Benicia Crude By Rail remembered in today’s news

[Today’s news is welcome.  Rep. Garamendi doesn’t represent Benicia, but he does represent uprail cities that would have been affected by Valero’s dangerous and dirty proposal to bring oil trains across California.  Garamendi’s bill, HR 5553, has 4 co-sponsors, but does not include Benicia’s representative Mike Thompson.  Let’s hope Mike will get behind this effort!  – R.S.]

John Garamendi introduces crude-by-rail safety bill

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Nick Sestanovich, January 9, 2020
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, CA 3rd District

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, introduced legislation Wednesday to ensure safer standards for the transport of crude oil and other hazardous materials by train.

House Resolution 5553, also known as the “Crude By Rail Volatility Standards Act,” aims to establish a safety standard for the maximum volatility for crude oils and similar materials transported by rail. It also requires that all crude by rail in America adhere to the New York Mercantile Exchange’s maximum Reid vapor pressure for crude-oil futures contracts of 9.5 pounds per square inch, Garamendi’s office wrote in a news release.

The current industry standard would remain in place until the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) completes the rule setting a maximum volatility standard that was first announced in 2017 after the attorneys general of six states, including California, petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation and PHMSA to finalize the regulation nationwide.

“Every day we delay the implementation of a stronger safety standard for the transport of Bakken crude oil-by-rail, lives are at risk,” Garamendi said in a statement. “My bill simply requires oil companies to decrease the volatility to market levels, rather than carrying unstable products through communities. I am committed to enacting this legislation into law this year as part of the surface transportation reauthorization.”

Garamendi, who is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been trying to get legislation passed since 2015 to prohibit crude oil from being transported by rail unless it adheres to the New York Mercantile Exchange’s maximum Reid vapor pressure. Garamendi’s office wrote that the actions were influenced by numerous crude-by-rail derailments in previous years, including an accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013 which killed 47 people and led to changes in operations for Canadian railways.

The topic of crude by rail became a hot-button issue in Solano County in 2013 when the Valero Benicia Refinery announced plans to extend rail lines to have crude-oil delivered to its plant by train rather than by boat. The project — which would have passed through Dixon, Suisun City and Fairfield — was met with opposition and was subsequently voted down by the Benicia Planning Commission and then the City Council.

Garamendi’s co-sponsors on the bill are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Bill Foster, D-Ill.; Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; and Jamie Raskin, D-Md.


    News desert avoided: California’s oldest weekly newspaper saved from closure

    Restart the presses: California’s oldest weekly newspaper saved

    The Los Angeles Times, by Brittny Mejia, January 7, 2020
    Don Russell
    Don Russell works in the Mountain Messenger newsroom in Downieville, Calif.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

    The state’s oldest weekly newspaper, which once published Mark Twain, will keep printing after a California retiree stepped in to save the day.

    Carl Butz, a fourth-generation native Californian, is taking over the Mountain Messenger, which is based out of his hometown of Downieville.

    The 71-year-old has been friends with Don Russell, the editor-publisher of the paper, since moving to the town in the 1990s and was aware of his troubles trying to sell the paper over the last year.

    Russell planned to retire by the middle of January. On Thursday, he told the printer the paper would soon cease publication. Russell ran the numbers and told Butz, “It’s hopeless … don’t do this.”

    The next day, Butz came in with a check.

    “I said, ‘OK, it’s not going to cost that much — I’m going to save it,’” Butz said. “I’m going to try and make sure the thing survives.”

    Butz is aiming for a nonprofit model and wants to rely on more volunteers to help fill the paper, which for a long time has fallen on the paper’s two full-time employees, Russell and Jill Tahija.

    He’s already found a woman in Sierra City who wants to cover the Board of Supervisors meetings, he said, and staff will send out subscription renewal cards once more.

    Mountain Messenger newspaper
    Copies of the Mountain Messenger. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

    As newspapers shut down nationwide, Butz is happy to keep the Mountain Messenger going.

     The Martinez News-Gazette  printed its final edition last week, after 161 years of publishing. The paper, which covered the city of Martinez, the seat of Contra Costa County, had been losing money.

    “There’s just been this rash of these things across the country; you lose the community,” Butz said. “I think we need to have newspapers.”

    The Mountain Messenger, which publishes on Thursdays, has a circulation of about 2,400. The paper dates to 1853, when it was started as a twice-monthly publication.

    It became the Mountain Messenger in 1854 or 1855 and moved to La Porte, and then to Downieville, a Gold Rush community about 110 miles northeast of Sacramento.

    The paper’s claim to fame is that Twain once wrote there while hiding out from the law. He was only there for a couple of weeks, writing under his real name, Sam Clemens, according to Russell, who read some of his articles on microfilm.

    “They were awful,” Russell said in a previous interview with The Times. “They were just local stories, as I recall, written by a guy with a hangover.”

    Russell became co-owner of the paper, known around the area as the “Mountain Mess,” in the early 1990s. The Jan. 16 edition will be his last in his current role.

    “I don’t have to clean out the office. That’s a huge relief,” Russell said. He is planning to take a vacation with his wife on the 20th, but his association with the paper “will continue for the foreseeable future.”

    “It’s the absolute best thing I could have hoped for,” he said. “I get to do the stuff I like to do and not have to do the stuff I don’t like to do.”

    Also… as appearing in the Vallejo Times-Herald:

    Man saves California’s oldest weekly newspaper from closure

    Associated Press, January 8, 2020

    In this Dec. 13, 2018, photo, press operators check the freshly printed issue of The Mountain Messenger, California’s oldest weekly newspaper, at the pressroom of Feather Publishing Co., in Quincy, Calif. The paper began in 1853 as a twice-per-month publication; its claim to fame is that Mark Twain once wrote there under his real name, Sam Clemens. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via AP)

    DOWNIEVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A retiree has canceled an around-the-world trip to save California’s oldest weekly newspaper, which was set to shut down when its editor retires this month.

    The paper began in 1853 as a twice-per-month publication; its claim to fame is that Mark Twain once wrote there under his real name, Sam Clemens. He was there hiding out from authorities in Nevada, where he had accepted a challenge to a duel after dueling had been outlawed, Don Russell, 70, the current publisher who is retiring told SFGate.

    Carl Butz, 71, says he is taking over the Mountain Messenger, which is based out of his hometown of Downieville and covers two rural counties northeast of Sacramento. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

    “I’ve been a widower for three years and this is a new chapter in my life,” Butz, who lives in an off-the-grid cabin, told SFGate. “What am I going to do? Go on another trip around the world? Instead, I’m doing something good for the community, and I feel good about it.”

    Known around the area as the “Mountain Mess,” the paper covers school board meetings, federal land use and other issues.

    Russell, the Mountain Messenger’s editor-publisher, told The Los Angeles Times he is planning to retire soon and had spent the past year trying to sell the paper but hadn’t received any offers.

    Russell became co-owner of the paper in the early 1990s. The Jan. 16 edition will be his last in his current role but he said he plans to continue his association with the paper after he takes a vacation with his wife.

    “It’s the absolute best thing I could have hoped for,” he said. “I get to do the stuff I like to do and not have to do the stuff I don’t like to do.”

    A retired independent software consultant, Butz plans to run the weekly as a nonprofit and do some writing and editing. He will rely on volunteers to help fill the paper. He’s already found a woman who wants to cover the Board of Supervisors meetings, he said.

    As newspapers shut down nationwide, Butz says he is happy to keep the Mountain Messenger going.

    “There’s just been this rash of these things across the country; you lose the community,” Butz said.


      Benicia Rep. Grayson’s campaign financial report

      Tim Grayson’s re-election campaign gave $30,000 to state Dem party

      VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD, January 7, 2020

      Assemblyman Tim Grayson’s re-election campaign spent more than it took in during the month of December, according to a contributed report submitted to the California Secretary of State.

      The campaign gave $30,000 to the California Democratic Party on Dec. 30, and $4,700 to the Jones-Sawyer for Assembly 2020 campaign.

      Reginald Jones-Sawyer is seeking re-election to the California State Assembly District 59, which represents most of South Los Angeles. State contribution rules cap the donations from individuals, businesses, and political action committees at $4,700 per election for state Senate and Assembly candidates.

      Grayson’s campaign also donated $1,100 to the Democratic Party of Contra Costa on Dec. 11, contribution reports show.

      The campaign received $2,000 each from the DuPont chemicals company, PepsiCo food company, $1,700 from the Zenith Insurance Company, $1,500 each from Firefly, and Zuffa, LLC.

      It also reported receiving $1,300 from Allstate Insurance Company, $1,300 from Mallinckrodt pharmaceutical company, and $1,000 each from the John Edward (Jed) York & Affiliated Entities, including the Forty Niners Football Company, LLC, and Verizon.

      Grayson is seeking a third term representing California State Assembly District 14, which includes the cities of Vallejo, Benicia, Martinez, Concord, Pleasant Hill, among others.

      He is running unopposed.


        More people are using California’s new firearms seizure laws

        By Roger Straw, January 8, 2020

        I was encouraged to read a headline in the Washington Post this morning, “Colorado just used its gun seizure law for the first time — one day after it took effect.”

        The Post report is specific to Colorado, but it outlines a “growing list of states with legislation allowing authorities to seize firearms from people deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or others.”

        “Until the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018, four other states followed Connecticut’s lead in adopting “red flag” legislation. Since then, a dozen states and the District of Columbia have passed gun seizure laws in an effort to prevent rising gun violence and suicides by firearm.”

        Connecticut was the first state to enact a red flag law.  It did so in 1999 following a rampage shooting at the Connecticut Lottery.

        California adopted its red-flag law in 2014, the first state to pass a red flag law allowing immediate family members to petition courts to take weapons from persons deemed a threat.  The law also permits police and roommates to request confiscation.

        In February 2019, the Chronicle’s Alexei Koseff reported that California gun confiscations had increased sharply under the restraining-order law.  “Courts approved petitions to confiscate weapons from 424 people in 2018, according to the Justice Department. That was up dramatically from 2017, when 104 such orders were issued, and 2016, the year the law took effect, when there were 86.  In the nine Bay Area counties, gun violence restraining orders jumped significantly, to 53 [in 2018], from 14 in 2017.”

        Most recently in October 2019, California strengthened its firearm seizure laws, expanding the right to request confiscation to co-workers and employers.  The new law,  AB1493, also creates “a way for someone subject to an order to voluntarily relinquish their gun ownership.”  [SF Chronicle, More Californians can seek gun removals after Newsom signs new firearm laws]

        If you know of someone who is a firearm danger to self or others, call 911 or contact your local police.  AND… for more information and instructions see online at California Courts, Ask For a Gun Violence Restraining Order (  [I am surprised that the California Courts page has seemingly not caught up with the 2019 law expanding the right to petition to co-workers and employers.]

        Let’s hope the strengthened law has the intended outcome of decreasing suicides and homicides here in California.

        More Californians can seek gun removals after Newsom signs new firearm laws

        [excerpt…]  Newsom signed 11 other gun control measures, including:

        • AB164 by Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, which authorizes California law enforcement officers to remove weapons from people who are not allowed to own guns because of a restraining order in another state.

        • AB879 by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson (Los Angeles County), which requires that parts that could be used to build a gun at home be sold through a licensed manufacturer after a background check, starting in July 2024.

        • SB61 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge (Los Angeles County), which limits gun buyers to one semiautomatic center-fire rifle per month and forbids Californians under age 21 from purchasing them.

        • SB376 by Portantino, which requires that guns won at charity auctions or raffles be transferred through a licensed dealer and that the recipients undergo a waiting period.

        • AB645 by Irwin, which adds a suicide prevention hot line number to the warning label on gun packaging and requires the written test for a handgun safety certificate to cover suicide.

        • AB1297 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, which eliminates the $100 limit for concealed-carry license fees and requires counties to charge what it costs to pay for administering the program.

        • AB 521 by Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, which directs the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center to develop education and training programs for medical and mental health providers on preventing gun injuries.


          For safe and healthy communities…