Benicia resident Kathy Kerridge: Out of all of the state senate candidates, Christopher Cabaldon shines through

State Senate Candidate Christopher Cabaldon. | CabaldonforSenate.com.

By Kathy Kerridge, February 15, 2024

Dear Editor,

My vote is going to Christopher Cabaldon for State Senate. Cabaldon is the only candidate endorsed by the Northern California Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which vetted all candidates and chose the best for reproductive health care. All the grassroots Democratic clubs that have done endorsements have endorsed Cabaldon. That really says something because as a chair of one those clubs we only endorse pro-choice candidates.

I have seen all three candidates debate several times now.  Cabaldon’s knowledge and experience shine through. He has been appointed to various Boards by both President Obama and five different California Governors.  Check out his website for all the awards he has won.  The Sacramento Bee recently named him one of the region’s top 20 AAPI change makers.  He has a terrific record for building new housing and started a program to fund college for kindergarteners.  He is a fierce advocate for education, the environment, and civil rights.  He is creative, smart and someone who gets things done.  Please give him your vote in this primary election.

Kathy Kerridge

*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.

Chevron fined record-breaking $20M for Richmond refinery violations, Air District promises ‘new chapter’ for agency

Air District secures decisive victory: Chevron & MRC refineries drop lawsuits, Chevron to pay highest violation penalties in agency history

Chevron Richmond flaring. | KPIX.

Record-breaking penalties & community funding mark a new chapter for the agency

BAAQMD Press Release, February 13, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced today it has reached two separate agreements with Chevron and Martinez Refining Company resulting in an end to the litigation against the agency over its groundbreaking Regulation 6, Rule 5, major emissions reductions from both refineries, unprecedented penalties and other payments of up to $138 million, and a Richmond-area Community Air Quality Fund, among other benefits. The Air District estimates that the emission reductions achieved by the rule will result in tens of millions of dollars per year in health benefits by reducing early deaths and other health impacts of exposure to particulate matter.

Both agreements are related to the Air District’s enforcement of Rule 6-5, the most health protective rule of its kind in the nation. The rule reduces airborne particulate matter, or PM, emissions from petroleum refinery fluidized catalytic cracking units, or FCCUs. FCCUs are devices used in the manufacture of gasoline and are the largest sources of PM at these refineries. As a result of Chevron and MRC’s compliance with Rule 6-5, there will be an estimated 70 percent reduction of PM emissions from Chevron’s FCCU and an 80 percent reduction from MRC’s FCCU.

“The historic penalties and successful defense of our life-saving Rule 6-5 are a win for air quality in the Bay, especially those living in the Richmond and Martinez-area communities,” said Davina Hurt, chair of the Air District Board of Directors. “The establishment of the Community Air Quality Fund for Richmond further emphasizes our dedication to address the specific air quality concerns of the communities most affected, improve public health and to advance environmental justice.”

“The Air District’s agreements with Chevron and MRC mark a turning point in our commitment to enforcing air quality regulations and deterring future violations throughout the Bay Area, especially in communities already overburdened by air pollution,” said Dr. Philip Fine, executive officer of the Air District. “The record-breaking penalties and commitment by the refineries to comply with our health-protective Rule 6- 5 will help ensure a cleaner, healthier future for all Bay Area residents.”

“Defending our health-protective regulation to substantially reduce particulate matter from refineries and imposing significant penalties helps us improve air quality for all residents,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who represents Richmond and is also a member of the Air District Board of Directors. “I believe everyone, no matter where they live, has the right to breathe clean air.”

“Protecting our communities from particulate matter 50 yards down the street from sources is as important as protecting these communities 50 years down the road from climate change,” said Mark Ross, Martinez Vice Mayor and member of the Air District Board of Directors. “Along with this settlement and the resumption of Rule 6-5, with its historic reduction in annual PM emissions, the Air District is also demonstrating that enforcement of episodic incidents and violations will be enforced vigorously. Bay Area residents deserve such protection for their health now and in the future.”

Chevron Agreement Highlights:

  • Chevron drops its lawsuit and agrees to reduce PM emissions as required in the rule.
  • Chevron pays unprecedented penalties for any delay in compliance past the regulation’s July
  • 2026 compliance deadline. Chevron has committed to compliance with Rule 6-5 pollution limits, with escalating, record-setting penalties for non-compliance:
      • $17M for year 1
      • $17M for year 2
      • $17M for year 3
      • $32M for year 4
  • Chevron implements interim PM emission reductions at the FCCU to obtain early reductions even before the regulation’s compliance deadline.
  • Chevron pays into the Community Air Quality Fund, initiated with $20 million and supplemented annually by $3.5 million during the period needed for Chevron to construct air pollution controls. The fund will finance projects aimed at reducing PM exposures in the communities impacted by the refinery.
  • Chevron pays a $20 million fine for 678 other violations at the refinery unrelated to Reg. 6-5 and commits to a series of measures designed to reduce persistent flaring.
  • Chevron pays half the Air District’s attorney fees, up to $500,000.

MRC Agreement Highlights:

  • MRC drops its lawsuit and agrees to fully comply with the regulation.
  • MRC will demonstrate compliance with the regulation using a continuous monitoring system instead of periodic quarterly stack testing.
  • MRC pays half the Air District’s attorney fees, up to $500,000.

The Air District’s landmark Rule 6-5 reduces particulate matter emissions from petroleum refinery operations and is the most stringent rule of its kind in the country. This groundbreaking rule outlines specific requirements for reducing, monitoring, and reporting emissions of various pollutants including sulfur compounds and particulate matter from refinery operations.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area. Connect with the Air District via X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. 

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

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