Repost from The Contra Costa Times
Berkeley Rent Board opposes crude oil transports by rail through cityBy Tom Lochner, 12/16/2014
BERKELEY — The city’s Rent Stabilization Board added its voice to a growing body of opposition to crude oil trains rolling through the East Bay this week, warning that derailments could trigger explosions that could damage affordable rental housing stock as well as schools, health care agencies and businesses.
“An accident is not a question of if, but when and where,” board member John Selawsky said before voting to support a resolution co-sponsored by Alejandro Soto-Vigil, James Chang, Paola Laverde-Levine and vice Chairwoman Katherine Harr opposing a plan by Phillips 66 to ship crude oil by rail from outside the state to its Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo County.
Phillips 66 has said it is confident that environmental and public safety issues raised by the project will be addressed in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The company also noted that railroads are federally regulated.
The trains, some 250 a year, each with 80 tank cars, would take several possible routes to Santa Maria, from the south through the Los Angeles basin or from the north via Sacramento, Martinez and along the shore of San Pablo and San Francisco bays through San Jose to the Central Coast, according to a revised draft environmental impact report under review by San Luis Obispo County. An alternate route could go through Stockton and Martinez and down the East Bay shore; yet another, through Stockton and San Jose via the Altamont Pass.
Tuesday’s vote was 8-0 with one abstention, by Judy Shelton, who said she firmly opposes transporting crude oil by rail through Berkeley, but questioned whether the rent board is the proper vehicle for that opposition.
Soto-Vigil noted that the rent board is a body separate from the City Council, and its own legal entity.
“Our mission is to preserve our rental housing stock,” he said.
Chang noted that the council already is on record opposing the project. In March, the council unanimously declared opposition to the transport of crude oil by rail through East Bay cities. And in November, the council signed on to comments to the DEIR by a group of environmental organizations opposing the Phillips 66 project.