Category Archives: Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)

ISO Working Group – reflections on Council’s NO vote… and WHERE from here?

Benicia City Council: 3 to 2 against Industrial Safety Ordinance

By Benicia’s ISO Working Group, submitted by Ralph Dennis
[See also Video: Benicia Council votes NO.]

Another 3-2 vote. Very disappointing, again. The Council majority voted again, 3-2, not to consider an industrial safety ordinance for Benicia. Now, we wait for a yet-to-be determined date in November or December for Council to reconvene and review the progress Valero has made toward its commitments.

It appears the Council majority on these votes thinks another one or two monitors will address Benicia’s “monitoring issue” and that the “communication issue” is already taken care of. What monitoring is out there, or soon to be, is in no way comprehensive or sufficient for our community. Better communication? Thank you, Valero, for sharing all that information at the July 17 Council meeting – after 14 months of Council’s two-step process, and more than 10 years of community requests for Valero to address air monitoring.

Disappointing Council vote, yes. But, now we at least know how many monitors Valero has, and where they are located. And, three are community monitors, not just for fence line. Valero even says it has mobile monitors available. Probably more information than any of us had 14 months ago, certainly 10 years ago.

But this is of little value unless Council takes the next step, uses the data from these monitors (and other monitors perhaps to come), as well as all the other information Valero committed to share on a real-time, easy to access and use, public web site with the City as a “partner”, to address community health and safety concerns. With or without an ISO, Council has already started this process, and Council cannot go back. Council now knows the resources are out there.  We’ll see what Council does with them.  Passage of a Benicia ISO is the most effective tool for ensuring the community’s health and safety.

So, what now?  Over the next 6 months, let’s keep in mind what’s been left on the table or yet to be considered by virtue of Council’s 3-2 vote. What are the deficiencies an industrial safety ordinance would correct?

  1. Progress report. The minutes from June 19th Council state that there will be a progress report in November and then in December there will be (or should be) a meeting with choices of moving forward with an ISO or not depending on the progress report. What are the performance measures for that report? What choices will be presented to Council?  More questions than answers, which is why Terry Mollica said, “we are kicking the can down the road” if we don’t have the rehearing to set the parameters and future steps and outcomes.
  2.  Funding:  For the City to meaningfully “communicate”, i.e., have knowledge, skills set, and be copied and comment on reports, the City will need to increase staff which requires funding. An ISO would provide the funding through fees assessed on businesses subject to the ISO. How will staff follow up without funding?
  3. Promises:  The record is clear that Valero does not fulfill its promises and conditions of approval for permits.  Watch and see….
  4. Confusion and misdirection:  Valero distracts the staff, Council and public with their pat on their own back for their community contributions and their expressions of concern for public health protection.  The City and community recognizes these actions on the part of Valero and its contribution to the City’s tax base. It is nice to have non-governmental groups receive Valero money, but the issue we are talking about is air quality.
  5. Monitors:  There is great confusion about monitors – what they monitor, how they monitor, and when they do it. Council members in the 3-2 majority did not receive the benefit of Eric Stevenson’s recent meeting in Benicia discussing air monitors, nor do these Council members seem familiar with or understand the work of Air Watch Bay Area which is a data resource much more nuanced than understood.  Will the City and public be kept in the loop as Valero acquires and installs air monitoring equipment?  Will the City and public be asked for input?
  6. Regulations:  It is true that we have good state regulations, but the recent KQED story where the California Public Utilities Commission found PG&E at fault because it did not follow those regulations, makes the point of why Benicia needs an ISO.  When will state regulations be implemented?  Will public utilities and private enterprises like Valero follow the regulations?  Who will report to us, how and when?  We should have reports of the required training, the fulfillment of the training, and periodic protocol reviews to be assured that new regulations are adequate, and that they are being followed.
  7. Missing in Benicia. Finally, as an important point of reference and comparison, the Mayor of Martinez says his city has a great relationship with Shell, who invites city people to training exercises, shares reports, and offers meetings and a myriad of other “communicating” actions.  Without Contra Costa County’s ISO, his city would not be included in these ways.  Absence of news is rarely news.  That is, we won’t be seeing newspaper headlines like “Benicia did not get a quarterly report yesterday.”  Or, “On Saturday, Valero did not train City Staff on emergency response.”  Stay alert for what we DON’T hear over these next months.

So, the fight continues for a Benicia ISO. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open for the next piece of information that supports the need for an industrial safety ordinance in Benicia.

Ralph Dennis comments on ISO, Benicia City Council, 17 July 2018

Public Comment – Council deliberation on whether to reconsider ISO vote of 19 June 2018

By Ralph Dennis, Benicia, June 17, 2018
Ralph Dennis, Chair, Progressive Democrats of Benicia, Member of Benicia ISO Working Group

Good evening. My name is Ralph Dennis, I’m a resident of Benicia with my wife Vicki. I am also one of the members of the ISO Working Group, and also chair of the Progressive Democrats of Benicia. The Progressive Democrats have been supporters of a Benicia ISO from the beginning of the working group. At its June meeting, PDB members voted unanimously in support of the draft Benicia ISO ordinance presented to Council on June 19.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight.

I ask that you vote tonight to reconsider your June 19 vote concerning an Industrial Safety Ordinance for Benicia.

If the desire is, in fact, to finally do something about determining what is in Benicia’s air, and to provide the City better communication with those businesses affecting Benicia’s air and safety – and that IS what I ultimately heard from the Council’s 3 votes that prevailed on June 19 …

Then, there is nothing to be gained by waiting until November.

  • Fence line monitoring, once installed, will tell us virtually nothing about what’s in the air. According to Eric Stephenson, who runs the Air District’s monitoring programs, fence line monitors are “designed for ground level monitoring” and “not for emissions that are lofted”. Meaning air borne emissions, i.e., what’s in the air.
    • So, Valero’s fence line monitoring program is limited at what it will do. Benicia needs a comprehensive, community wide monitoring program, which an ISO would provide and do it much sooner. And, the sooner we get an ISO up and running the quicker the City and community can tap into Air District resources for community monitoring efforts, something else Mr. Stephenson said is possible.
    • The Air District’s AB617 community monitoring program may include Benicia but not until 2024 at the earliest, based on its recently announced schedule.
    • And, related Air District efforts toward community monitoring are yet to be clarified and probably depend upon individual community initiative to kick start.
  • As to Better communications/Is CUPA sufficient?
    • Last week I saw two Public notices published in the Benicia Herald by the Solano Co Environmental Health Division – CUPA – for Risk Management Plans submitted by two Benicia businesses – Praxair and the City of Benicia Water Treatment Plan.
    • These plans reviewed by CUPA are required by state regulations for businesses which handle and use hazardous materials, and are now available for review by the public – for 45 days, and counting.
    • CUPA told me it plans no public meetings. And, when asked, seemed surprised at the question. Also, no copies of Plans for review on-line, or in public libraries like Contra Costa Co officials have done – we need to go to Fairfield to see the Plans.

I don’t know if anyone in the City was notified by these businesses when their Plans were being prepared or when the Plans were filed. Presumably, you saw the Water Treatment Plant’s plan. But, neither existing state regulations, nor CUPA, provided any means for review or comment – until after the fact, plans already filed and reviewed.

Is publication in a local, soon to be 3 days a week paper with limited circulation to be the extent of communication with the Benicia community? With the City?

On plans that affect the community’s air and safety?

A Benicia ISO would make the City and community partners with businesses in the development of these Plans – not a bystander, at best. And, not depend upon CUPA for communication.

I also asked CUPA whether a Risk Management Plan had been submitted by Valero:

  • Filed in December 2017, but is still under review by CUPA staff.
  • And, I don’t know if anyone at Valero gave the City a heads up last December that the Risk Management Plan was ready to be filed. Or, asked whether the City wanted to take a look at the Plan before it was filed.
  • You know, as a courtesy, or even in an effort to improve communication.
  • But, in any event, CUPA said its Public Notice will be published once review is done. Then, we the public get to see it – including the City of Benicia and its community…for a 45-day period…to provide comments…on a Plan already reviewed and, seemingly, ready for approval. Don’t expect any public meetings from CUPA, and better make sure your subscription is up to date with the newspaper.

For the sake of the community, please vote tonight to reconsider your June 19 3-2 vote, so we can get on with the business of considering an ISO for Benicia.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

Ralph E. Dennis

CALL TO ACTION: Attend Benicia City Council on Tuesday, July 17!

An email from Kathy Kerridge, Benicia
[For meeting agenda and materials, see Benicia City Council to vote whether to reconsider vote on ISO.  For much more, see the Benicia Independent’s ISO page.  If you can’t attend, note below for info on where to write.]

Support a Benicia Industrial Safety Ordinance on 7/17

Kathy Kerridge, Benicia

Come support an Industrial Safety Ordinance at Benicia City Council on July 17 at 7:00 p.m.  This is a chance for the City Council to have staff review a proposed ordinance and move forward with making sure that Benicia has a seat at the table when it comes to safety.

An Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) would ensure that Benicia has a network of air monitors, and a robust emergency response plan. Benicia is the only refinery town in the Bay Area without an ISO.

The Council will be reconsidering their decision to kick the can down the road.  Councilmembers Schwartzman, Hughes and Campbell voted at the last hearing to postpone this important decision until after the November election, while Patterson and Young wanted to move forward now.   This is a chance for them to get it right.

If you can’t come, please email (see below).

Kathy Kerridge


WHERE TO WRITE…

EMAIL THE CITY:
Mayor Elizabeth Patterson (epatterson@ci.benicia.ca.us)
Vice Mayor Steve Young (syoung@ci.benicia.ca.us)
Tom Campbell (tcampbell@ci.benicia.ca.us
Mark Hughes (Mark.Hughes@ci.benicia.ca.us)
Alan Schwartzman (aschwartzman@ci.benicia.ca.us)
City Manager Lorie Tinfow (ltinfow@ci.benicia.ca.us)
City Attorney Heather McLaughlin (Heather.McLaughlin@ci.benicia.ca.us)
Fire Chief Josh Chadwick (JChadwick@ci.benicia.ca.us)
Police Chief Erik Upson (EUpson@ci.benicia.ca.us)

MAIL / PHONE / OFFICES:
Mail to or visit City Hall: 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510
Phone numbers are listed on the City’s CONTACT PAGE

SEND YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE NEWS MEDIA:

  • Benicia Herald, 820 First St, Benicia, CA 94510, or by email to the editor at beniciaherald@gmail.com
  • Vallejo Times-Herald, P.O. Box 3188, Vallejo, CA 94590, Fax: 643-0128, or by email to Editor Jack Bungart at opinion@timesheraldonline.com.
  • Benicia Independent – send to Roger at rogrmail at this URL.

POST TO SOCIAL MEDIA (some require membership):