LETTERS AND GUEST EDITORIALS ON VALERO BENICIA CRUDE BY RAILThis blog page presents only local media contributions that oppose the Valero Crude By Rail proposal and that take seriously the science of climate change. Other views and more balanced presentations get plenty of press elsewhere.
[Editor: We have seen a number of opposition letters appear lately in local media and on the City of Benicia’s website. Here are a few exceptional examples (by Rob Peters, Sue Kibbe, David Jenkins, Elizabeth Lasensky and Ruby Wallis). For more, see Project Review. - RS] … continued …
By Larnie Fox, October 12, 2015
I’m writing to request that you oppose Valero’s Crude Oil by Rail project.
The Revised Draft EIR states that:
- Potential train derailment would result in significant and unavoidable adverse effects … continued …
A letter received by email from the author, Mark Kennedy
[Editor: I publish this letter here with some reluctance. Like the author, I have been a major supporter of the Benicia Herald under the editorial leadership of former editor Marc Ethier. Rumors abound regarding the reason for the sudden exodus of the Herald’s staff. Until confirmed, I won’t comment. But I will say that the paper has been floundering since Mr. Ethier’s last issue on Sunday, September 13.
With Mr. Kennedy below, I was astonished at the blatant promo for Valero in this morning’s paper, on a critical day for honest review of Valero’s Revised Draft EIR at our Planning Commission.
I will also add that since Ethier left, the Benicia Herald has failed on most occasions, including this one, to attribute authorship to its articles. Who wrote a piece is significant to the reader, and is also a hallmark of journalistic authenticity. – RS]
To Valerie, Editor of the Benicia Herald: Cancel my subscription
My name is Mark Kennedy. I have been a subscriber, advertiser and promoter of the Benicia Herald for 20 years. I especially enjoyed the editorial page, because it allowed the voice of the community to be heard. … continued …
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 next 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! … continued …
By Craig Snider, September 23, 2015
I’d like to share a few thoughts about Valero’s “Crude by Rail” project….To recap….
According to the City Manager, the industrial park is the “engine of Benicia” and the best way to generate additional revenue is to “diversify.” In fact, according to Benicia Strategic Plan, Issue #3 – “Strengthening Economic and Fiscal Conditions,” strategies include “Strengthen Industrial Park Competitiveness” and “Retain and Attract Business.” Yet businesses are already leaving the industrial park for sites that better meet their needs. I ask: If you wanted to locate your business in an Industrial Park …continued…
By Rebekah Ramos, September 25, 2015
Valero’s self-proclaimed “Good Neighbor” status is laughable when you begin to peel back the onion and remove the layers of misinformation (or missing information) and reveal the same flavor of corporate propaganda and fearmongering that is used to hold small communities hostage.
There are hidden costs to having Valero as a neighbor that you may not be aware of. …continued…
By Nancy Rieser, September 10, 2015, Benicia Herald
As a resident of Crockett, I can only hope Benicia’s Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report on Valero’s Crude-by-Rail Project does not set a tone for future refinery EIRs elsewhere in Northern California. …continued…
By Jan Cox-Golovich, September 9, 2015, Benicia Herald
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir And so it is with the Valero Crude-by-Rail Project. …continued…
Thank you for two thought-provoking columns in the Sunday, Aug. 30 (“Benicia: Not exactly a smart, green city,” by Grant Cooke and “Crude by rail can be solution to Benicia’s budget woes,” by Dan Broadwater). Mr. Cooke and Mr. Broadwater presented opposing view of the Valero Crude-by-Rail Project. What was obvious was… …continued…
THOMAS HOBBES, THE GREAT 16TH-CENTURY British political philosopher, wrote in “Leviathan” that humans living without legitimate government would eventually dissolve into a “state of nature.” …continued…
For the past few years, I have been listening to the Valero Benicia Refinery representatives and supporters of the refinery’s proposed Crude-by-Rail Project make statements supporting the project because of the large tax revenue Valero provides for the city of Benicia. But when did tax revenue override health and safety? …continued…
(Also appearing in brief in the Contra Costa Times)
It’s time for Benicia and California to say no to bringing in crude oil by rail (CBR). …continued…
BACK IN JUNE OF 2013, I was alarmed to discover that Valero had plans to make me and all of Benicia complicit in the massive destruction taking place in the pristine forests of Alberta, Canada. With city Planning Commission approval, Valero planned to purchase crude oil taken from strip mines in Canada that are the dirtiest producers of oil on earth, then ship it on dangerous trains all across the West to our back yard.
Since then, Benicians have learned much more about Valero’s proposal. …continued…
The recent phenomenon of transporting dangerous, volatile Bakken Crude by rail has created an opportunity for the American people to learn the true motives of Big Oil and Big Rail and what we as impacted communities can do about it. …continued…
[See also Dr. Egan’s 9/14/14 comments addressing the
Valero Crude By Rail Draft EIR.] The headline in the Feb. 5, 2015 edition of The Herald, “Another delay as crude-by-rail project debate enters 3rd year,” signals sympathy toward the Valero Benicia Refinery as regards its Crude by Rail (CBR) Use Permit Application, currently before the Planning Commission. While it is difficult working up crocodile tears for a multi-billion-dollar international oil corporation… …continued…
Articles on Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s freedom of speech, accusations of bias, and calls for her recusal on Valero Crude By Rail
- San Francisco Chronicle: Mayor Patterson’s Op Ed: Governor must ensure rail tanker safety, March 3, 2014
- Vallejo Times-Herald: Benicia mayor told to recuse herself from Valero crude-by-rail decision, October 13, 2014
- Benicia Independent: Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson asked to recuse herself from Valero crude-by-rail decision, October 14, 2014
- Benicia Herald: City attorney urges mayor recusal on Valero project, October 15, 2014
- Benicia Herald: Attorney cites client privilege about mayor recuse request, October 16, 2014
- Vallejo Times-Herald: Benicia to address mayor’s alleged oil train ‘bias’, October 22, 2014
- Benicia Herald: Will public see legal opinion on mayor-CBR? November 14, 2014
- Lois Kazakoff in the SF Chronicle: Mayor muzzled from speaking about crude by rail, November 18, 2014
- Benicia Herald: Adviser says ‘close case’ on mayor bias, recusal, November 19, 2014
- Vallejo Times-Herald: Benicia releases opinion on mayor’s alleged ‘bias’ related to Valero project, November 19, 2014
- Benicia Independent: Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson comes under fire, will stand firm, November 20, 2014
- Sacramento Bee: Benicia mayor’s public skepticism puts vote on oil trains in jeopardy, November 23, 2014
- Benicia Herald: Benicia Mayor responds: Staying the course on public health, safety, welfare, November 28, 2014
- Benicia Herald: Letter to the Editor: The mayor is at it again, Jim Kirchhoffer, December 5, 2014
- Benicia Herald: Letter to the Editor: A little humor on a serious subject, Roger Straw, December 9, 2014
…and here are the lawyers’ opinions …
Three Benicia Herald articles on Union Pacific/Valero training event
- Benicia Herald: Fire chiefs reflect on crude-by-rail training (part 1 in series, Nov 9, 2014)
- Benicia Herald: Emergency training informed by 2013 Canadian disaster (part 2, Nov 11, 2014)
- Benicia Herald: Roger Straw: A straw man (Op ed, also posted here with title “Derailment fires too hot to handle” Nov 14, 2014)
Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame (3-part series)
[Editor: Benicia’s own Grant Cooke has written a highly significant three-part series for The Benicia Herald, outlining the impending fall of the fossil fuel industry and concluding with good advice for the City of Benicia and other cities dependent on refineries for a major portion of their local revenue stream. See links below. – RS]
Part I: Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame has begun “‘THE STONE AGE CAME TO AN END, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil,’ said Sheikh Ahmed-Zaki Yamani. The former Saudi oil minister is arguably the world’s foremost expert on the oil industry. In 2000, he introduced this extraordinary observation with an even more prescient one — to wit, ‘Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil — and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground,’ he told the UK’s Telegraph.” [MORE]
Part II: Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame: While fossil fuel costs keep rising, renewable costs fall “THREE KEY FACTORS WILL PUT TO REST the fossil fuel industry….” [MORE] Part III: Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame: Benicia must diversify “IN APRIL 2014, THE HIGHLY RESPECTED Paris-based financial company Kepler Chevreux released a research report that has rippled through the fossil fuel industries.,,,The firm argues that the global oil, gas and coal industries are set to lose a combined $28 trillion in revenues over the next two decades,,,,SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR BENICIA? Our lovely town, along with some of our neighbors, has enjoyed a stream of tax revenue from the fossil fuel industries for several decades. This will end as these industries lose the ability to compete in price with renewable energy….” [MORE]
State officials say Benicia underestimated oil train risks
Officials urge city to redo Valero refinery project safety analysisBy Tony Burchyns, The Vallejo Times-Herald, 09/25/2014
State officials say Benicia has underestimated the risks of running oil trains through Roseville and other parts of Northern California to the Valero refinery. In letter to the city last week, officials from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and the Public Utilities Commission called on the city to redo its safety analysis before allowing the refinery to receive two 50-car oil trains a day…. [MORE]
Planning Commission should vote ‘no’ on Valero’s Crude-by-Rail ProjectBy Bea Reynolds, Benicia Herald Forum, September 17, 2014
I wish to thank the Planning Commission for extending the deadline for community members’ opinions to be heard, considered, and registered concerning this grave proposal brought to you by our neighbor, the Valero refinery. The DEIR, as lengthy and convoluted as it is, does not address the pressing questions articulated and posed during this public review: safety of ourselves, safety for our neighboring communities, safety of our environment, and the impact an accident, spill and/or fire and explosion would have on our delicate eco-system and our immediate community. As it stands now, there is mounting evidence – evidence that now you, Planning Commissioners have also articulated and made public – that this is an unsafe project for our community and for Northern California communities and environment. Valero’s Crude By Rail Project has the potential for a tremendous catastrophe and compounding disasters with far reaching consequences. I urge you to vote “no” on the DEIR. This project’s liabilities far outweigh the 25 percent Valero contributes to our General Fund. The 20 to 25 jobs promised will be negligible in the face of a hazardous materials contamination and clean up and impact to potential loss of life – all so Valero may continue making more and more money.
Concerns about Crude-by-Rail Projectby Giovanna Sensi-Isolana, Benicia Herald Forum, September 17, 2014
I have several concerns about Valero’s Crude-by-Rail Project. 1. The condition and oversight of the railway tracks and the bridges. There is just one inspector who oversees all California’s railroad bridges and there is no other State Oversight. We must demand with certainty that the tracks and bridges have been inspected in the last year, that any necessary repairs have been made and that the tracks and bridges have been found safe to carry this volatile oil. 2. Because of Federal laws there is no other oversight of the railroads and even though Valero promises to bring the trains in during non-business hours the railroad does not have to keep to that promise thus impacting the flow of traffic in the industrial park. Some local businesses have already commented that they would not be able to stay if this plan is approved. 3. The safety of the railway cars that will be carrying this volatile oil has been seriously questioned and the federal government has ordered all the cars to be replaced within two years. The safety of the new cars is also seriously questioned since a recent derailment caused explosions of the new supposedly safer cars as well. Valero must not transport this volatile oil into our community until cars can be provided that are safe. 4. The issue of insurance also concerns me. In Canada just a year ago at Lac-Magantic the railroad went bankrupt after destroying a town and killing over 40 people and the town was left to cope with reconstruction by itself. I ask that the Commission investigate the issue of insurance and publicly post the results and allow for further public comments on this issue before considering this DEIR 5. The DEIR reports that air quality in the entire San Francisco Bay will improve if the oil comes in by train instead of coming in by boat. I demand that a new air quality study be conducted that evaluates the change in air quality in Benicia. (I am not so concerned with the air quality for boaters in the middle of San Francisco Bay) Will Valero assure us that it will not just become a hub for the transportation of the volatile oil by boat out of the country thus adding the pollution from the trains to the current pollution from the boats? The planning commission must get a commitment from Valero that none of this oil will be exported thus keeping their promise to make the U.S. more energy independent. 6. Did we really listen to all the other communities that this decision would impact? I know that speakers came to the commission meetings and voiced their concerns, but did the commission elicit any input from communities that would be impacted by this decision?The planning commission must send letters to all communities up the track and give them a time to make public comments. 7. We must also look at some recent new development as citizen groups like the Sierra Club and Forest Ethics are suing the department of transportation over the shipment of volatile crude oil in older railroad tanker cars. Is Benicia ready to defend Valero in such a lawsuit if some citizen group or community up the track should file one? Would we become liable if we accept this project? 8. My last concern is the message that we would be sending to our young people. It is obvious that the burning of fossil fuels is affecting our climate. This impact will continue to escalate as long as we use fossil fuels as our major energy source. It is time for us to focus on developing alternative renewable energy sources if we want to leave our children and grandchildren with a viable future here in Benicia. We must work towards developing a community that relies on solar, wind and even tidal energy and not one that is held hostage by a dying fossil fuel industry. It is going to take strength and bravery from you in the planning commission to look into the future for us and our grandchildren and to vote to start looking up into the skies for future energy and not down into the earth to bring up passed living things to power our planet. I commend the commission for all its hard work and thoughtful questions and thoughts at the last commission meeting and I pray that its members will make the right decision regarding the Valero’s Crude By Rail project DEIR.
Is it worth it?By Diana Walsh, Benicia Herald Forum, September 17, 2014
Crude by rail through Benicia and communities north is a disastrous experiment that will expose communities to danger, noise, air pollution, traffic, and damaged waterways. Is it appropriate near an earthquake fault, and where a spill could pollute our waterways for years or maybe even for good? Do people really want to live in an evacuation zone and face fireball explosions that can’t be put out? How many more people have to die before oil companies, shippers and railroads will be forced to put some money into safety precautions, such as double-hulled cars and making the crude less volatile before it is shipped? As it is now, we are all sitting ducks. If Valero’s Crude-by-Rail project is approved, Benicia will lose its appeal as a place to buy and the Industrial Park will shrink as people become aware of the danger they’re facing. Let’s hope people wake up before more people have to die either directly from explosions or indirectly from asthma and respiratory disease from this unconscionable, irresponsible plan that is a threat to our health and safety, just so extra money can be made by doing things on the cheap. Who would want to live and/or work or buy property in the kind of dirty, smelly, noisy and dangerous town that would result if this project is approved? That’s not why I bought property in Benicia.
Three reasons to oppose crude by railby Craig Snider, The Benicia Herald, August 9, 2014
“WHEN MY FAMILY MOVED TO BENICIA IN 2003, we spent our first week in the Best Western on East Second Street. During our stay we met several workers visiting from refineries in Texas to assist with projects at local refineries. During breakfast, I mentioned to one of them that we had bought a house in Benicia and were waiting to move in. He replied, “I wouldn’t have my family living within five miles of a refinery,” implying that it was unsafe because of the risk of an accident. ” [MORE]
Sacramento-area leaders concerned about crude-rail risks – Uprail communities urge Benicia to address oil train safety hazardsby Tony Burchyns, The Vallejo Times-Herald, August 9, 2014
“Sacramento-area leaders are voicing concerns about Valero’s proposed crude-by-rail plan, accusing Benicia of paying too little attention to potential “very serious” hazards of increased oil train shipments through Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa counties.” [MORE]
“TIME TO TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT OUR STARTLING SUCCESS in solving our energy problems with oil — good old American Bakken crude along with a hefty swash of that Canadian tar sands crude. Canada being a very friendly neighbor, this seems a great deal on both sides of the border. And thanks to a fine railroad system, it’s just a simple straight shot from North Dakota and Alberta right up to our door here in Benicia, California! Providence be blessed!” [MORE]
Benicia Herald Op Ed: Do Benicians Want Tar-Sands Oil Brought Here?
By Roger Straw, June 14, 2013 THE RAVAGES OF tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada. Sierra Club By Roger Straw MANY THANKS TO BENICIA HERALD REPORTER Donna Beth Weilenmann for her detailed report, “Valero rail project: City has no control over oil source” (June 12). It is unfortunate that City Manager Brad Kilger is quoted saying, “The city does not have the authority to control the refinery’s crude sources.” The source of Valero’s crude is important — here in Solano County, and globally. Since the city can’t control it, perhaps those of us who live here should persuade our friendly giant Valero to stay away from Canadian tar-sands oil of its own volition. The world is dying, not so slowly, from the burning of fossil fuels…. [MORE]