All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

City of Benicia public comments on Valero Crude By Rail received during May, 2014

Your thoughts on Valero Crude By Rail can make a difference!

The City is posting comments each month now.  Download May here: City of Benicia public comments on Valero Crude By Rail received during May, 2014  (Download is 1.62 MB)

Note that the City’s public comments are now PDFs with searchable text, however the comments for a given period of time all appear in a single document.  The index at the top of the document is neither paginated nor linked.  To find a particular comment, just search on that person’s name.  Older comments and project documents are on the City of Benicia’s Valero Crude By Rail page.

The Draft EIR is scheduled for release a week from today, on Tuesday, June 10.  Valero’s proposal will NOT be agendized on the Planning Commission’s June 12, 7pm meeting at City Hall.  The formal hearing will be at the Planning Commission’s July 10 meeting, 7pm, City Hall.  BE THERE!

Your email comments on the project are always helpful:

  1. Send your thoughts to the City of Benicia  –  You can make a difference!  Ask questions and voice your concerns to the Planning Commission, City staff and our Mayor and City Council.   (Note: When writing to the City Manager and Principal Planner, it helps to open with the phrase, “Please add my comments to the public legal record on Valero’s Crude By Rail Project and incorporate them as part of the review of its DEIR. “)  Send your comments to:
    • Brad Kilger, City Manager, by email: AND
    • Amy Million, Principal Planner, Community Development Department, by email:
    • Both may also be contacted by delivery to 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510, or by Fax: (707) 747-1637.
    • To direct email to Planning Commissioners, send email to Amy Million, requesting her to forward on to Planning Commissioners.
  2. Send your thoughts to the news media:

More ways to help STOP Crude by Rail…


    Setting the record straight on the oil industry studies of Bakken crude by rail

    Repost from Reuters

    Industry tests of oil train dangers need scrutiny, U.S. officials say

    By Patrick Rucker  |  WASHINGTON, June 2, 2014

    (Reuters) – Oil industry studies concluding that Bakken crude oil is safe to move by rail under existing standards may underestimate the dangers of the fuel and should not be the last word, U.S. lawmakers and industry officials said on Monday.

    In the past year, several doomed oil trains originated from North Dakota’s Bakken region, including a shipment that jumped the tracks and burst into flames in Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 30. Last July, a fiery derailment destroyed the center of the village of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

    Two industry-funded studies conclude Bakken fuel is rightly classed as a flammable liquid that can safely move in standard tank cars. The cargo is nothing akin to flammable gasses like propane that must move in costlier, heavier vessels, the oil industry has said.

    But the industry findings hinge on incomplete and out-of-date methods for determining vapor pressure, an important indicator of volatility, that may miss the true dangers of Bakken fuel, according to several industry officials.

    Lawmakers say they expect regulators to scrutinize the industry’s findings.

    “These studies should be taken with a grain of salt,” said Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, a state that is a major pass-through point for Bakken fuel.

    One study released May 20 by the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) collected samples with open bottles rather than a precision instrument, known as a floating piston cylinder, that is being adopted by the industry.

    Gas can escape with bottle sampling and such tests are unreliable, said the Canadian Crude Quality Technical Association, a trade group.

    “We would consider the data suspect,” the group said.

    ASTM, an international standard-setting body, last month deemed the floating piston cylinder the right tool for Bakken fuel samples. Open bottle samples can skew vapor pressure nearly 10 percent lower, according to research from Ametek, which manufactures testing equipment.

    Industry officials say that any underestimation of vapor pressure would be negligible.

    Vapor pressure results did not exceed 15 pounds per square inch (psi) in the NDPC report.

    A separate study by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) returned readings below 17 psi.

    The threshold pressure for flammable gas is 43 psi under those same conditions.

    Rich Moskowitz, general counsel for the AFPM, the refining industry trade group, said its report “clearly found that Bakken crude oil is properly transported as a flammable liquid. That’s the bottom line.”

    Industry officials note that the U.S. Department of Transportation has not issued any of its own findings on Bakken fuel despite collecting samples since the summer.

    The issue will likely be raised on Tuesday at a panel of the Senate Commerce Committee which will feature testimony from railroad regulators, among others.

    “It is my hope that any private data collection and studies on this issue will be highly scrutinized,” said Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, who sits on the panel.

    (Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Grant McCool)

      Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu Calls Tar Sands “Filth”

      Repost from Oil Change International

      Desmond Tutu Calls Tar Sands “Filth”

      Andy Rowell, June 2, 2014  


      Over the last couple of years the Canadians have become accustomed to growing international criticism of their reckless and belligerent exploitation of the tar sands. They have aggressively just carried on drilling, nonetheless.

      But when one of the iconic human rights activists in the world, South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu, calls the tar sands “filth” and a result of “negligence and greed”, it will be much more difficult for the Canadians to ignore.

      “The fact that this filth is being created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed,” Tutu told an audience of about 200 at a conference in Fort McMurray over the weekend.

      During the conference, which was held to highlight First Nation treaty rights, Tutu added that the tar sands were “emblematic of an era of high carbon and high-risk fuels that must end if we are committed to a safer climate.”

      He also added that tar sands “development not only devastates our shared climate, it is also stripping away the rights of First Nations and affected communities to protect their children, land and water from being poisoned.”

      Following the speech, the veteran anti-apartheid campaigner went on helicopter tour over the tar sands.

      This is not Tutu’s first foray into the politics of the tar sands. He had previously signed a letter by 11 Nobel Prize Laureates urging U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

      Over the weekend Tutu likened “the struggle of citizens against the pipelines” as being on “the front lines of the most important struggles in North America today.”

      Tutu listed a number of campaign ideas which would have delighted anti-fossil fuel campaigners: boycotts of events sponsored by the fossil fuel industry; health warnings on oil company adverts and divestment of fossil fuel industry investments held by universities and local  municipalities.

      The conference was co-sponsored by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, whose elder, Chief Allan Adam said that Tutu’s words had brought “a credible stance” to the position that First Nations needed to be a full consulted partner in all future decisions about both the current and upcoming tar sands projects which are located in their traditional territory.

      Eriel Deranger, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s director, opened the second day of the conference. “We will not tolerate threat to our rights, lands, water and to us all and all future generations,” she said.

      “Internalized oppression is perpetuating the cycle of oppression, ” she added. “If we don’t break that cycle, break the process of colonization and understand our strength as original inhabitants and original governments of this country, we’ll never make it.  We have to teach our communities.”

      She finished by saying: “We have to break the cycle.  Truth and reconciliation is such an important thing.  We have to come back to a deep understanding of our rights and the powers we hold as Indigenous people.”

      Not surprisingly, Tutu’s words have created a backlash in Canada. One commentator called him a “hypocrite, and a symbolist, for whom imagery and headlines matter more than facts and truth.”

      But when the Canadians have to stoop so low as to attack someone with the international respect of Desmond Tutu, you know that they are extremely worried.