Benicia Planning Commission – no more hearings for now

Repost from NBC Bay Area
[Editor:  IMPORTANT NOTICE: All speakers present were heard at the Tuesday, September 29 Planning Commission hearing, so previously scheduled additional hearings are now cancelled.  There will be no Planning Commission hearings on Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.  Your comments on Valero’s Revised DEIR can be submitted in writing until October 30, 2015 – more info on sending written comments here.]

Residents Raise Concerns Over Valero’s Proposed Crude Oil By Rail Through Benicia

By Pete Suratos, September 29, 2015

A proposal to transport crude oil by rail through Benicia is not sitting well with residents, who came out in full force to a Tuesday night city planning commission meeting to discuss it.

The chances of the trains being derailed and something disastrous occurring is why residents are concerned with the proposal. Those who oppose the plan have until the end of October to let the city and Valero know their concerns.

During a special session at city hall late Tuesday, Valero pitched its crude-by-rail project to a packed house.

If approved, the refinery can receive up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil per day by rail, instead of by ship. The route would begin in Roseville and end at the refinery. In addition, the route will not replace the crude currently received through pipeline.

Valero said the use of rail is the only way to get the oil.

“The crude that we bring in by rail would offset the crude we bring from foreign sources that we bring by ship,” said Chris Howe of Valero.

The proposal, for resident Christine Caulder, is a risky proposition. Caulder attended Tuesday’s meeting and spoke as a concerned parent.

“When the air is so toxic you can’t go outside, I really can’t go to their school or I’m worried who’s sick or who’s not,” she said.

No actions on the project were taken by city leaders on Tuesday. Three more public hearings are scheduled — one on Wednesday and two more in October.  [CORRECTION: All speakers present were heard at this hearing, so previously scheduled additional hearings are now cancelled.  – RS]


    LETTER: The New Revised DEIR (ho hum)

    LETTER: The New Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report

    By Jim Kirchhoffer, September 28, 2015

    The title alone is enough to make a casual reader turn on football or a cooking show. The new report, after an outcry from our local citizens, is just as numbing and distortive as the first one.  It will be open for discussion on Tuesday, September 29.

    At the meeting last year, I offered a request for details on how the figure for potential rail disasters of .001 % was computed.  It was also stated as one potential derailment every 111 years!

    This particular statistic was picked up by the national and state press and others, to the confusion of all.  Since I represent no one of any importance, I was not surprised to see it was not addressed in the new report. The new  report does, however, admit to 4 oil train bomb derailments events this year.  I think there have now been five. Irreguardless, as we say back in Indiana, that’s a jolly big difference from one every 111 years or .001%!

    Do they really think we’re that stupid ? I guess so.

    In other words, fellow readers and citizens, the new report as well as the first report is a rigged, crafted, professional snow job to sell us a bill of goods.

    Valero paid for it. That’s the way the process works.  And they sure got their money’s worth!  Yes Valero is a very good neighbor.  They fund many local activities, and put up, I understand, 25% of our town’s budget. But what is the core of the deal?

    Valero wants to cut half of the marine crude that comes in to receiving that same amount by train. See, no increase in oil we refine at all, just this switch in transportation. What’s the problem with that?

    Why are they so eager ?

    Well, as a local friend reminds me, “Follow the money”. There is fantastic profit in Bakkan crude, and the only way to get it to Benicia is by rail.  In cars that explode in derailments into massive fires that firefighters have to let simply burn out. Which cars can not be replaced for several years, at best. On rail lines that transverse some of  our most beautiful and treasured waterways. And in the southern Nevada route–one of three ways into the state–the report itself reveals that 82% of that rail line has rails that are on the 3-4 scale, verses the 4-5 that Amtrak and the rest of Union Pacific use.  And we have no power or control over which line Union Pacific uses.

    Valero wants to make a lot more money.  Nothing wrong with that.  In fact that’s their legal mandate; increase profit for their shareholders. If the CEO doesn’t, the Board of Directors fires him. That’s the way the game is played.

    And the way we play the game is to reject the Environmental Report.  It is a farce, and if you have read either or both, you will see that right away. The only way to get this terribly dangerous crude oil away is to stop Valero from changing their current transportation procedure. Before this plan of Valero, there were no complaints.  No rally’s and demonstrations and hundreds of people crowing into Council chambers to protest.

    Valero can go on just as they have been doing, which seems to have been working well for them. We can go on feeling safe in our homes and town. Do we really want 2 (two) 50 tank car trains per day rolling into Benicia each and everyday ?

    I think not.  What’s in it for us ?  Hope you can come to the meeting on Tuesday, September 29.

    Jim Kirchhoffer
    Benicia, California

      California regulators restore emissions-cutting fuel rule

      Repost from the Associated Press

      California regulators restore emissions-cutting fuel rule

      By Judy Lin, Sep. 25, 2015 5:49 PM EDT
      Mary NIchols, Barbara Riordan
      Mary Nichols, left, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, applauds after the board restored ambitious rules to cut transportation fuel emissions 10 percent within 5 years, during a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. By a 9-0 vote the board restored rules requiring a 10 percent cut in carbon emissions on fuels sold in the state by 2020, despite oil industry objections that it could drive up gas prices. At right is ARB board member Barbara Riordan. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

      SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California regulators on Friday restored ambitious rules to cut transportation fuel emissions 10 percent within 5 years, a decision that gives Gov. Jerry Brown a boost for his climate change agenda.

      The rules further strengthen California’s toughest-in-the-nation carbon emissions standards, but oil producers warn the changes could drive up costs for consumers at the gas pump.

      The changes are expected to add a few cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel in the state that already has some of the highest gas prices in the nation. The state estimates a typical commuter will pay an extra $20 to $24 in 2017, increasing to $52 to $56 in 2020.

      “We are on a path to reduce our dependence on petroleum and this program is a key piece of that action,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said ahead of the vote.

      Brown, a Democrat, has vowed to intensify his fight against climate change after the oil lobby helped kill a Democratic legislative proposal earlier this month to slash statewide petroleum use by half in 15 years. The board is the state’s top regulatory agency to enforce rules aimed at reducing air pollution.

      Regulators voted 9-0 to re-adopt its low-carbon fuel standard, which requires producers to cut the carbon content of fuels 10 percent by 2020 to help the state meet its emission-reductions goals.

      The program was initially adopted in 2009 but the reduction target has been frozen at 1 percent because of a court fight. Friday’s vote allows the state to resume its program; modifies rules in response to industry concerns about price spikes; and gives companies more credits for using renewable hydrogen and other investments to reduce pollutants.

      Supporters say the program is worthwhile because it will encourage greater use of cleaner biofuels and electric vehicles, which can be cheaper to operate than those powered by gasoline or diesel.

      “This puts it back on track,” Bill Magavern, policy director at Coalition for Clean Air, an environmental advocacy group, said after the vote. “We have other programs that address vehicle technologies and vehicle miles traveled, and this is the one that tells oil companies to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels.”

      Oil producers counter that the rules are unworkable and too costly. They said the standard will impact consumers as the companies try to comply with the mandate or face being shut out of the market.

      Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents oil companies, said the low carbon fuel standard jeopardizes the state’s energy future and adds uncertainty.

      “California motorists need to know what is coming and how these regulations will impact transportation fuels,” Reheis-Boyd said in a statement.

      Unlike other rules the state has adopted requiring cleaner-burning fuel or more fuel-efficient vehicles, the standard, first proposed in a 2007 executive order from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, calls for counting all the pollution required to deliver gasoline, diesel or alternative fuels to in-state consumers — from drilling a new oil well or planting corn to delivering it to gas stations.

      In addition to tailpipe emissions, it includes factors such as whether an ethanol factory uses coal or natural gas to power production or an oil rig uses diesel fuel to drill.

      Regulators are targeting transportation fuels because California’s roughly 30 million vehicles account for about 40 percent of the state’s emissions — the largest source. The rest comes from generating electricity and industrial manufacturing, as well as commercial, residential and agricultural uses.

      All fuels are measured against a baseline pollution standard. If a fuel falls above or below the baseline, it generates a credit or deficit that other producers can buy and sell to meet the target.

      It’s up to fuel producers to figure out how to meet the goal, whether by changing production methods, using ethanol or electric vehicles for transportation or buying credits on the market.

      After the rule’s initial adoption, out-of-state refiners and ethanol companies were among those who sued, arguing that transporting the fuels into California alone made them less competitive against in-state producers. They argued the law unconstitutionally limits interstate commerce.

      The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a 2013 appeals court decision upholding the fuel standard.

      Opponents continue to challenge the state’s authority to regulate out-of-state production. Oil firms are also trying to block a similar standard enacted in Oregon, the only other state with a clean fuel standard.

      Friday’s move to restore California’s program is not related to Volkswagen drawing international attention for violating separate federal and state rules that regulate emissions from vehicles.