Benicia Planning Commission resolution to deny Valero permit

By Roger Straw, February 18, 2016

City of Benicia releases Planning Commission resolution: NO to Valero Crude by Rail

At 10:45am today, the City of Benicia sent an email notification and posted the highly anticipated resolution of the Planning Commission with negotiated wording to deny certification of the EIR and to deny a use permit for Valero’s Crude By Rail project.

After the Commission’s unanimous Feb. 11 vote to deny certification and the permit last week, the Commissioners noted that their position was in stark contrast to that of City staff, and insisted that the usual procedure of staff writing the resolution would not be adequate.  The Commission appointed Chair Don Dean to work with staff on the wording.

In comments before the vote last week, each Commissioner laid out their primary concerns and issues.  In my opinion, the resolution does a good job of summarizing their concerns and issues, and fairly represents the solid opposition of the Commission.

For instance, after the lengthy WHEREAS section, the resolution states, “Section 15270 of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, CEQA does not apply to projects that a public agency disapproves, but the Planning Commission determined it was necessary to provide findings per CEQA Sections 15090 and 15091, and to deny certification of the EIR and identified the following deficiencies in the EIR.”

This is followed by 14 findings, beginning with “The EIR does not express the independent judgment of the City as required by CEQA” and followed by a strong critique of city staff’s interpretation of preemption.

Findings 3 and 4 add a critique of the intermingling of Valero’s and the City’s needs and objectives.

The remainder of the findings specify ways in which the EIR failed to adequately identify, analyze and/or lay out appropriate mitigations for significant and unavoidable environmental impacts.

The document goes on with a resolution to deny the project based on a single finding:  “That the proposed location of the conditional use and the proposed conditions under which it would be operated or maintained would not be consistent with the General Plan as it would be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare of persons residing or working in or adjacent to the neighborhood of the use, or to the general welfare of the city, as well as uprail communities.”

I find the brevity and singularity of this finding somewhat surprising, and yet perfectly aimed at the heart of the proposal and solidly grounded in what many refer to as the Constitution of our city, our “General Plan.”

The document concludes, “…the finding cannot be made for the Project due to the potential significant on- and off-site impacts associated with the project and the associated rail operations, the need for further evaluation of the environmental impacts, the economic purposes of the project and the conflicting interpretations of preemption.”

Here on the Benicia Independent you can download a searchable-text version of the Resolution:  RESOLUTION NO. 16- 1 (PC) – A RESOLUTION OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF BENICIA DENYING CERTIFICATION OF THE EIR AND DENYING A USE PERMIT FOR THE VALERO CRUDE BY RAIL PROJECT AT 3400 EAST SECOND STREET (12PLN00063)

The City’s original can be found here.

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