Category Archives: BISHO

Benicia City Council Publishes Draft Industrial Safety Ordinance for Community Review and Feedback

Draft Ordinance LIVE

Benicia’s draft Industrial Health and Safety Ordinance is now live! Read and provide feedback on the draft ‘IHSO’ and supporting documents by clicking the link or image below.



Click the image to be redirected to the draft IHSO page. You may need to register for an account to review the document. | Screenshot from

The deadline to submit feedback is August 17, 2024. You will need an account for to read the draft and leave feedback.

If you would prefer to email comments or suggestions, the directions for how to do so are included on the linked page.

Benicia City Council to hear Industrial Safety presentation tomorrow, Tues. 16, at 6pm (& why you should pay attention)

Be there tomorrow at 6pm (or write in before 2pm) to call for better industrial safety and health rules for Benicia

From Terry Mollica, Chair of Benicia’s Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO) Working Group, July 14, 2024

I’m writing to alert supporters that Benicia City Council will have a “status report” presentation on July 16, 2024, after 6:00 p.m., about the preparation of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (“ISO”).
Among other things, the City is expected to present to the public for the first time the draft ISO for public comment.  If you are able, please tune in to the City Council meeting to get more information.  You can access the agenda and see how to attend the meeting using this link. [BenIndy: Scroll down for a quick how-to-participate guide.]
The expectation is that after Tuesday’s hearing, the City Council will have two subsequent meetings where the draft ISO is “read,” meaning that public comment will be accepted.  At the second reading, the expectation is that the ISO will receive a final vote and be adopted by the City Council.
We had hoped to be further along in the process by now, but do expect that the ISO will be adopted in August or September, 2024.
Please continue to monitor City Council actions toward adoption of the ISO.  The presentation on Tuesday may address the timetable for adoption.  A showing of public support for the ISO may prove to be critical in getting it passed.
We are very excited to be making progress toward the adoption of the ISO.  Thank you all for your continued support, particularly, the members of the Working Group who have worked so hard and diligently to get us to this point!

To learn more about the project and the public engagement process, visit the City’s public engagement website,

The following is from the July 16 Agenda Packet

Attending the Meeting In Person:

Accessing The Meeting
How to Participate in the Meeting:
1) Attend in person at Council Chambers
2) Cable T.V. Broadcast – Check with your cable provider for your local government broadcast channel.
3) Livestream online at
4) Zoom Meeting (link below)

The public may view and participate (via computer or phone) link:

  • If prompted for a password, enter 449303.
  • Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on. Please note, your electronic device must have microphone capability. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

Dial in with phone:
Before the start of the item you wish to comment on, call any of the numbers

• Enter the meeting ID number: 885 0804 7557 *please note this is an updated ID number* item you wish to speak on. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

  • Enter password: 449303
  • When prompted for a Participant ID, press #.
  • Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment during the item you wish to speak on. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak. [BenIndy: The time limit may be 3 minutes now.]

Writing In:

How to Submit Public Comments for this City Council meeting:
Besides appearing in person and offering public comments, members of the public may provide public comment via Zoom, or to the City Clerk by email at Any comment submitted to the City Clerk should indicate to which item of the agenda the comment relates. [BenIndy: This is item 16A.]

Specific information follows:

– Comments received by 2:00 pm on the day of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council and posted on the City’s website.

– Comments received after 2:00 pm, but before the start time of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council but will not be posted on the City’s website.

Stephen Golub: Benicia, Don’t Let the Fox Guard the Henhouse

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land

By Stephen Golub, originally published in the Benicia Herald on May 5, 2024

In recent weeks, I’ve reached out to a number of persons familiar with the Contra Costa County (CCC) and Richmond Industrial Safety Ordinances (ISOs), which seek to bolster those localities’ protection from fires, explosions and toxic emissions at the four refineries in that county.

Since it is situated in Solano County and not Contra Costa, Valero is the only Bay Area refinery not covered by such an ordinance. Benicia is the only refinery town in the area not protected by one. To their great credit, Vice Mayor Scott, Councilwoman Birdseye, Fire Chief Chadwick and other personnel are spearheading the City’s drive, unanimously endorsed by the City Council, to draft an ISO for Benicia. The Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance citizens’ group, to which I belong, is seeking to make the resulting law as strong as possible.

My look at other Bay Area ISOs is intended to bolster both of those efforts.

For now, I’ll focus on three key overlapping considerations that, in my opinion, have so far emerged from my ISO conversations:

My first point regards the crucial citizen Oversight Committee (or whatever name is eventually used) that, as part of the ISO, will keep its administration and enforcement on track. The Committee should comprise independent operational, scientific, environmental, safety and health experts, as well as representatives from affected communities within Benicia and beyond.

I suggest this approach in contrast with simply involving all potential “stakeholders” with some sort of interest in the ISO, since persons employed by, affiliated with or aligned with Valero are unlikely to back strong oversight. Who sits at the table will determine what gets done.

More specifically, let’s involve people who have expertise regarding Valero and other refineries’ operations but who are not beholden to them, as demonstrated by their professional or community track records.

Let’s certainly engage Benicians who have been affected by the emissions, odors, vapors and even residues from the refinery’s repeated incidents and accidents.

Let’s also include non-Benicians, such as those representing citizen or government groups in CCC, Richmond, Martinez and other neighboring communities, as well as representatives of Bay Area environmental organizations.

This brings me to my second point, implied by the first:

The Oversight Committee should not include Valero. Nor should it involve the affiliated “Community Advisory Panel” (CAP), which very rarely involves the community in its meetings and which largely supports the refinery’s perspective. While individuals affiliated with these two entities may mean well, it is inappropriate for a company to influence the very body that oversees the safety and health aspects of its operations.

Let’s also bear in mind that when we’re talking about Valero decision-making, we’re talking not about our fine neighbors and friends who may be employees, but instead about a huge Texas-based corporation.

There is nothing wrong and much that is right with consultation with Valero and listening to its valid concerns. But there are plenty of opportunities to do so, outside of it having membership in the Oversight Committee.

Or to put the matter more simply: Benicia can’t have the fox guarding the henhouse.

To my simple mind, it’s self-evident that Valero should not oversee itself. After all, you wouldn’t want a neighbor who regularly violates local and national safety/health-oriented regulations controlling efforts to prevent those violations, would you? And that’s even assuming the neighbor is committed to proper community oversight, something that can’t be said of Valero in view of its apparently intense opposition to an ISO.

CAP has also demonstrated keen opposition to the very idea of an ISO, as indicated by its hostile reception when Scott and Birdseye attempted to engage it in a constructive way at one of its meetings. This has large ramifications for the Oversight Committee.

Again, why put the fox in charge of the henhouse?

Against this backdrop, it’s puzzling that the City’s “Engage Benicia” ISO outreach site and the community survey it includes feature CAP in several questions, even in terms of a potential ISO role. Perhaps this is due to the laudable even-handedness with which the City is approaching this effort, despite opposition from Valero and CAP. But in visiting the site ( and participating in its survey,  which I heartily encourage, Benicians should be aware that there’s less to CAP than its title implies.

My third point is that the Oversight Committee has a tremendous potential to connect Benicia with likeminded citizens and governments across the Bay Area regarding health and safety concerns. By virtue not just of its membership but also its outreach, it can share information, advocacy and efforts concerning common problems and solutions experienced by CCC, Richmond, Martinez and other areas. That’s yet another reason for the Committee to comprise independent individuals, rather than Valero or its affiliated parties.

In suggesting these paths, I speak only on my own behalf and not as a member of BISHO. If you’re interested in learning more about Valero’s violations and the many reasons the City and your fellow Benicians are working toward a strong ISO, please check out this site:

Join the BISHO movement

There is a group of concerned citizens of Benicia who also support the adoption of a Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO). To learn more about the effort and add your support, visit

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Refineries, Cancer and Other Health Problems: An ISO Can Help Us Breathe Easier

By Stephen Golub, originally published in the Benicia Herald on April 14, 2024

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land.

In the weeks and months to come, you may hear and read an increasing amount about Benicia adopting an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) that will help protect us against healthy and safety threats posed by the Valero Refinery, its associated asphalt plant and possibly other large industrial facilities.

There are many reasons for Benicia to have such an ordinance, so that we’re no longer the only Bay Area locale that hosts a refinery but is not protected by an ISO. Today, at the risk of getting a bit wonky, I’ll address one key reason: Living close to refineries can increase our risk of contracting cancer and other experiencing other medical problems; an ISO could help reduce such risks.

The point of this column isn’t to prompt panic, but to instead suggest action that will help safeguard our health. Through the better air monitoring, audits, inspections, reporting and above all preventive measures that the ordinance can bring, the City will be better able to reduce safety and health risks to our kids, seniors, small businesses and all Benicians.

The City Council has already taken the crucial first step in this direction. By a unanimous vote in December, the Council acted on a proposal by Vice Mayor Terry Scott and Councilwoman Kari Birdseye: It established a subcommittee comprising those two, aided by Fire Chief Josh Chadwick, to prepare an ISO.

While the ISO is being drafted, hopefully for adoption this summer, there are at least two things we can do to participate in the process:

First, please consider following and supporting the efforts of the Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO) initiative (of which I’m a member), which can be found  at (“Safety” and not just “health” is included in the name because one priority is to protect Benicians and Refinery workers against fires and explosions, and not just toxic emissions.)

BISHO’s evolving site provides reams of relevant information. It also includes how to join the almost 200 fellow citizens who are supporting an ISO (and who, given that some folks may back a measure even if they don’t sign on to it, may well represent many thousands of Benicians).

Second, check out and post your thoughts at the “Engage Benicia” site the City has established to exchange information and opinions about the planned ISO: It provides “Opportunities for Input,” where you can weigh in on a number of weighty questions regarding our safety, health and an ISO.

Clicking this image will take you to

The site isn’t ideal. (Then again, what is?) For instance, it solicits our thoughts on a current “Community Advisory Panel” (CAP) without noting that to a great extent it is controlled and serves at the discretion of Valero. Still, the site represents a laudable effort to seek community input as Birdseye, Scott, Chadwick and other City personnel work hard to take Benicians’ perspectives into account. It’s well worth visiting, to register reactions and questions.

Now, on to the less pleasant news: A variety of research findings from across the country and the world indicate that cancer rates and other health problems are higher near refineries and related facilities than elsewhere. (There’s also relevant health data from Benicia, but I’ll save that for another day.) Again, my point is that an ISO can reduce our risks, not least by regulating Valero’s operations and reporting in ways that perhaps are not being done adequately elsewhere, such as in oil industry-friendly Texas (where, by the way, Valero is headquartered).

So please take this list as grounds for hope and urgency, not despair, about what Benicia can do. (The place listed is where the refinery is located; the date is when the research was published.)

Cancer rates, Texas, 2020: “[A University of Texas] team studied the Texas Cancer Registry and US Census Data from 2001 – 2014 to compare rates of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, lung, lymphoma, and prostate) of people within 30 miles of active Texas oil refineries. The team observed that proximity to an oil refinery was associated with a significantly increased risk of cancer diagnosis across all cancer types. People living within 10 miles of an active refinery were more likely to have advanced disease or metastatic disease.”

Children’s liver and bone-related disorders, Texas, 2016: “This study examined the health effects of benzene exposure among children from a flaring incident at the British Petroleum (BP) refinery in Texas City, Texas…These findings suggest that children exposed to benzene are at a higher risk of developing both hepatic [liver-related] and bone marrow-related disorders.

Post-incident health problems, Richmond, California, 2019: “After the 2012 incident [release chemicals into the air], two Emergency Departments took the brunt of the surge [of patients]. Censuses [i.e., the number of patients under care] increased from less than 600 a week each to respectively 5719 and 3072 the first week…It took 4 weeks for censuses to return to normal. The most common diagnosis groups that spiked were nervous/sensory, respiratory, circulatory, and injury.”

Leukaemia, various locations, 2020: “The systematic review identified 16 unique studies, which collectively record the incidence of haematological [blood-related] malignancies across 187,585 residents living close to a petrochemical operation. Residents from fenceline communities, less than 5 km from a petrochemical facility (refinery or manufacturer of commercial chemicals), had a 30% higher risk of developing Leukaemia than residents from communities with no petrochemical activity.”

Children’s asthma, South Africa, 2009: “The results support the hypothesis of an increased prevalence of asthma symptoms among children in the area as a result of refinery emissions and provide a substantive basis for community concern.”

Female lung cancer, Taiwan, 2000: “The study results show that mortality from female lung cancer rose gradually about 30 to 37 years after the operation of a petroleum refinery plant began.”

There’s more, but I’ll leave it at that.

An ISO won’t be a cure-all by any means. But it will enable us to build on the work of state and federal agencies that, however well-intentioned, may not prioritize Benicia in view of the many areas they serve. It could well help to diminish our cancer risks and exposure to other health challenges.

And that should make us all breathe easier.