Packed Council Chambers – Planning Commission delays vote

Detailed testimony calling for an EIR

Valero’s proposed rail terminal came before Benicia’s Planning Commission on July 11. The public hearing was a critical moment for citizen concerns to be heard, and heard they were. Many Benicians and Bay Area experts asked for a more thorough process of review than the current “Initial Study” and “Mitigated Negative Declaration” prepared by City staff and an outside consultant. Over and over again, the Commission heard requests that they require the project to undergo a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Valero supporters were present and gave their green light to the project, citing the many ways that the company serves their interests and those of Benicia.

Commissioners raised excellent questions, but Valero and City staff chose to delay any attempts at giving answers until they have had more time to prepare carefully studied responses. Staff responses are promised by Friday, August 2.

At the end of the meeting, City staff assured Commissioners and the public that additional comments on the project would be welcome, but then indicated that comments on the Initial Study and Negative Declaration were now closed. I was a bit confused by this. For now, if you want to comment, send a letter or email anytime prior to the next Commission meeting on August 8. Your PRESENCE at the meeting will speak even more loudly. Please plan to attend.

Written comments may be sent to City Manager Brad Kilger by email bkilger@ci.benicia.ca.us with a copy to the Community Development Department at comdev@ci.benicia.ca.us.

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Crude Consensus: A Community Meeting on Valero’s Proposed Rail Terminal

Community meeting on July 9 attended by over 70

Valero’s proposed rail terminal could significantly impact air emissions, public health, the Suisun Marsh, emergency response time, traffic, and noise. Could it also open the door to increase supplies of very high-sulfur, low-quality crude oil from Canada’s tar sands to Valero’s Benicia Refinery? Benicia Good Neighbor Steering Committee and the Natural Resources Defense Council offered a workshop on July 9 to discuss potential hazards to Benicia residents, and ways to participate in the City’s evaluation of the project.

NRDC presented the findings of expert research commissioned by them on potential environmental impacts of the project, including local air pollution.

Over 70 local and Bay Area residents attended, along with our Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert and representatives from the office of California Assemblymember Susan Bonilla. All local print media and KQED Science were present to cover the event.

Benicians once again showed their incredible knowledge and interest in public decision-making as they asked a host of important questions. Many of those present plan to attend the July 11 meeting of the Benicia Planning Commission.

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