Category Archives: Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)

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.

WATCH NOW! Benicia City Council Receives Presentation from Industrial Safety Ordinance Subcommittee

Got some time? Watch the Benicia City Council receive a report from their ISO Subcommittee LIVE NOW by clicking this link or clicking the image below.

Click the image to be redirected to the meeting viewer.


Check out the meeting packet for more information about how to participate.

Here’s a copy of the PowerPoint the subcommittee prepared if you missed the live presentation.

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

Subscribe to the Benicia Herald and keep local news alive!

The Benicia Herald  does not have an online edition. To support our local newspaper, please subscribe by email at or by phone at 707-745-6838.

It Takes a Village…and a Scott…and a Birdseye

Valero’s Benicia Refinery. | Pat Toth-Smith.
Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub

By Stephen Golub, first published in the Benicia Herald on December 24, 2023

Benicia got an early gift from Vice Mayor Terry Scott, Councilwoman Kari Birdseye and the rest of the City Council Tuesday night, December 19, when the Council unanimously voted to move ahead on putting together an industrial safety ordinance (ISO) that will help protect our kids, our older citizens and all of us against the risks of toxic emissions and potential fires/explosions. The decision capped months of patient, arduous work by Scott and Birdseye, who sought to address the views of all concerned parties along the way, resulting in their proposal that triggered the vote.

To be clear, the vote was to start a process, rather than to approve an ISO itself. But after an ISO is drafted and then presumably adopted next year, it will help us stay informed about accidents, incidents, violations, maintenance issues and other developments at Valero (and potentially other major industrial facilities in Benicia) that could affect our safety and health. It could enable Benicia to take preventive and enforcement action when necessary.

This contrasts with our current situation under a voluntary cooperation agreement with Valero, which provides for very limited information for and no enforcement by Benicia. For example, the refinery poured toxic emissions hundreds of times the legal limits into our air for well over a decade, until at least 2019. Even after the Bay Area Air Quality Management District learned of those emissions, that regional regulatory body failed to inform us about them for nearly another three years. We only found out in 2022.

Rather than being left out of the mix, Benicia needs a true seat at the table in order to get such information and take action. An ISO provides such a seat. The cooperation agreement and other current arrangements clearly don’t.

In the spirit of the holidays, I won’t delve into the substance of the debate any further. But I will emphasize that nothing about the ISO, or the effort to adopt it, is directed against the many fine Benician friends and neighbors who work at Valero or who are retirees from its facilities. Quite the contrary: The goal is to bolster safety and health for all of them as well as for the community as a whole.

Smoke from the Valero Benicia refinery during a 2017 incident. | Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

In fact, the hope is also that Valero’s leadership sees this is an opportunity to work with the City to provide its legitimate input. It would be a shame if the corporation walked away from such cooperation. Especially in view of Benicia’s budget problems and their implications for public safety, we need to pull together at this point rather than pull apart. Prompting bad national publicity, spurring divisions locally and other counterproductive fallout will do no good. Far better to act as a good neighbor.

Scott spearheaded the Council deliberations on Tuesday by highlighting how Benicia could construct a model industrial safety ordinance, learning from the experience of the other Bay Area refinery communities, all of which already have ISOs – which, by the way, fees on affected facilities pay for, rather than residents doing so.

Birdseye stood stalwart in repeatedly and successfully pressing for a vote even when there apparently was some temporary hesitancy or lack of clarity about how to proceed.

Thanks to Mayor Steve Young and Councilmembers Tom Campbell and Trevor Macenski, the motion was approved unanimously. And a bit of history was made: Reflecting community sentiment expressed at the meeting and elsewhere, as well as relevant research and experience, the Council decided that it wanted an ISO. If the resulting ordinance is true to that sentiment, research and experience, the ISO will be a strong one.

Thus, the devil will be in the details of what the eventual ordinance entails – something to be decided in the coming months under the direction of a subcommittee led by Scott and Birdseye. But this was a crucial first step.

So big kudos to Scott and Birdseye in particular for making this happen and making history for Benicia. And to the Mayor and other Councilmembers for backing an ISO. Thanks, too, to Fire Chief Josh Chadwick and other hardworking Benicia City staff members for the work they have done and will put into making all this a reality.

Last but not least, let’s also acknowledge the contributions of many other members of this wonderful village we call Benicia. Namely, the many Benicians who spoke, wrote letters and otherwise advocated for an ISO – spurred in part by the Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO) alliance. To join the more than 150 supporters of this effort, or simply to find out more about this matter, please check out the group’s website at

And have safe, healthy and happy holidays!

Subscribe to the Benicia Herald and keep local news alive!

The Benicia Herald  does not have an online edition. To support our local newspaper, please subscribe by email at or by phone at 707-745-6838.

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