Moving Forward to Improve Benicia’s Industrial Safety and Health – An Open Letter to Benicia

Valero’s Benicia Refinery.  | Pat Toth-Smith.

On Sept 5, Benicia’s City Council unanimously initiated the first step of a process to assess the need to graduate the current Memo of Understanding (MOU) with Valero Benicia Refinery to an ordinance.

This step, which asks staff review the MOU, underscores the importance of transition from an MOU to an ordinance that would provide additional local oversight to help ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect the health and safety of our community.

Timing of the request corresponds with early planning for the sunset of the current Valero MOU set to terminate in June 2025.

Vice Mayor Terry Scott and Council Member Kari Birdseye, the two councilmembers who introduced the issue, clearly believe the primary responsibility of our City Council and City Government is to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of our residents, businesses, and visitors.

It is also Council’s responsibility to ensure that industries, which operate within our jurisdiction, employ the best available technology to detect emissions and discharges and best practices. Community notifications of emergencies or failures to meet state and federal regulations are a priority as well.

This responsibility extends beyond traditional roles like policing, firefighting, safe water, and wastewater treatment. It encompasses ensuring the quality of the air we breathe.

The two-step request posed the question: Does the City of Benicia possess the most efficient and effective tools to regulate, monitor, and enforce air and toxic safety standards that impact our community? This includes real-time emission measurement, performance monitoring, transparency, air quality management and stronger communications.

Our defined ask in the two-step process is for staff to analyze current MOU’s performance metrics and evaluate whether additional regulation is needed. Additionally, we request that an analysis of key learnings of our current working communications, monitoring and cooperation agreement with Valero be included in this process.

It is our belief that the time has come to explore the best practices to manage air quality and emissions, amplify transparency and real-time communication, establish cutting-edge monitoring measures, prioritize public health, encourage environmental stewardship, cultivate community trust, and elevate measurement and trust standards.

Simply put, we can only manage what we monitor. We must adequately monitor our air quality near the refinery and throughout our community.

We look forward to working with city staff, community groups, businesses, and concerned citizens to create a model of local air and health regulations that better protects Benicia.

In Service,

Vice Mayor Scott and City Council Member Birdseye

There is a group of concerned citizens of Benicia who also support the adoption of a Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO). To learn more about the effort and add your support, visit