Letter: Riverview Energy: A perspective of sister cities

Riverview Energy is proposing to build a new refinery converting coal to clean diesel fuel via coal hydrogenation.

“Coal particles are hydrogenated at high pressure and temperature; therefore, the plant will have a significantly lower carbon foot-print than other technologies. Additionally, there are no unusable “leftovers” to be shipped to landfills–and no disposal of ash or any other waste is needed.” That’s what their website says.

Opponents against the Riverview Energy project speak to the dangers of CO2 and other greenhouse gases being emitted at the plant. Opponents are concerned that the plants location is to close to the elementary school in Dale. Opponents are concerned about the ground and water pollution that might be generated. Opponents say the facility is just to dangerous to have so close to the town and the school.

The reality is refineries are not new to the United States. There are 135 operable petroleum refineries in the United States. Just Google it if you don’t believe it.

Let’s take a look at just a couple in California. Why California? California has the strictest environmental laws in the country. The safety of California residents is utmost to the politicians and the California EPA. I think we can all agree on that. Let’s get even more protective and choose a part of the state that is the most environmentally restrictive politically; the San Francisco area. Can’t get anymore environmentally friendly than San Francisco.

Now let’s take a look at 3 of the 5 refineries in the San Francisco area. The first is the Valero Refinery built in 1968 by Exxon and purchased in 2000 by Valero. The refinery is located in Benicia CA. Benicia is a community of 28, 343 people. The refinery produces just under 53 million barrels of petroleum products each year. That is 7 times more barrels than Riverview hopes to produce a year.

Robert Semple Elementary School is 1155 ft. from the refinery. Hundreds of homes surround the refinery’s property. 4450 ft. away is the Benicia Middle School. Benicia High School is just across the street from the middle school and less than 5000 ft from the refinery. A major shopping center is 2500 ft. away. The town runs along a 4 mile stretch of I-780. The entire town of (pop. 28,000) Benicia is within a 2-mile radius of the Valero Refinery.


1 Mile south of Benicia CA, along I-680, is Martinez CA. Martinez California is home to 2 refineries, Shell Oil and Andeavor Refining (formerly Tesoro Golden Eagle now owned by Marathon). Combined these two refineries produce 117.6 million barrels a year of petroleum products. That is 16 times more barrels than Riverview Energy hopes to produce. The town of Martinez has a population of 38,373 and runs along I-680 for 4.6 miles. The Shell Refinery is 1320 ft. from Martinez Junior High School. Las Juntas Elementary School is 1000 ft. from the refinery. Hundreds of homes butt up against the Shell refinery property. The Shell Refinery butts up against the Waterbird Regional Preserve. Neither community had a US EPA “Unhealthy Air Quality Day” in 2018.

If the emissions and environmental concerns are so bad near these refineries, why would the most environmentally restrictive state in the United States (California), allow its citizens such close proximity to those refineries? If the California EPA is ok with it and the Indiana IDEM is ok with it, whom should we believe? The state environmental professionals or the opponents of Riverview Energy whose views are extreme beyond those of the states of Indiana and California?

Daryl Hensley, Jasper

6 Responses to Letter: Riverview Energy: A perspective of sister cities

  1. Jeff January 8, 2019 at 11:54 am #

    you should buy a acre of land right next to RiverPew plant. Then everyday you can smell the rotten eggs and salute the great RiverPew people. I believe that would made you happy.

  2. j January 8, 2019 at 5:38 pm #

    Indiana had a brief driving law that allowed one to go straight through a red light after stopping at a T-Intersection to your left. That is, if you were going straight and the road that Teed was on your left. The Federal Government threatened to yank $ for highways if we kept the law. I used it as easy as turning right on red. However California didn’t think of it first! I wish Cal. would become their country sometimes!

  3. Salty January 8, 2019 at 9:48 pm #

    This is a gross mischaracterization of the San Francisco bay area’s environmental well-being. I live here.

    Health outcomes around Carquinez Strait (also known as refinery alley) are some of the worst in the state. Our ‘Bay Area Air Quality Management District’ (BAAQMD) is in cahoots with oil companies. Their M.O. is to prevent, deflect, and avoid any accountability for concrete harm to our communities. There has been a decades-long effort by residents to curb the worst effects of the refineries on our citizens. It has been a battle to simply install air quality monitoring equipment in our cities, forcing people to buy/build their own, at their own expense. Lawsuits have had to be brought to win the ‘right’ to monitor air. BAAQMD cannot address what it does not officially know.

    As a child I lived in the shadow of the now-Phillips 66 (It was TOSCO at the time) refinery in Rodeo, a couple miles west of Martinez and Benicia. My mother lived with debilitating migraines, both of my younger brothers were beneficiaries of lawsuits for illegal discharges from the refinery (they both developed asthma), and we ended up having to move away.

    As a state, we are incredibly contaminated. Our watersheds were devastated during the gold rush with the advent of hydraulic mining washing entire mountains downriver. The bay still hasn’t recovered. We have the most (131) medium-to-high risk military contamination sites in the nation with Florida next in line with 66. Silicon Valley is a toxic mess of heavy metal contamination. The New Almaden mercury mine south of San Jose permanently poisoned the South Bay and Guadalupe River. Mercury from the gold rush is still leaching out into our Sierra Nevada mountains. Our abundant former/current military airfields have contaminated our water tables with PFOS/PFOA levels as high as 4,800 times the EPA limit of 70 parts per trillion.

    The military towed carcasses of radioactive ships back to San Francisco bay after the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. (What could go wrong?) They didn’t realize you couldn’t scrub radiation off but they tried mightily, sand blasting the ships while they were moored in the bay. Humans did this work. Many of them poor black residents of San Francisco’s Bay View/Hunters Point district. Many of them developed cancers, dying prematurely. Aside from the radioactive waste that went directly into bay waters, the US Navy had some ~40,000 barrels of it on their hands. How did they dispose of it? They dumped it in the ocean just beyond the Golden Gate. There was also a radioactive aircraft carrier (USS Independence, CVL 22) that was filled with radioactive waste and concrete, and sunk in the same vicinity. Not that it’s ever a good idea to dump nuke waste in the ocean, but this particular location is marked by significant upwelling of deep ocean currents, sending whatever contamination up toward our lovely coastline.

    The military gifted me with a finely-tuned B.S. detector. This letter is striking in its audacity coming from a person so clearly uninformed on their topic.

    • Daryl Hensley January 9, 2019 at 9:55 pm #

      Salty, I believe my statements are factually correct. The San Francisco area has cleaner air than Los Angeles/Long Beach, Bakersfield Metro, Visalia/Porterville, Fresno Metro, Sacramento Metro and the San Diego Metro according to the American Lung Association (a group not in the pocket of big oil). Of Course, LA Metro has a large population base with San Francisco Metro, ranked #2 but the other cities in the rankings are all smaller metros than the San Francisco area. So, San Francisco is one of the cleaner metro areas in the state. The American Lung Association also gives both counties a PASS for their annual particulate pollution. Should we believe that the governor of California, that oversees the Cal EPA, is also in the pocket of big oil?

      Sorry to hear about your brother’s asthma, however three things possibly play a role in triggering asthma. Hereditary, Environment and Obesity. Glad that your brothers received a settlement from the discharges. Environment alone is not a cause.

      After more than 50 years of annual pollutants in the two counties I mentioned, the life expectancy in those counties are actually higher than the national averages. The national average for men is 76.3 years and women are 81.3 years. Solano County (Benicia) life expectancy is 77.41 for men and 81.85 for woman. Contra Costa County (Martinez) men’s life expectancy is 79.42 and women are 83.21. In fact, with all of California’s pollution woes, it ranks #2 in life expectancy by state, men 78.3 and women at 83.12 years.

      BTW other refineries in the US also have close proximity to schools. Should we believe that every state environmental agency is in the pocket of big oil too? Perhaps your B.S. detector might need to be re-calibrated against some real facts.

      Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN.

  4. Will January 9, 2019 at 6:12 pm #

    San Francisco is not the same as the areas around San Francisco. San Francisco is a city/county and every location you mentioned is outside of both the city and county. San Francisco’s strictness for the environment would have no effect on the surrounding areas laws or political culture.

    • Daryl Hensley January 9, 2019 at 10:24 pm #

      Actually Will, the two counties mentioned are part of the California Air Resource Board Network of 17 regional monitoring regions. The San Francisco Bay Area AIr Basin includes Marin, Sonoma, Napa to the north and Santa Clara to the south and all of the counties in between, including the two counties I mentioned. All of the counties in the San Francisco Area Air Basin get a PASS from the American Lung Association for annual particulate pollution.

      They may not have the same laws in each county but they do have to follow the same state regulations and they are graded independently by the American Lung Association.

      Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN