From an email by Ethan Buckner, ForestEthics
Extraordinary news tonight from Benicia, CA, where the town’s Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny a land use permit for a proposed oil trains project at the Valero Benicia Refinery.
The decision comes despite immense pressure from Valero, the City Staff & City Attorney who all recommended approval of the project on the basis that federal law preempted the city from even considering rail impacts in making their land use decision.
Tonight’s decision comes at the tail end of four straight nights of public hearings that have lasted past 11pm. Public comment during the hearings reflected the broad-based opposition to the oil trains project fostered by tireless grassroots organizing.
One highlight from tonight’s hearing was a statement from Donald Dean, the Planning Commission’s chair, to the City Attorney & contracted attorney (who happened to have a long history of defending high-profile oil & energy projects). He said, “I understand the preemption issue, on a theoretical legal level, but I can’t understand this on a human level.”
The decision will likely be appealed to the Benicia City Council, who could vote on the project as early as mid-March. Stay tuned for updates, because we have a big fight ahead of us.
The lion’s share of credit here goes out to the incredible grassroots leadership of Benicians for a Safe & Healthy Community. These tireless, fierce, and deeply passionate leaders have been fighting Valero tooth and nail for over three years, and have done a tremendous job in a tough industry town to build a campaign to be reckoned with.
Hopefully this momentum carries us forward for a denial at the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission later this month.