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Town hall exposes risks of Rodeo refinery expansion to local health, climate and S.F. Bay
by Dan Bacher
Saturday Mar 9th, 2019 5:37 AM
“Our community knows refinery expansions are a dead end,” said Isabella Zizi, “We need our public officials like the Contra Costa County supervisors to stand with us in preventing new pollution sources from harming our health, and supporting real solutions like a just transition for refinery workers and local economic development that protects air and water quality."
RODEO, CA — A coalition of local and community groups hosted a town hall on Thursday evening, March 7, in Rodeo, drawing over 150 people to discuss the risks of a proposal by Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery in Rodeo to bring in more oil tankers and process more heavy crude oil like tar sands.

The tar sands expansion proposal would impact local health and the climate by increasing refinery emissions and worsening air quality for nearby communities while also increasing tanker traffic and the risk of a devastating oil spill in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the groups. A video of the event is at

The Rodeo Citizens Association, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment (CRUDE), Fresh Air Vallejo, Idle No More SF Bay, Sunflower Alliance, 350 Bay Area, Communities for a Better Environment(CBE), and sponsored the town hall. A chairperson from the Benicia Planning Commission also presented.

“Many of our First Nations relatives in Canada are doing all they can to resist the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which would allow the transport of tar sands through our Bay via over 120 tankers,” said Pennie Opal Plant, Idle No More SF Bay. “This type of oil cannot be completely cleaned from water. What are we willing to lose?"

“The refinery’s latest plan to expand dilbit imports, cracking of that bitumen, and recovery of those diluent oils threatens to lock in a worst-case future for our climate, air, health, safety, and Bay,” stated Greg Karras, Communities for a Better EnvironmentPeople have a right to know about this unnecessary threat.”

“As a physician who is also trained in public health, I’m deeply opposed to this proposed refinery expansion. It will expose the community to toxins that cause or worsen lung and heart disease, lead to stroke and other nervous system abnormalities, and cause reproductive problems, as well as cancer and leukemia,” said Jan Kirsch, M.D., M.P.H. “Together, let us be guided by the motto of medicine: ‘First, do no harm.’”

“Our community knows refinery expansions are a dead end,” said Isabella Zizi, “We need our public officials like the Contra Costa County supervisors to stand with us in preventing new pollution sources from harming our health, and supporting real solutions like a just transition for refinery workers and local economic development that protects air and water quality."

“We had such a beautiful turn out for the Town Hall: No Tar Sands Refining in Rodeo,” said Zizi after the event. “This was the first town hall I’ve ever organized and had a crowd of over 150 community members flowing from Marin, Berkeley, Kensington, El Cerrito, Richmond, Hercules, Rodeo, Crockett, Vallejo, Benicia, Pittsburg and many more!”

“Thank you to the elected officials, health experts, scientists and community organizers for passing on so much knowledge about climate change, health concerns, environmental impacts and most importantly connecting the dots that we all need to rise together,” Zizi concluded.

Bay Area residents, including the communities of Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, Crockett, Vallejo, Benicia and Martinez, are deeply concerned over plans to bring in more oil tankers and process more heavy crude oil like tar sands at Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery.

“The refinery is currently seeking permits to expand its wharf capacity and increase the number of oil tankers traveling to its refinery through San Francisco Bay. No environmental impact report (EIR) has been released for this project. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District asked Contra Costa County to lead that environmental review, but the County has not yet agreed to do so,” according to the groups.

“If the refinery’s full expansion and increased wharf capacity is permitted, more than twice as many crude oil tankers could travel to the refinery, many of them carrying tar sands from Canada. The refinery expansion alone could mean a tenfold increase in the amount of tar sands passing through San Francisco Bay. A September 2018 panel in Oakland detailed the connection between Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline and the Phillips 66 San Francisco Refinery expansion,” the groups said.

“Tarsands is one of the dirtiest crude oils on the planet and is extremely difficult to clean up in the event of an oil spill. Tar sands is high in sulfur and heavy metals. Extracting and refining it creates an outsize climate impact, and refining it increases disparately severe health impacts in nearby communities. Tar sands is so thick when it comes out of the ground that it is thinned for transport, creating diluted bitumen or dilbit. The toxic and flammable diluent makes it unsafe to approach a tar sands oil spill until the chemicals have evaporated,” the groups concluded.

To take action, go here:

The reason for why the tar sands expansion proposal at Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery is being even being considered is because of #Big Oil’s capture of the regulators from top to bottom in California. The oil and gas industry is most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, spending many millions of dollars every years to block, weaken and stop legislation and regulations protecting public our streams, rivers, lakes, bays and ocean waters, public health and vulnerable communities throughout the state.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) — the organization that has topped lobbying spending in California most years — spent $7,874, 807 to influence California government officials in 2018. WSPA was outspent only by the $9,580,357 spent by embattled Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 2018.

The powerful association spent all of its money in the 2017-2018 session on general lobbying, with nothing spent on the CPUC. Of the four quarters, WSPA spent its most money lobbying, $2,649,018, in the eighth quarter, from October 1 to December 31, 2018.

The Western States Petroleum Association is led by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, who served as the chair of the controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012, as well as serving on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.

The total lobbying figures for WSPA in 2018 are below:…

2017-2018 8th $2,649,018.34 $0.00
2017-2018 7th $1,514,828.95 $0.00
2017-2018 6th $1,686,014.82 $0.00
2017-2018 5th $2,024,947.91 $0.00
For the entire 2017-2018 Session, WSPA spent a total of $15,768,069.

WSPA represents a who’s who of oil companies, including oil giants BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Shell, Valero and many others. The companies that WSPA represents account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, according to the WSPA website,

Chevron and its subsidiaries took third place in the “lobbying competition” in 2018, spending around $4 million on lobbying.

Over the past decade, WSPA and Big Oil have topped the list of spenders on lobbying the Legislature in California. During the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, the oil industry spent a historic $36.1 million to lobby lawmakers and officials in California.

WSPA was the top overall oil industry spender during the 2015-16 session, spending $18.7 million. Chevron, the second overall oil industry spender, spent $7 million in the 2015-16 session.

In 2017, Big Oil also dominated three out of the four top spots of expenditures by all lobbying organizations. Chevron placed first with $8.2 million and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) placed second with $6.2 million. The Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company finished fourth with $3.2 million.

That’s a total of $17.6 million dumped into lobbying by the three top oil industry lobbying organizations alone. That figure exceeds the $14,577,314 expended by all 16 oil lobby organizations in 2016.

In the first six months of 2017, the oil industry spent more on lobbying in California, $16,360,618, than was spent by the industry in all of 2016, $16.0 million.

WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations.

Because of this money and the power that Big Oil wields in California, the Jerry Brown administration, in stark contrast with its “green” facade, issued over 21,000 new oil and gas drilling permits in California. That include more than 200 permits for offshore wells in state waters -- wells within 3 miles of the California coast.

In addition, the state of California under Brown — and now under Gavin Newson - controls four times as many offshore oil wells in state waters as Trump’s federal government controls in California. You can view the map showing the location of wells here:

This money and power also allowed allowed the oil industry to write the cap-and-trade bill, AB 398, that Governor Brown signed in September 2017, as well as to twice defeat a bill to protect a South Coast marine protected area from offshore drilling.

Ironically, the same WSPA president that led the charge to defeat a bill to protect the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve from offshore oil drilling CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” on the South Coast.

For more information about WSPA and Big Oil, go to:

Photo: Pennie Opal Plant, Idle No More SF Bay, speaks at the town hall meeting in Rodeo to discuss the risks of the proposal to bring in more oil tankers and process more heavy crude oil like tar sands. Photo courtesy of Isabella Zizi,

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Earl Richards
Saturday Mar 9th, 2019 6:52 PM
The caustic, tar sands should not be permitted into beautiful British Columbia. No tar sands tankers for Vancouver, BC, harbor and San Francisco harbor. Google and read, "Vancouver Oil Sands Tanker Spill Could Cause Evacuation Nightmare". The tanker corporations have no equipment to clean-up a dirty, tar sands from the bottom of the harbor.
I attended Assemblyman Timothy S. Grayson's 6:30 pm Townhall meeting in Concord, CA on 3-12-2019 specifically if he knows about Assembly Bill 936 and the Phillips 66 tar sands expansion project in Rodeo. On the question and answer period, he said he was not aware of the bill but he is willing to have a special meeting with those who are for and against the bill.
At the meeting Tim mentioned the existence of 5 refineries in the Bay Area. These refineries he said have contributed $100 million but I did not get to what purpose. A search on the web showed nothing. I did talk to his district director, Michael Sponsler, who will keep me apprised.
by Earl Richards
Tuesday Mar 12th, 2019 2:25 AM
The toxic, tar sands have to be refined/upgraded into synthetic crude oil on the tar sands regions in Alberta, before transporting, to prevent another Kalamazoo River disaster from happening anywhere. To understand the destructiveness of a toxic, tar sands spill, Google and read, "Michigan oil spill effects could be repeated here", by Michelle Borland-Smith.
by Maureen Brennan
Tuesday Mar 12th, 2019 2:52 PM
I was also at the Tim Grayson Town Hall last evening. The $100 million referred to in your article, is for the purpose of air monitoring equipment. I don't get it. They already have, and the AirWatch Bay area for reporting, and the Fenceline monitoring at P66 and Chevron, and they, the State officials, don't pay attention to the numbers anyway. These refineries are licensed to pollute. We don't need more monitoring, we need a reduction in toxic air pollution. That means less production, not more. Phillips 66 is gearing up for processing dirtier crude. That's the problem. Not monitoring.
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