[Note from BenIndy: Benicia residents have received an invitation from Valero’s Community Advisory Panel (CAP) to learn about refinery operations and engage refinery representatives in a Q&A session at the upcoming Community Information Night. It’s imperative that Benicians who are interested in the refinery and its operations take the time to attend this rare public meeting. Please see the image below for the full ad – and, if you plan on going, be aware the meeting room can be hard to find. Look below the ad and you will see a map we created to help newcomers get to the right place. A contact phone number and email address for this meeting are on the flyer as well. Unfortunately, there are no options to attend this meeting remotely.]
Valero’s Community Advisory Panel (CAP) invites Benicia residents to learn about operations at the Benicia Refinery
Read more!As Air Quality is so essential to our health, you might want to check out these resources:
Comprehensive urban air quality management sometimes feels like pipe dream, but what if we’re closer than we give ourselves credit for? What if stakeholders – from communities, regulators, and analysts to tech and industry ‘partners’ – have already deployed a collaborative model for accurate air quality management that could deliver “democratized, hyperlocal air quality data” and ultimately help us improve the air we breathe?
Clarity, a climate-tech startup founded by a Berkeley grad, is marketing a new vision for air quality monitoring. Using both existing and supplemental air monitor networks to provide all those stakeholders listed above with “real-time air quality data at a higher resolution,” its goal is to “[make] air quality management more accessible, cost-effective, and actionable than ever before.”
The fascinating mini-documentary above shows how London deployed over 400 “Clarity Node-S sensors” to provide “hyperlocal insights” to their population of 8.8 million. Apparently, Clarity is active in 60 cities worldwide, including Los Angeles, Perth and Singapore.
It’s a beautiful, well-marketed vision, and hopefully a peek into a future where communities like ours can access – and act on! – real-time insights on air quality . . . instead of relying on a plodding, recalcitrant, polluting industry to provide that data in a clear, reasonable and timely way.
Check out the video, it came recommended by a trusted resource. To be clear, we have received no compensation for posting about this, nor did we coordinate with Clarity in any way. This is just cool news worth sharing.
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.
[Note from BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: Please note that this BAAQMD news release regards separate and new violations distinct from the 16 years of undisclosed, unchecked emissions at the Valero-operated refinery that were first reported in early 2022. According to this release, Valero has also failed to measure and report widespread hydrogen emissions violations at the Benicia Refinery – for up to a decade. The risk to our community is presently unknown. What is known is that our ‘good neighbor’ Valero is failing our community and will continue to do so unless oversight and remediation mechanisms improve. After yet another decades-long series of violations, a pattern of alleged dangerous incompetence at best, and lawless disregard for our community and environment at worst is clearer than ever. Benicia deserves better, and you can help. The Air District will hold a hearing to consider issuing the abatement order, where the public can participate and demand action. I will post the notice for that hearing when it is scheduled, and you can sign up for Hearing Board updates at https://www.baaqmd.gov/contact-us/sign-up-for-information. The bolded elements below reflect my added emphasis.]
Requested abatement order would require the refinery to install pollution control equipment
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 10, 2023 CONTACT: email@example.com
SAN FRANCISCO – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced today that it is seeking an abatement order from the agency’s independent Hearing Board to require Valero Refining Co. to cease ongoing violations of Air District regulations at its Benicia refinery.
The Air District is seeking an abatement order to require Valero to install pollution control equipment on eight pressure relief devices, or PRDs, installed on the refinery’s hydrogen compressor unit. PRDs are safety devices used to prevent extreme overpressures that could cause catastrophic equipment failure – not unlike the pressure relief valve on a home pressure cooker, but on an industrial scale.
Air District regulations require pollution control equipment to be installed on PRDs that experience two or more releases within five years. Valero’s PRDs have been subject to these requirements for years, and in some cases for over a decade, but Valero has failed to install the required pollution control equipment.
“The extensive violations discovered at Valero’s Benicia refinery are of great concern and the Air District is seeking an abatement order to ensure that Valero takes action to prevent harmful emissions from impacting the communities surrounding the refinery,” said Alexander Crockett, the Air District’s chief counsel. “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.”
PRDs release emissions during upset conditions and not on a day-to-day basis. However, when PRDs releases do occur, the emissions go directly to the atmosphere unless they are captured and/or abated. The Air District is seeking this abatement order to require abatement equipment to prevent emissions from going into the atmosphere if and when any PRDs do experience releases.
Air District staff discovered these PRD violations in connection with an investigation into a series of widespread violations involving Valero’s hydrogen system, including extensive emissions from a hydrogen vent for which the Hearing Board issued an abatement order in 2022. Valero is required to report releases from its hydrogen system PRDs to the Air District, but it failed to do so for over ten years. As a result, these ongoing violations did not come to light until the Air District conducted further investigations after it found the hydrogen vent violations.
The Air District’s Hearing Board is an independent tribunal created by state law with the power to order violators to cease operating until they come into compliance with Air District regulations. Hearing Board proceedings are open to the public, and the public is encouraged to participate and comment when the Hearing Board holds a hearing to consider issuing the requested abatement order. Once the hearing is scheduled, a link will be posted on the Air District’s website at www.baaqmd.gov. The public can also sign up for Hearing Board updates at https://www.baaqmd.gov/contact-us/sign-up-for-information.
The Hearing Board is not empowered to impose monetary penalties for violations of Air District regulations. The Air District will take separate enforcement action to assess penalties for these violations to the maximum extent provided for by law. The purpose of this abatement order request is to seek an order requiring Valero to cease its ongoing violations with respect to these PRDs and immediately come into compliance.
Read more!As Air Quality is so essential to our health, you might want to check out these resources: