Tag Archives: Smell My City

Save the date! Valero CAP open to public June 13

Valero’s Community Advisory Panel (CAP) invites Benicia residents to learn about air monitoring and incident response at Benicia Refinery

The Valero Refinery in Benicia was one of four refineries in the SF Bay Area that did not meet air quality requirements for compliance with the Bay Area Quality Management District. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

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
reporting].

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.

Valero CAP Announcemnet
Click image to enlarge.

 

[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’

[Editor: The Benicia Herald  does not have an online edition – their lead story in today’s print edition is presented here as a photographic image (click to enlarge). To support our local newspaper, please subscribe by email at beniciacirculation@gmail.com or by phone at 707-745-6838.]

After this quick read, PLEASE SEND YOUR COMMENTS on Valero’s Air Monitoring Plans and Quality Assurance Project Plans to the Bay Area Air District.  They are accepting comments on the refineries’ plans through Thursday, April 20 at 5 p.m. Details on the BenIndy here. Comments should be sent to jlapka@baaqmd.gov.


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

[Editor: After this quick read, PLEASE SEND YOUR COMMENTS on Valero’s Air Monitoring Plans and Quality Assurance Project Plans to the Bay Area Air District.  They are accepting comments on the refineries’ plans through Thursday, April 20 at 5 p.m. Details on the BenIndy here. Comments should be sent to jlapka@baaqmd.gov.]

The Valero Refinery in Benicia was one of four refineries in the SF Bay Area that did not meet air quality requirements for compliance with the Bay Area Quality Management District. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

Martinez refinery only one of five in SF Bay Area to pass

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Thomas Gase, April 15, 2023

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, according to a news release sent out Friday.

Four other refineries — Benicia’s Valero, Richmond’s Chevron and Phillips 66 and Pacheo’s Tesero — all use the same air monitoring system for H2S, and didn’t meet the requirements as defined by BAAQMD and Rule 12-15.

Rule 12-15, passed in 2016, requires refineries to monitor and report fugitive gasses from their operating equipment, such as valves, compressors, and storage tanks. These emissions impact the health of the surrounding communities — the toxic gases released include noxious chemicals like the cancer-causing benzene and other serious gasses like hydrogen sulfide which can mix with PM 2.5 from other cumulative sources to create a toxic mix that affects the quality of the air.

Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program Board Member Kathy Kerridge said that after a trip to the Valero Refinery a few months ago, she’s not surprised at the four refineries failing.

“I was very much expecting this because when the Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program visited the site the refinery had a slideshow about hydrogen sulfite,” said Kerridge. “They knew what the regulations were and the slide show was showing what it was detecting. You can’t have an average of more than 15 parts per billion and their system was showing many times above that limit. Their three-month plan with different systems and operations was not showing they would be able to pass. They were different from Martinez in that it was clear that what they were doing was not working.”

BAAQMD set new requirements for H2S monitoring (part of Rule 12-15) that went into effect in January. Under the direction of its contractors, these four refineries installed H2S fence line systems that failed to meet the performance standards of the rule, and that provide unreliable, confusing data reports from those fence line sources. The operational and data display requirements in the QAPPs are not uniform across the four refineries.

According to the news release, “All the refineries should utilize equipment that meets the Air District requirements, be as uniform as possible in their operation, and display data to allow communities to compare measurements and performance across them. It is vital that the non-compliant refineries be held accountable — not just by paying fines, but by installing the equipment that will meet the BAAQMD’s requirements without delay.

Kerridge said she is not sure what will happen next, but is hoping to put pressure on the BAAQMD to make the four refineries come in compliance.

“Fines are trivial to them,” Kerridge said. “It’s like they are having a direct slap to the face with the community. The main problem is that the air monitoring gives us the sense of false security.”

Those fines include the Benicia Valero refinery agreeing last week with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pay $1.2 million for violating the Clean Air Act.

After what the EPA called “significant chemical incidents” at the refinery in 2017 and 2019, an inspection found that Valero had failed to report the release of hazardous substances, among other noncompliance issues.

“This settlement sends a clear message that EPA will prosecute companies that fail to expend the resources needed to have a compliant, well-functioning Risk Management Plan to the fullest extent of the law,” said Larry Starfield, the acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a statement.

As part of the settlement, Valero agreed to make chemical safety improvements at the Benicia refinery.

Emissions from the refinery have plagued nearby residents in recent years, leading city officials in 2019 to urge residents to stay indoors after the refinery started emitting hazardous particulates.

This isn’t the first time the Valero refinery has had to pay up for emitting smoke or chemicals into the air. In April 2017, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District fined Valero $340,000 for 28 violations committed in 2014. A month later, they were hit with four additional violations — one for causing a public nuisance and three for releasing excessive smoke.

The BAAQMD is accepting comments on the refineries’ plans through Thursday at 5 p.m. Comments should be sent to jlapka@baaqmd.gov[BenIndy Editor: PLEASE SEND YOUR COMMENTS on Valero’s Air Monitoring Plans and Quality Assurance Project Plans to the Bay Area Air District.  They are accepting comments on the refineries’ plans through Thursday, April 20 at 5 p.m. Details on the BenIndy here.]

Grace Hase of the Bay Area News Group contributed to this article.


Read more! As Air Quality is so essential to our health, you might want to check out these resources:

BCAMP ACTION ALERT: Tell Our Air District That Valero Is Failing

This is a news release from Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program (BCAMP), issued April 12, 2023. Please take a few minutes to follow the instructions below to submit an emailed comment in support of this important request. 

We need the public to push the Air District to enforce its fenceline regulations. Valero is failing.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) is requesting public input by Thursday, April 20 on the Air Monitoring Plans (AMPs) and Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) from the five Bay Area refineries. The public input relates to the measurement of the dangerous gas-hydrogen sulfide (H2S) by the refineries’ open path fenceline monitoring systems.

The bottom line is this: since the law went into effect in January, four out of the five Bay Area refineries are not meeting BAAQMD’s requirements for detecting and reporting the level of hydrogen sulfide at the refinery fencelines. One of the refineries, Martinez Refining Company, is meeting the requirements, so we know that the technology to provide the important data to the public is readily available.

We need to make sure that all five Bay Area Refineries, including Valero, are held accountable!

This is not just about the refineries following rules set by the Air District, it’s about public health. We need to know what is in the air we breathe! Your comments to the district make a tremendous difference. The Air Board  does pay attention to the comments and the public sentiment.  So please take a couple of minutes to send this email or one like it.

How to comment

IMPORTANT: the deadline for comments is Thursday, April 20 at 5pm. Don’t delay! Please act now. 

Please send your comment to Joe Lapka at  jlapka@baaqmd.gov.

Please put in the subject line: “Comment on Revised Draft Refinery Fenceline Air Monitoring Plans for Valero, Phillips 66, Tesoro and Chevron.”

You can simply copy and paste the following as your comment, or write your own:

The revised refinery air monitoring plans show that four out of five refineries are not meeting BAAQMD’s requirements. It is apparent that only the open path system being utilized at the Martinez Refining Company meets the requirements listed in the Air District’s 12/22/2022 letter, as defined by the requirements in their Quality Assurance Project  Plan (QAPP). The systems being used at the other four refineries does not meet these requirements. All refineries should utilize equipment that meets the Air District requirements as stated in the 12/22/2022 letters.  All requirements across all Bay Area refineries should be as uniform as possible in operation and data display to allow communities to compare measurements and performance across refineries.  This isn’t just about following the rules, it’s about public health and safety!  We deserve to know what we are breathing.

In addition, we request that all technologies used at all Bay Area refineries have similar operational and data display parameters developed and required soon. We truly feel this will help re-establish community trust in the data generated by the technologies in use as part of Rule 12-15.

It is vital that the refineries be held accountable—not just by paying fines—but by installing the equipment that will meet the Air District’s requirements without delay.

There should also be a public meeting about this important topic.

Thank you for taking a stand with us!


Read more! As Air Quality is so essential to our health, you might want to check out these resources: