remediation list.  A settlement documents also indicate that Fairfield, Vallejo, & Vacaville may receive substantial settlement funds.

The ADAB was told [Solano’s] share of the National Opioids Settlement] would be in the order of $400,000/ year for each of the next 18 years.

Solano hospitals now have recently-hired staff with the most first-hand data on needed OUD treatments. Starting a year or two ago, our emergency departments began using substance use navigators (SUNs), staff specifically assigned to find treatment and recovery services for emergency department opioid OD survivors.  As a first step to treatment, SUNs can help OD survivors get medication assisted treatment (MAT).  MAT helps relieve withdrawal symptoms.   The SUNs not only have first-hand knowledge of treatment needs, they are contributing to a statewide database tracking opioid ODs and MAT starts.  Two of the ADAB’s four members are now SUNs and there were six other people with knowledge of the opioid epidemic and treatment seeking appointment to it.

Using the SUNs’ skills in particular, the ADAB was working on a set of OUD treatment measures toward which the County could direct its opioid settlement funds.  It had discussed peer support training to address the OUD treatment staffing shortage.  It had investigated an internet connection of local programs treating people with OUD to better coordinate their services.  It was researching meeting Solano’s need for sober living environments.

The acting Substance Abuse Administrator argued that [a] letter gave her the authority to override the full Board’s meeting policy for the ADAB.  This action was never discussed by the Board nor even known to all of its members.

But, in February, the acting SAA shut off the ADAB access to the County’s meeting facilities; in this case, its online meeting site.  She gotten a letter from two supervisors, Monica Brown and John Vasquez, noting that the previous June, they’d been asked to consider terminating County boards like the ADAB.  The acting SAA argued that the letter gave her the authority to override the full Board’s meeting policy for the ADAB.  This action was never discussed by the Board nor even known to all of its members.

At the May 2 Board of Supervisors’ meeting, the acting SAA will recommend that the ADAB be eliminated. She will evaluate its activities without having attended any ADAB meeting since the SAA left or having had any discussion with the ADAB.   She will argue that the Mental Health Advisory Board can fill its role although there’s nothing in the recent MHAB minutes to indicate that they’ve discussed the opioid epidemic or its remedies at all.

Meantime, the acting SAA has apparently formed a closed opioid settlement workgroup made up of County staff and people they selected to plan County use of its settlement money.  If she thought that the MHAB could handle such topics, it’s not clear why she’d form a separate body for that purpose.  The closed workgroup process may fail to produce allocations most effective at saving lives from Solano’s opioid epidemic.  It could even provide favors to some involved or be used to backfill unrelated County spending.

We need to get the ADAB back on track so that its SUNs and members of the community most knowledgeable about uses of the County’s opioid settlement funds can discuss it in the light of day […] and save the most Solano lives.

At least a half dozen residents with experience in opioid use disorder treatment will be testifying at the May 2 Board of Supervisors meeting when it comes up on the agenda.  We need to get the ADAB back on track so that its SUNs and members of the community most knowledgeable about uses of the County’s opioid settlement funds can discuss it in the light of day.  Thus, it can help assure that its national opioid settlement spending is most effectively used to comply with the settlement’s terms and save the most Solano lives.

A guide to submitting public comments to the Solano County Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) will meet to discuss ADAB’s future on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. The meeting begins at 9 am and the agenda item that concerns us is Agenda Item #12.

If you would like to ask the Board to keep the ADAB, follow the instructions below on the morning of May 2.

Please note that you must reference the Agenda Item (#12) you are commenting about when you make your public comment.

How to comment in person

Arrive at the County Board Chambers at 675 Texas Street on May 2 before 9 am so you are seated before the meeting starts. All persons who wish to speak on any agenda item should fill out a Speaker Card and deliver it to the Clerk before the Board considers the particular item unless invited to speak by the Chair or a Member. Remember, we are #12.

Persons making comments shall first be recognized by the Chair and give their names for the record. As a general policy, each speaker shall be limited to a three (3) minute comment, unless the agenda notes a different time limit for an item. The speaker’s comments should be directed to the Chair and the Board as a whole and not to any particular Member or staff member.

Temporary parking permits for the County Parking Garage are available from the Board Clerk for visitors attending the Board of Supervisors’ meeting for more than 2 hours.

How to comment virtually

BOS meetings are live-streamed and available to view at:

Email/Mail: If you wish to address any item listed on the Agenda in advance of the meeting, please submit comments in writing to the Clerk of the Board by U.S. Mail or by email. Put the agenda item number (#12) in the email’s subject line so the clerk can direct it appropriately.

Written comments should be received no later than 5:00 P.M. on the Monday prior to the Board meeting to ensure distribution in advance of the meeting. The email address for the Clerk is: Copies of comments received will be provided to the Board and will become a part of the official record but will not be read aloud at the meeting.

Phone: To submit comments verbally from your phone during the meeting, you may do so by dialing: 1-415-655-0001 and using Access Code 177 939 9414 on your phone. No attendee ID number is required. When the Chair or Clerk of the Board calls for an item (again, we’re #12) on which you wish to speak, press *3 to access the “raise your hand feature.” When Public Comment begins the Clerk will announce the last two digits of the phone number and will send you a request to unmute. Please press *6 to unmute yourself.

What to say

Your own words are always best, but the below represents a fine place to get started if you’re stuck. Please take just a few minutes to write or call in.

I’m writing to call on the Board of Supervisors to keep the Alcohol & Drug Advisory Board an active and distinct commission.

The “behavioral health umbrella” that some County officials intend to sweep the ADAB under represents an overly broad approach to addressing opioid abuse and treatment. It also ignores the fact that this Board is singularly qualified to provide the best and most effective guidance to the County on how funds may best be expended to prevent and treat substance abuse. Additionally, commissions like the ADAB ensure the public has a voice in how the county fights the opioid epidemic.

We are at a critical point in the fight to curb the opioid epidemic and the Board — and the constituents it serves — needs the ADAB to guide Solano to a healthier and brighter future. The wealth of experience and training the ADAB represents make it the County’s best hope as we work together to save Solano lives.

Martinez refinery fined $27.5 million for Clean Air Act violations

U.S. EPA fines Tesoro $27.5 million for violations at Martinez refinery

San Francisco Chronicle, by Joel Umanzor, April 27, 2023

Tesoro Refinery in Martinez
The Tesoro refinery stands in Martinez, California, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg.


Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, which operates a petroleum refinery in Martinez, will pay a $27.5 million penalty for violating a 2016 consent decree ordering the company to reduce air pollutants, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company, according to Thursday’s settlement, failed to limit nitrous oxide emissions from July 2018 to May 2020, when authorities said the refinery suspended operations.

Shortly before shutting down refinery operations, Marathon Petroleum Corporation acquired Tesoro’s parent corporation and announced plans to convert the refinery from producing fuels from crude oil to renewable sources such as vegetable oil, according to the EPA.

Prior to the refinery’s operations suspension, the EPA said, Tesoro would produce approximately 161,000 barrels per day and was the fourth largest petroleum refinery in California.

Thursday’s agreement does not prohibit Tesoro from resuming petroleum refining but requires the company to install “specific air pollution control technology” to ensure nitrous oxide limits are met, according to the EPA.

As a result of mitigation, Tesoro has agreed to give up almost all of its nitrous oxide emission trading credits, according to authorities. Companies can receive these credits when they shut down certain equipment and may use the credits to offset emissions from other projects or in trades with other companies

The agreement will modify the 2016 decree while including new requirements that will apply to Tesoro if they choose to reopen the Martinez refinery as a petroleum refinery or renewable fuels plant, according to the EPA.

Reach Joel Umanzor: