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Benicia mayor to fill vacated air district board seat

Mayor of Benicia Steve Young has been appointed to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board and is expected to be sworn in Thursday, according to Young.

The air district is a public agency that regulates pollution and other hazards. It monitors chemical plants, refineries and other facilities that release emissions in the Bay Area.

Young was chosen by the seven mayors of Solano County to fill a seat vacated by former Suisun City Mayor Lori Wilson, who resigned her position as mayor after being elected to the state assembly.

Young is the only mayor in Solano County to oversee a town with an oil refinery, the Valero facility, which is also the city’s largest employer.

As mayor of a town gainfully employed by Valero, Young has had to walk a tricky tightrope of supporting the oil giant’s philanthropy and general presence in Benicia with also being a steward of clean air for his constituents.

Most recently, Valero was found to have emitted excessive levels of hazardous chemicals over Benicia for nearly 16 years. Earlier this month an independent hearing board with the air district issued an abatement order to Valero to cease unreported emissions at the North Bay refinery. The air district said it plans to impose fines on the company as well.

Young has been a vocal critic of money spent by Valero in Benicia elections. In 2020, a PAC mainly funded by the oil giant pumped $250,000 into the mayoral race there in an attempt to defeat Young. He won anyway, but most recently Valero has again amassed a $232,000 war chest, according to Young and the PAC’s campaign disclosure statements, in an attempt to influence the upcoming City Council election.

Young believes that Valero opposed his election because he rejected the refinery’s bid to transport crude oil by rail into Benicia back in 2016, when he was on the planning commission.

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