Refinery expansion plans worry East Bay residents

August 23, 2013 2:13:34 PM PDT
A plan to build a propane storage facility at an East Bay refinery has some residents fearing for their safety, especially after the big explosion at a propane plant in Central Florida last month.

The Phillips 66 refinery is located on San Pablo Avenue in Rodeo just north of the I-80/Highway 4 split. A refinery spokesman said Thursday that this is just their effort to modernize and keep up with their competitors in the Bay Area.

However, residents worry that having propane storage at the site could put them right in the line of fire. Tegan Clive of Rodeo says, "You can run from a fire, you cannot run from an explosion." She is one of a group of residents who live near the Phillips 66 refinery who is deeply concerned about a plan to build a propane storage facility on the 1,100-acre property.

Asked if she could envision a scenario where the plant could be built and the residents feel safe, Clive said, "No, absolutely not with propane. It's too close to people."

The residents' concerns only grew after last month's huge propane explosion at a Florida plant that injured eight workers, but Phillips 66 says they're just trying to catch up to their competitors in the Bay Area, that all the others already have propane plants on site.

"Right now, we currently utilize propane and butane and burn it in our furnaces here. So, it's a fuel source. We're going to replace that with natural gas, something that's cleaner burning than propane and butane," Phillips 66 spokesman Mark Hughest said.

The propane would then be transported off-site for sale in markets across the country. It's the storage of liquid propane in huge tanks and its transportation by rail car that most concerns residents. "Right now, this is a fight like David against Goliath. Rodeo doesn't have any publicity, any help. We are fighting a big corporation," Rodeo resident Carmen Ray said.

But Phillips 66 says their plan has been reviewed by safety experts and the risks are low. The Contra Costa Planning Commission has approved a draft environmental impact report. If the full board of supervisors approves a final plan, Phillips 66 hopes to begin construction early next year.


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