FAIRFIELD DAILY REPUBLIC: Top 10 Stories of 2016: Benicia derails Valero’s oil-transport plan

Repost from the Fairfield Daily Republic

Top 10 Stories of 2016: Benicia derails Valero’s oil-transport plan

By Daily Republic staff From page A1 | January 01, 2017
Tank cars sit on the railroad tracks, near Cordelia Road and Chadbourne Road on January 1, 2016. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic file)
Tank cars sit on the railroad tracks, near Cordelia Road and Chadbourne Road on January 1, 2016. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic file)

BENICIA — City Hall reverberated from the cheers when the City Council in September voted unanimously to turn down a Valero plan that would have allowed up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil to be shipped by rail to its refinery.

It is a topic that also made the Daily Republic’s top stories list in 2015.

Valero receives its crude oil by ship, and wanted to employ the less expensive rail option.

What ultimately became a simple land-use decision for the council, turned Benicia into one of the latest battlegrounds on the environmental and urban safety debate over transporting crude oil by rail.

Proponents noted the advances in railcar safety and emergency service preparedness, while opponents pointed to all the disasters – many deadly – that have occurred, some during the local debate.

Valero had applied for a permit to add additional rail, pipeline and to make other changes to its off-loading capabilities at the refinery, a request denied by the city Planning Commission in February. A series of public hearings were held before the City Council, but a decision was delayed while Valero took its case to the federal Surface Transportation Board, arguing the city lacked authority to make the decision.

The agency, just hours prior to the council’s decision, ruled that the city was not addressing a transportation issue, which would have triggered the long-held rail pre-emption laws, but rather was addressing the permit application only.

Valero, which represents about 25 percent of all local city tax revenue, has not indicated what its next move might be.

The Valero oil refinery operates, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Benicia.(Daily Republic file)

 

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