Beyond Partisan Politics

These aren’t left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, or Democrat vs. GOP issues.

These are issues that affect every Benician, regardless of party preferences.

How can you tell this goes beyond party politics?

Even Texas’s very conservative attorney general sued Valero for environmental violations!

Anyone who wonders whether Valero’s problematic environmental record is confined to Benicia might look to the company’s home state of Texas. In an apparently still-pending case, the very conservative Attorney General there, Ken Paxton, sued Valero three years ago for violations dating back to 2014.

The fact that Paxton has taken on Valero is noteworthy: On voter-fraud, immigration, abortion and other issues, Paxton has taken very right-wing positions. Donald Trump endorsed him for re-election last year. But even Paxton, a hard-core conservative, has blasted Valero’s environmental record.

More specifically, as explained by the Houston Chronicle:

“’For several years, the refinery has been plagued with continuing problems associated with operator errors and equipment malfunctions resulting in emissions events that emit unauthorized air contaminants into the environment,” the Attorney Generals [sic] office said in the civil complaint...

“In 2017, a fire at the refinery spurred the release of nearly 1 million pounds of pollutants into the air, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, Valero estimated at the time…

“The AG’s suit alleges that refinery since 2014 has had at least 38 unauthorized emissions events that released pollution above the refinery’s permit limits. Those violations included releases of benzene, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulfide, court documents said…

“’Despite the enforcement taken by the [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] and [federal Environmental Protection Agency] against defendants for past emissions events, defendants’ poor operational, maintenance, and design practices continue to cause emissions events and unauthorized emissions of air contaminants from the Refinery into the environment,’ the AG’s lawyers wrote.”

Paxton is by no means alone in taking on Valero. A leading Texas environmentalist compares the company’s refinery unfavorably with others in the state, asserting that: “Valero’s Port Arthur Refinery has a poor compliance record even when compared to other Texas oil refineries, spewing out millions of pounds of dangerous pollution into surrounding neighborhoods . . . ”

The environmentalist’s criticism might be both expected and justified. But if even a leading conservative like Texas’s Attorney General, Ken Paxton, takes a critical view of Valero’s “continuing problems,” shouldn’t Benicians of all political stripes consider doing the same?