Valero’s Community Advisory Panel (CAP) invites Benicia residents to learn about air monitoring and incident response at Benicia Refinery
By Nathalie Christian, May 17, 2023
Save the date of Tuesday, June 13, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. for a peek behind Valero’s curtain
Benicia residents have received a very special invitation from Valero’s Community Advisory Panel (CAP) to learn about how Valero’s Benicia Refinery monitors air quality and responds to incidents. Please see the image below for the full ad distributed by Valero’s Benicia-based Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations.
Marilyn Bardet, a CAP member representing the Good Neighbor Steering Committee (to name just one of her many community-facing roles), wrote the following regarding this rare opportunity:
The subject will be air monitoring and Valero’s incident reporting as per the current [memorandum of agreement] governing the City’s obligatory relation to Valero vis a vis emergency response, incident reporting, et al. […]
I urge you to attend (via Zoom or in person), especially if you are concerned about air quality in Benicia [and the] transparency and accuracy of Valero’s [monitoring and
Of the five San Francisco Bay Area refineries, only the Martinez Refining Company has met the minimum air quality requirement for compliance with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Putting the ‘fine’ in ‘refinery’
In a recent post, Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program Board Member Kathy Kerridge said that after her trip to Valero’s Benicia refinery several months ago, she’s “not surprised” that it and the three other refineries that failed (Richmond’s Chevron and Phillips 66 and Pacheo’s Tesero) were non-compliant with Air District and EPA requirements – despite the ongoing threat of fines.
“Fines are trivial to them,” Kerridge said in the article. Indeed, oil companies like Valero have enjoyed astronomical profits these last few years as they capitalize on the worldwide energy crisis, raking in billions while customers pay more at the pumps.
Such fines include the Benicia Valero refinery agreeing to pay $1.2 million for multiple Clean Air Act violations, including one dangerous incident in 2017 that led to a shelter-in-place order at two elementary schools in Benicia.
When Valero had an adjusted net income of $3.1 billion in the first quarter, nominal payouts for dangerous events impacting Benicia’s most vulnerable – elementary-aged children – can feel “like a direct slap to the face with the community,” as Kerridge has put it.
You can’t spell ‘refinery’ without the word ‘fine,’ after all.
So what do we do when we have community concerns and don’t feel that fines leveraged by the EPA and BAAQMD are having the desired impact?
We should show up to events like these.
A reminder to attend will be posted closer to June 30. Presumably, Zoom details will become available as we approach the date.
[Conflict of interest note: In full disclosure, I recently encouraged a family member to apply to sit on Valero’s CAP. Truly, their intentions were honorable – this family member has a much brighter outlook than I do and really felt Valero could be a great community partner here in Benicia. Alas, they were not selected. One must wonder if our shared last name and my activity here factored in that decision. Thankfully, Marilyn sits on this panel as our representative, and we’re in great hands with her!]
Read more! As Air Quality is so essential to our health, you might want to check out these resources:
- Benicia Herald: ‘Refineries failing at fenceline monitoring’
- BCAMP ACTION ALERT: Tell Our Air District That Valero Is Failing
- Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program website
- Smell My City (On Apple App Store, or on Google Play Store)
- Refinery Air Watch website
- Please – anyone can report Air Quality issues/events to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District: General Public Information: (415) 749-4900, or Air Quality Complaints: 1-800-334-ODOR (6367)