Meeting Reflections – April 12, 2022, Climate Change and D.A. candidate Sharon Henry

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING
APRIL 12, 2022
Climate Change: what we can be doing…
Also: District Attorney candidate Sharon Henry

PDB’s April 12th membership meeting was attended by 39 members, friends and our guest speakers.

Program

First we heard from Sharon Henry, candidate for Solano County District Attorney.  Because there are only two candidates in the race for DA, it is likely to be decided at the June 7 primary election, rather than on November 8th.  Ms. Henry shared her background and values and explained her platform. She has been endorsed by the Solano County Democratic Central Committee and Mayor Steve Young.  After questions and answers, we held an endorsement vote.  PDB members voted almost unanimously to endorse Ms. Henry.

The remainder of the meeting focused on Climate change and action-based solutions presented by local climate activists:

  • Lindsay Wray, Chair, Benicia Community Sustainability Commission – described the commission and outlined action items for 2022.
  • Ben Keller – Co-chair, Legislative Committee 350 Bay Area Action – described 350BAA and explained the role of the Legislative Committee – Work on Legislation, Building Relationships with Legislators and Education and Mobilizing Public and Partners. Outlined priority bills for 2022-AB 2419; SB 917; SB 1482, SB 1010.
  • Nik Evasco, Youth Climate Organizer and Program Manager, 350 Bay Area – described his role as an organizer and profiled recent actions taken by 350BA. Expressed need for a Solano County 350 faction.
Club Actions:

Interim Chair Kathy Kerridge presented a spreadsheet and web addresses for members to take a few minutes and either commit to taking climate action or perform actions in real time.  Tap here to view the suggested action items.

Elected Officials

Elected officials present: Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown and Benicia Mayor Steve Young.

Mayor Young provided an update on City of Benicia events and issues:

    • Update on the recent weekend fire at Amports and the status of the pier, which was built and maintained by Amports.
    • Update on the Mayor’s first meeting as a BAAQMD member. Discussed the status of fine for Valero’s 15-year emissions cover-up. The Mayor is open for suggestions on how the settlement funds are to be spent.
    • Goal setting meeting: City Council – Saturday, April 23, 8:30am to 6:30pm at the Community Center. Open for public comment, most likely in the morning.
    • Diversity Festival: April 23 beginning at noon on the Marina Green.
    • Council Meeting, 4/19/22 – Financial Forecast is the topic.
Announcements
  • Saturday, April 30, 1-3pm Candidate Fundraiser – for Sharon Henry, hosted by Terry Mollica at his home
  • ACLU – Virtual Forums (aclu.solano@gmail.com)
    • Monday, May 2, 6pm Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum
    • Tuesday, May 3, 3pm District Attorney Candidate Forum
  • Sunday, June 26, 2-4pm Welcome / Au revoir party for US Representatives Garamendi and Thompson, Benicia Vets Hall – Fundraiser for United Dems – details to follow
  • Benicia Library – Book Action Program – From Just Us to Justice: A Community Equity Challenge https://benicialibrary.org/rsvp-book-action-programs
Recording

The meeting was held on Zoom.  A full recording of the meeting can be viewed here.

Air District Hearing on Valero emissions March 15 – details and link

March 8, 2022

Public Hearing on Valero’s “serious excess emissions violations”

The Bay Area Air District is convening a Hearing Board meeting to approve measures that would end nearly two decades of serious air emission violations at Valero’s Benicia Refinery.

The BAQQMD Hearing Board will consider the matter at a meeting on March 15, starting at 9:30 am.  The public is invited to attend and comment.

>>HEARING NOTICE for the meeting: https://www.baaqmd.gov/~/media/files/board-of-directors/hearing-board/agendas/2022-hb/hbcalendar031522-pdf.pdf?la=en&rev=b58641e7066840059007094939118c53

>>ZOOM LINK is in the notice of the meeting as well as here: https://bayareametro.zoom.us/j/88980571855#success

BACKGROUND: Air district seeks abatement order for ‘significant excess emissions’ at Valero Benicia refinery

Air district seeks abatement order for ‘significant excess emissions’ at Valero Benicia refineryVallejo Sun, By Scott Morris, Jan 25, 2022

BENICIA – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is seeking a legally binding order against Valero to correct “significant excess emissions violations” at its refinery in Benicia, the air district announced on Monday.

In a news release, the air district called the action “a major shift in the handling of enforcement cases” against the Valero refinery.

Air district spokesperson Kristine Roselius said the violations had been going on for 16 years before they were discovered in 2019, resulting in more than 8,000 tons of excess emissions that were not reported.

“Valero’s disregard for air quality regulations and public safety in the surrounding community warrants decisive action and significant penalties to deter violations in the future,” air district executive director Jack Broadbent said in a statement. “Valero did not report or control the emissions from this source as required by Air District regulations, state and federal law.”

In a separate news release on Tuesday, city of Benicia officials said they only learned of the alleged air quality violations by Valero when the air district announced its findings.

“We are deeply troubled to learn of Valero’s 2019 actions that led to this order,” Benicia Mayor Steve Young said in a statement. “BAAQMD’s announcement makes clear that not adhering to Air District regulations will not be tolerated.”

City officials said that the city is working with the air district to set up a community air monitoring station on city-owned property near the refinery.

According to the proposed abatement order, Valero has already agreed to its terms. But by bringing it before the hearing board — a five-member body that adjudicates compliance issues and hears appeals of air district decisions — the air district said it will provide transparency of the evidence and violations and legally bind Valero to comply with the order. The air district said it will also seek unspecified fines from Valero.

The board is expected to hold a hearing on the order at an upcoming meeting that has not yet been scheduled. The air district said it has also contacted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether Valero violated federal law.

The action stems from a violation found at the refinery’s two hydrogen plants in 2019. The units were designed to vent excess hydrogen, but an air district investigation determined that they also vented non-methane hydrocarbons that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, as well as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene compounds, volatile organic compounds regulated under the federal Clean Air Act.

According to the order, after discovering the emissions, the air district issued a notice of violation to Valero. Valero then attempted to fix the problem, and while the air district acknowledged this significantly reduced the emissions, it did not eliminate them.

According to the air district, Valero then agreed to design a new project to bring the refinery into compliance. In the meantime, Valero must continuously monitor emissions from the vents and report its findings to the air district.

The two process units affected were part of the original construction of the refinery in 1968, according to the air district. The refinery has been operated by Valero since 2000.

If Valero does not comply with the terms of the order, the district can seek other unspecified penalties.

Valero did not respond to a request for comment from the Vallejo Sun. In a statement provided to the city of Benicia, Valero spokesperson Paul Adler said, “The Valero Benicia Refinery discovered its hydrogen unit vent had trace contaminants. Valero took immediate steps to address the issue and has been working cooperatively with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to develop a project as part of its long-term corrective action.”

Valero typically pays about $200,000 a year to the air district to settle alleged violations at the refinery. Its most recent settlement was for $191,500 for 14 violations in 2017. That did not, however, include an additional 17 notices of violations sent for a May 2017 incident when a power outage sent toxic chemicals – including sulfur dioxide and carbonyl sulfide – into the air, which Valero estimated would cost at least an additional $100,000 to settle.

Valero also drew scrutiny in December, when the refinery released heavy oils that landed on residents’ homes and cars which was difficult to clean.

Refinery manager Josh Tulino said at a Benicia Refinery Community Advisory Panel meeting that the oil was released onto neighbors’ property  after the refinery was offline for more than two months for maintenance. He said there were no air quality concerns during the incident.

Young said that Valero would pay for cleaning any property affected and residents could contact Valero by calling 800-678-9355 and referencing the Valero Benicia Refinery Dec. 11, incident 190143 or by emailing Adler at Valero at Paul.Adler@valero.com.

This story has been updated with comments from Valero spokesperson Paul Adler and the city of Benicia.

Meeting Reflections – March 8, 2022, Perspectives on Diversity in Benicia

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING
MARCH 8, 2022 at 7 pm
Perspectives on Diversity in Benicia–A Panel Discussion

PDB’s March 8th membership meeting was attended by over 40 members, friends and our guest panel.

The meeting focused on racial equity, diversity and inclusion in Benicia and featured a panel discussion with Dr. Maliika Chambers and Kashanna Harmon-Lee.

Dr. Maliika Chambers is the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Manager for the City of Benicia. Kashanna Harmon-Lee is a member of Benicia Black Lives Matter’s (BBLM) Leadership Team.  They shared their perspectives on the state of racial equity in our town, and alerted us to upcoming events and ways in which our club can help with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Benicia.

Terry Mollica, Vice Chair of the City of Benicia Planning Commission, offered an update on the Benicia Housing Element, timetable, upcoming workshops and meetings:

    • City Council Study Session: March 22 at 6 p.m. | Meeting held via Zoom
    • Virtual Open House : March 31 at 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. | Meeting held via Zoom
    • In-Person Open House: April 6 at 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. | Location TBA
    • Planning Commission Study Session : April 7 at 7 p.m
    • More information: https://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/housingelement

We also heard from Cheryl Sudduth, who is running in the June primary for the Democratic nomination for the US House to represent California’s 8th Congressional District.  She shared about her platform, life experiences and values. Ms. Sudduth is running against Congressman John Garamendi, who was recently featured at the PDB meeting in February, 2002.

Announcements

    • Kathy Kerridge: Call for volunteers for Women’s & Youth Caucus; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (Elizabeth Patterson is willing to spearhead and needs others to join in).  Contact Kathy if interested.
    • BAAQMD Hearing Board meeting March 15 starting at 9:30am.  Details and link here.
    • Lisa Reinertson: Encouraged attendees to email CA Fish and Game Commission (fgc@fgc.ca.gov) in support of Petition 2022-01.  The petition will be reviewed and discussed at the Fish and Game Commission meeting on April 20-21.  The petition can be reviewed at crowcanyon.info/petition-2022.1.pdf.

Equity & Justice For All