Rodeo P66 Propane Expansion Project (“the back half” of the S.F. Refinery)

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A few years ago during one of the most surreal Board of Supervisor’s meetings CRUDE had observed to date, the County approved the P66 Propane Expansion Project.

(For a description of the actual project itself, scroll down to the bottom page to the section labeled “The Phillips 66 Propane Recovery Project”)

This, despite the mind-blowing revelation by P66 that much of the project had yet to be designed.  That factor alone should have stopped the EIR dead in its tracks. The blanket approval will keep the public in the dark regarding any new changes and won’t trigger a new EIR review, no matter how dangerous those changes may be.

Feel safe yet?

A broad swathe of residents from Rodeo, Crockett, Martinez, Richmond, and Benicia spoke against the project, as did the two appellants (Communities for a Better Environment/CBE and Rodeo Citizens Association/RCA) the Sierra Club, Forest Ethics, Earth Justice and the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition.

The hearing room was NOT filled with refinery workers speaking in support of the project.  The United Steelworkers Union is striking refineries nationwide.  Safety concerns are a driver of the dispute, and one local refinery (Tesoro refinery near Martinez) had been shut down by the strike.  So while the autocracy sleeps, the workers who actually operate the refineries were taking action for safety.

An announcement about the United Steelworker’s strike was made at the hearing by Andres Soto of CBE.  Neighbors and environmental activists rose from their seats in solidarity with the steelworkers.


Above:  Environmental activists standing in solidarity with United Steele Workers.  In the foreground:  P66 management.  In the middle of the 2nd row is P66’s new PR man, Paul Adler, former Chief of Staff to Federal Glover, Contra County Supervisor (Photo Credit:  Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group)

The only Supervisor who objected to the EIR based on safety considerations (and who was the only “no” when votes were cast at the end of the meeting) was John Gioia.  Supervisor Gioia, a lawyer himself, was relentless and drilled P66 about its compliance with the Chemical Safety Board’s edicts (regarding ISS/Inherently Safety Systems analysis) and probed staff repeatedly in an attempt to find if it received the ISS (an analysis that would spell out safer procedures and equipment.)  Staff admitted it had the ISS but it declined to put those alternative safety recommendations into the EIR.

Very ironic.  The whole point of an EIR is to be brutally honest about the dangers of projects and to analyze safer choices.  Ditto for the Chemical Safety Board’s ISS (Inherently Safer Systems.)  The fact that County possessed the ISS failed to share it with the public so that it could negotiate for a safer project became a contentious point for many Rodeo citizens, 3,000 of whom live in a blast zone where P66’s own expert predicted an 80% fatality rate should any one of those propane bullet tanks – adjacent to a liquefaction zone – explode during the perfect storm of an earthquake, corroded pipes, non-functioning valves and/or worker error or fatigue.

SO during the point in the hearing when Supervisor Gioia was drilling staff about the lack of the safety report in the EIR, that the other four supervisors became extremely agitated and defensive.  Supervisor Candace Anderson (Orinda, Lafayette. Moraga) accused Gioia of trying to delay the project over something like a safety analysis.

Yes.  You read that right.

At that very moment, it was clear to those of us in the chamber that the “fix was in” before the meeting, but suddenly the hearing had taken an unexpected turn.

That was confirmed when Federal Glover jumped up, tapped Gioia on the shoulder, and said something to the effect: “This is not going the way it’s supposed to.  We need to have a 10-minute break.”

The stunned audience watched them stand all up and talk among themselves…but not into the microphones.  Some supervisors even had casual chats with P66 reps who sauntered up to the front during “the break.”

When the 10-minute break was over, Federal Glover passed out his one-page, proposed quid pro quo payment from P66 to go into his special account.  Ironically it was dubbed a “community benefits” package yet it was not vetted by the community.

Moments later the EIR was passed.

It truly was Texas-Style Tammany Hall moment. After it passed, for those listening really hard, the faint sounds of Champagne corks popping back in Houston were heard in the distance.

If the video is ever posted on the county website, here are things to watch for:

  • P66 continuing to deny that this was a Tar Sands project, despite what P66 already admitted to this in its Santa Maria EIR.

And then there were new admissions made by both Co. Co. County and BAAQMD staff.  Testimony included:

  • P66 falsely calling data from tests of NEW crude oils as current baseline crude oils
  • BAAQMD staff admitting that some of the new science – that would suggest that P66 underestimated health risks of air toxics — was not included in the EIR.
  • County Hazardous Materials staff admitting that safety analysis of the project that the County failed to put in the EIR was actually available to the Co. Co. County and in its possession.  (It is important that the public confirm its accuracy before P66 builds the project.  This confirmation has not yet occurred.)

The 11th-hour gift of 4.25 million was tossed into the mix without public disclosure before the hearing. The last sentence of the adopted agreement — the line that says the money will go into a fund that will be controlled and distribute sometime in the fuzzy future by “the District 5 Supervisor” — certainly gave one pause for thought.

The amount is almost the same amount of money that was due to the communities of Crockett, Rodeo, and Pt Costa (reparation payments for the illegal Cata carb spill, as per the Good Neighborhood Agreement), an agreement that P66 unilaterally canceled.

Folks in Crockett still remember the night at the Community Center when P66 PR person Mark Hughes reframed P66’s past reparation payments as charity.

Good times.

That PR person is out, and in his place:  Paul Adler, former Chief of Staff to Supervisor Glover.

hearing paul adler

Paul Alder, above, testifying that the Co.Co. County’s staff’s recommendations “should not be questioned.”  (Photo Credit:   Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group)

The two appellants, Communities for a Better Environment and Rodeo Citizens Association plus a worker group called SAFER filed lawsuits against the County and P66.  The case was heard in 2016.  The EIR was stopped and sent back to the drawing board.

Fast forward to 2019:  the Propane Expansion is coming back to life, like a zombie, in a new EIR.



February 18, 2015:   San Louis Obispo City just authorized a letter objecting to the expansion for the “front half” of the San Francisco Facility:



Phillips 66 is ranked #4 on the Fortune 500 list, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Phillips 66 Rodeo refinery is the “#1 Toxic Offender” in the entire Bay Area. Our little refinery puts out more toxic pollutants than the behemoth Chevron in Richmond.

P66 is what health and safety officials call a “severe violator.”

In what Phillips 66 proposed as a “refinery modernization project” was allegedly intended to collect propane and butane that are currently burned or gassed off at the refinery.  We know now the Canadian Tar Sands has a vast amount of propane and butane that will be shipped to Asian markets.  They will be stored in tanks on top of an earthquake liquifaction zone.  What could possibly go wrong?

refinery explosion

Propane and butane are potentially lethal explosive gases

When a tank explodes, experts report liken it a mini-nuclear bomb going off. There’s no warning, just sudden death and immense damage. Many people die not due to fire but to do the percussive air blast pressure: the air blast is so strong, it travels down windpipes and burst lungs like balloons.

Phillips 66 proposes to store 630,000 gallons of liquid propane gas in 6 tanks along a liquefaction zone, just twenty-three-hundred feet away from residents. This is not even a football field length away from a school, churches, a public park, hundreds of homes and Rodeo’s water treatment plant.

Look at this map: where do YOU live…work…play….or shop?

blast zone map
The first circle would be the fireball explosion from a bullet tank filled with 2,500 barrels of propane. The second circle is the percussive air blast zone where concrete buildings collapse and death is “universal.” The third circle is the zone where death would be “widespread” and most structures would collapse.

Just for a point of reference, that purple polka dot is just a few feet away from the Lefty Gomez Recreation Center and the U.S. Post Office.

Citizens of Rodeo and Crockett deserve to be safe from danger. The EIR was sent back a few years ago for further review as there were unresolved issues of air quality and basic public safety and the lack of disclosure about this being a Tar Sands project.

We demanded that the changed EIR NOT approved until safety considerations and air quality issues have been truthfully addressed and corrected.  They were not, but the Board of Supes approved it anyway.

Both Phillips 66 and the County were sued by Communities for a Better Environment, Rodeo Citizens Association and SAFER, a worker safety group.  The case was heard in 2016.

It is now coming back in2019, around the same time that P66 intends to double its tanker traffic to accommodate Tar Sands coming in from Canada.