Benicia City Council approves Valero’s request to delay
Valero will seek a declaratory order from the federal Surface Transportation Board
After posing questions and hearing additional testimony from a Union Pacific railroad executive, Valero executives, and the City’s contract attorney, Bradley Hogin, Benicia’s City Council members offered their opinions and took a 3-2 vote to approve a “continuance” until September 21, to allow Valero to petition the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for a declaratory order in search of clarity on the federally pre-empted limits on a city when considering a land use permit for a refinery’s crude by rail proposal.
Valero surprised everyone when its attorney asked for the delay at the Council’s March 15 meeting.
Council members Alan Schwartzman, Mark Hughes and Christina Strawbridge voted in favor of delay, stating that they needed clarifying information from the STB in order to make an informed decision. Council member Campbell and Mayor Patterson voted against delay, stating that Council already has sufficient information to make a decision now, and that nothing would be gained by an STB opinion that could still be challenged in court.
During the continuance, (if I understand correctly), public comment will remain closed. Nevertheless, it is likely the City will receive additional written comments and add them to the official record, as it has done in the past.
After the STB acts to deny Valero’s petition, or should it accept the petition and issue an opinion, the Council will reconvene hearings and vote whether or not to certify the environmental report and whether to approve or deny the land use permit for the project.