Vallejo Sun, by Scott Morris, August 10, 2023
BENICIA – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced Thursday that it had discovered continued violations at the Valero Benicia refinery during its investigation into years of toxic releases.
Specifically, the air district said that Valero had failed to install required pollution control equipment on eight pressure relief devices, safety devices that prevent extreme over pressurization that could cause a catastrophic equipment failure. The violations led to 165 tons of illegal emissions, the air district said. [Emph. added by BenIndy contributor.]
The air district said it is seeking an abatement order from its independent hearing board that would require Valero to immediately correct the violations.
“The extensive violations discovered at Valero’s Benicia refinery are of great concern,” air district chief counsel Alexander Crockett said in a statement. “Our priority is to protect the health and well-being of our communities, and we will vigorously pursue enforcement measures to achieve cleaner and safer air for all residents of the Bay Area.”
A Valero spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Benicia Mayor Steve Young said in a statement that Valero’s alleged continued pattern of emissions violations is “particularly concerning” and “should bother all Benicia residents.”
“The City is also waiting, with increasing impatience, to see how the separate, bigger, case of 16 years of unreported hydrogen emissions will be ultimately resolved,” Young said. “The citizens of Benicia deserve much more transparency from the refinery about these operational deficiencies than we have been receiving.”
The air district discovered the violations during its investigation into the release of toxic emissions from a hydrogen vent at the refinery that went on for nearly 20 years. The air district separately obtained an abatement order for those violations last year, though by the time it revealed the excess emissions publicly, it had already worked with Valero to correct them for some time.
Those excess emissions were first detected by Valero in 2003 when it started measuring output from the hydrogen vent, but the air district believes it likely had been going on even earlier and has no measurements from that time.
Since 2003, the air district estimates that the vent was releasing about 4,000 pounds of hydrocarbons per day, far more than state regulations allow. Overall, the district found that Valero released more than 10,000 tons of excess hydrocarbons over 16 years, including 138 tons of toxic air contaminants ethylbenzene, tolyrene, zolerine and the especially carcinogenic benzene.
(You will be redirected to the Vallejo Sun’s website. There is no paywall.)
Read more! As Air Quality is so essential to our health, you might want to check out these resources:
- Benicia Valero Refinery failing to meet Bay Area Air District requirements
- We Can’t Improve What We Don’t Measure – Oil giants like Valero are spending big to avoid sharing crucial climate data
- 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)