A Year Later, Industrial Safety Ordinance is on Council’s agenda
By Roger Straw, May 13, 2018
Almost exactly a year ago (on 05/23/17), Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson succeeded in requesting that Council direct staff to agendize future Council discussion of drafting and adopting a community Industrial Safety Ordinance. The Council voted 4-1 to approve and calendar further discussion.This was the first step in Benicia’s cumbersome 2-step process for a Councilmember or Mayor to agendize a new topic.
Well, it has taken a year, but the good news is that this item will finally come up on the June 19, 2018 Council agenda. Mark your calendar and plan to attend! And WRITE! (click here for info on where to write)
Benicia needs an ISO: three important points to be made
By Roger Straw
1. We don’t know what is in the air, and we have asthma rates three times the state average. We need air monitors NOW, and state/regional regulations will be slow in coming.
2. ISO is budget neutral for the City.
3. We need the experts that an ISO will provide, participating as equals at the table reviewing documents and regulations on our behalf.
Air District to discuss implementation of additional air monitoring for cities near refineries
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) will hold a workshop in Benicia at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall, 1155 First St., from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on March 5. The workshop in Benicia is the fourth in a series of workshops that earlier stopped in Richmond, Martinez, and Vallejo.
According to the Air District, Regulation 12-Rule-15 was adopted in 2016 to implement additional air monitoring in communities located near refineries. The purpose of the workshop is provide the public “an opportunity to learn about current and upcoming monitoring at or near refineries, ask questions to Air District staff, (and) share information about their communities and their ideas about future monitoring efforts.”
While the Air District says its current regional ambient air monitoring system has over 30 air quality monitoring stations, PDB notes that none are located within Benicia’s environs. Other than a monitor located on one of Valero’s stacks, the only other Benicia air monitor is located at Ruszel Woodworks, installed by the Ruszels themselves.
Benicia is the only Bay Area refinery town that does not have the community protection of an Industrial Safety Ordinance, or ISO.
In 1999, the city of Richmond and Contra Costa County adopted their interlocking ISOs. The Richmond ordinance mirrors the Contra Costa ISO, and Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Division is responsible for enforcement and reporting.
Their experience with repeated refinery and associated hydrogen plant polluting events caused the elected leaders to respond to pressure from the disproportionally impacted communities in Richmond, Rodeo and Martinez for greater protection and information about polluting incidents.
How did Benicia miss out?
Since the adoption of the ISO, there have continued to be dangerous and deadly incidents at these Bay Area refineries, albeit at reduced rates, due to the ISO. Fortunately, the Richmond/Contra Costa ISO allows for corrective provisions that have improved refinery function and provided impacted communities with timely investigative information.