Everything you need to know for TODAY’S Planning Commission meeting

By Roger Straw, February 9, 2016
[Editor:  Well, ALMOST everything.  For more details, see EVENTS.  - RS]
A SECOND PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING has been called for TONIGHT, TUESDAY, FEB. 9, 6:30pm.  Be there if you can!  Arrive early to get a seat in Council Chambers.

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community has been waging a critical fossil-fuel expansion battle virtually alone. Now it’s crunch time! We MUST stand with them!

Last night we witnessed history in the making. In an act of citizen heroism, Benicia Planning Commissioner Steve Young directed pointed question after pointed question to City Staff, which at critical moments couldn’t even defend its own report. The hearing will continue tonight and quite possibly Thursday night.

Valero’s control over the city of Benicia is pervasive and pernicious. Tonight Valero supporters will be there in force to recover lost ground.

This battle has national and global ramifications. We need to turn out in force to help encourage the Planning Commission to vote down Valero’s dirty crude proposal.

Sure, attending a meeting at Benicia City Hall at 6pm is inconvenient. But really, is this about us and our comfort level? We’re in a war for the soul of our community, our country and our planet.

Are you in?

Where: Benicia City Council Chambers | 250 East L St. Benicia
When: Arrive by 5:00 if you want a seat in the CC Chambers.
More info: http://safebenicia.org/news-and-events/

Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community is calling for a big turnout at the Monday Feb. 8 meeting of Benicia’s Planning Commission.  I join them in a sense of urgency.  See their call to action here.

This IS a critical moment for our city.  We have signed petitions, planted our yard signs, written letters to the city and the local newspapers, shown up at previous hearings … and now it all comes down to next week.

After yet another a final flood of letters by uprail agencies and environmental and legal experts; after we and Valero supporters jam City Hall and make our case on Monday, Tuesday and perhaps Wednesday and Thursday … our hard-working Planning Commissioners will close their massive 3-volume studies, ask some questions, make their own final comments, and vote.

Commissioners will vote first on whether to “certify” the Final Draft Environmental Impact Report (FEIR).  This will determine whether the report is adequate under California law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).   If they decline to certify the report, Valero will have to decide whether to 1) revise the report again and go through another set of hearings, 2) drop the project, or 3) appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Benicia City Council.

If on the other hand Commissioners vote to certify the report, then they will have a second vote: whether to approve or deny issuing a permit for Valero to proceed with its project.  If they vote to deny the permit, Valero will have to decide whether to start all over with a new proposal, drop the project, or appeal the decision to the City Council.  If our Commission decides to issue a permit for the project, Valero will get out the shovels and hardhats, but some among us might consider further action to stop the project, including an appeal to City Council.

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community has a News & Events page with all you need to know about Monday’s Planning Commission hearing.  Please come.  Plan to attend on Monday AND Tuesday.  Your presence is powerful.BSHC

Evite_Tell_BeniciaRSVP - Yes, I will attend the Feb. 8 Commission Hearing.  Click here.

Sign here!

Over 1300 have already signed the Safe Benicia petition.  Let’s hit 2000 today! Click the image above, or email us at info@safebenicia.org



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BAAQMD: Important comments on Final EIR, Valero Crude By Rail

By Roger Straw, February 9, 2016

BAAQMDThe Benicia Independent is in receipt of a very important letter sent to the City of Benicia Planning Commission on February 8, 2016 by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).

Commissioner Steve Young read from the letter at Monday’s Planning Commission meeting. City staff posted this important letter online yesterday, but located it on page 26 of a 256-page, 14 MB document of public comments received after the release of the FEIR (Jan. 28 – Feb. 8).  The letter is available as a standalone PDF document here on the Benicia Independent.

The letter states that the Final EIR is inadequate, and gives examples of air quality mitigations that do not conflict with federal preemption.

The letter goes on to point out that air quality studies in the FEIR rely on inaccurate and outdated risk analyses.

The BAAQMD offers in the letter (again) to assist Benicia and Valero in developing and implementing appropriate mitigation measures.

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NRDC et al: Important comments on Final EIR, Valero Crude By Rail

The Benicia Independent is in receipt of a letter sent to the City of Benicia Planning Commission by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) detailing the failure of the EIR to “adequately analyze, disclose and mitigate the [Valero Crude by Rail] Project’s significant environmental impacts.”

The letter has not yet been posted to the City’s website as of this writing.

NRDC, joined by experts, attorneys and advocates representing 18 other Bay Area environmental groups (listed below), also responds to the City of Benicia staff report.  The staff report recommended certification of the EIR and approval of the project.

The NRDC letter details at length the EIR’s various omissions and failures of law, logic and scientific method.  Comments are organized into sections on Air Quality, Environmental Justice, Hazards, Water Quality, Biological Resources  and “Additional Impacts Not Analyzed.”

The additional section on the Staff Report makes a lengthy and careful legal case against the City’s claim that federal law preempts Benicia from mitigating impacts or denying approval for the project.

In conclusion, the letter states, “Benicia Municipal Code 17.104.060, prohibits the City from approving a project that will be detrimental ‘to the public health, safety, or welfare of persons residing or working’ near the project, ‘to properties or improvements in the vicinity,’ or ‘to the general welfare of the city.’  For all the reasons stated above and in our prior comments, the Project will harm Benicians, other communities throughout the state, and our climate. The City should decline to certify the EIR and deny the permit for this Project.”  [emphasis added]

This important and powerful letter has nineteen signatories:

• Natural Resources Defense Council
• Communities for a Better Environment
• San Francisco Baykeeper
• Center for Biological Diversity
• Sierra Club
• Richmond Progressive Alliance
• ForestEthics
• Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter
• Bay Localize
• Community Science Institute
Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community
• Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment
• Martinez Environmental Group
• Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
• Sunflower Alliance
• Pittsburg Defense Council
• 350 Bay Area and 350 Marin
• Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
• Rodeo Citizens Association
• Asian Pacific Environmental Network

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Information and events on Crude By Rail and Valero's Benicia Refinery