Tag Archives: Air quality

Our Next Meeting – Tuesday, May 9

TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2023, 7:00 PM



Our next general membership meeting will be on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, at 7pm, via Zoom (scroll down to find the link, which will be included in a reminder email as well).

This month our meeting topic is “Clear the Air on Our Local Refineries: Environmental Harm, Health Damage, and Potential Solutions.” 

Air pollution is a topic of vital importance to the health and safety of all of us, not least our children and those with particular medical conditions.

Many of you know that our city is home to Valero’s Benicia Refinery. The refinery supports Benicia’s economy through employment opportunities and taxes. But it also has committed repeated, serious and health-threatening violations.

These violations include spewing toxic pollutants, hundreds of times the legal limits, into our air for 15 years without disclosing so until last year.  Other violations spurred the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fine Valero over one million dollars recently.

All of this raises numerous questions, including:
    • What other Bay Area refineries impact us? For instance, the Martinez Refining Company recently blanketed Martinez in a “toxic powdery substance” that reached as far as Benicia.
    • How can we work together in Benicia, but also with other cities and civic groups, to protect communities located close to refineries?
    • What tools and resources are available for residents who want to protect themselves and their families?
  • What solutions, including the kind of Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) employed by Contra Costa County, might Benicia learn from, adopt and adapt to our own situation?

We have an excellent lineup of experts and advocates ready to address these questions for you:
  • Gregg Karras, a scientist and environmental consultant, will provide us with useful background and perspective on challenges posed by Bay Area refinery operations.
  • Constance Beutel, of the Good Neighbor Steering Committee, will give us information on an app that we can use to receive notifications when emissions exceed health limits.
  • Heidi Taylor, a Martinez resident who lives close to its refinery and is a founding member of Healthy Martinez: Refinery Accountability Group, will tell us what happened in Martinez with its release of a severe level of pollutants over Thanksgiving, and how Benicia could be affected by such incidents.
  • Kari Birdseye, Benicia City Council Member, will  draw in part on her extensive experience in the environmental field to discuss ways in which communities can seek to protect their health and safety.
  • Maureen Breenan, a member of the Hazardous Materials Committee for Contra Costa County, the Fenceline Working Group for Philipps 66 and the Sunflower Alliance, will speak about her experience with the Industrial Safety Ordinance in Contra Costa County.
  • Terry Mollica, a Benicia-based attorney and the Benicia Planning Commission Chair, will discuss features and benefits of a potential Industrial Safety Ordinance here, as well as how the need for an ISO may have increased in recent years.

Everyone is welcome, regardless of whether you are PDB members or Benicia residents.

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 823 6210 9045
Passcode: 039610

Don’t miss this important meeting!

See you on Zoom, Tuesday, May 9 at 7:00 PM! Please invite your friends and anyone who is interested in keeping Benicia safe and healthy.  They do not have to be a PDB member in order to attend.

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 [email protected].

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

Save these dates for important meetings on Air District charges against Valero for continued air pollution violations

February 21, 2022

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) will have two important informational meetings to discuss the serious emissions violations incurred by the Valero Refinery.  BAAQMD sets and enforces air pollution regulations in the Bay Area. Valero’s violations included dangerous benzene emissions.

The first meeting is THIS THURSDAY, FEB 24, FROM 6 TO 8 PM

In the words of Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District:

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. Valero did not report or control the emissions from this source as required by Air District regulations, state and federal law.

Please plan to attend the following Zoom meetings to get answers to your questions, find out more details about what has been released into our air, and learn how it could have affected the air quality in Benicia. What will be the consequences to the refinery for their negligent action? Show Valero and the Air District that we care and are prepared to take action to protect our community!!

At our last general membership meeting we announced a webinar for Benicia Community Air Monitoring System on the 24th. That has now been moved to March 3rd so you can attend these BAAQMD meetings, which we feel are vital for every member and supporter to join if they can, so we can make our voices heard on the matter of these violations, and demand Valero take important steps to regain the trust of our community. Please plan to attend!

 This Thursday, February 24, 6 to 8 pm
Air District staff are holding this meeting and will be present to discuss these violations in detail. Click on the link for more information: https://www.baaqmd.gov/news-and-events/workshops
 Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 839 7455 7503
Passcode: 808102
One tap mobile

Tuesday, March 1, 6 pm
Benicia City Council will address the Valero emission violations at their regular meeting. City council members have requested a briefing on the Valero case from Air District enforcement staff. This meeting is also open to the public. Please go to this page on the City of Benicia’s website for information on how to join.

Tuesday, March 15, 9:30 am
The second BAAQMD meeting is a legal hearing, where the Air District’s Hearing Board will consider approving the proposed abatement order. The public can view the agenda and provide written comment to the Hearing Board at the following link:
Hearing Board Agendas, Reports, and Orders (baaqmd.gov)
The public can also provide verbal comments to the Hearing Board during the hearing in the following ways:
 Join Zoom webinar:
Webinar ID: 889 8057 1855
. . . or dial in remotely via phone at (669) 900-6833 or (408) 638-0968

 Please plan to attend one or all of these meetings, and thank you for supporting the health and safety of our community by taking action with us. Together, we will show Valero that no amount of cash they pump into our local elections will protect them from facing consequences for these very serious violations.

See you there!

Kathy Kerridge
Interim Chair
Progressive Democrats of Benicia