Repost from the Sunflower Alliance
Defend Victory against Valero, April 4, 6, 19March 11, 2016
On February 11, we won a tremendous victory against Valero’s Crude by Rail proposal when the Benicia Planning Commission unanimously rejected approval of the land use permit that would have allowed construction of a rail terminal on Valero property and the daily off-loading of two 50-car trains carrying domestic shale oil and/or Canadian tar sands. Valero took no time in appealing the decision.
Final approval of the project lies with the Benicia City Council. At their first hearing on this proposal on March 15, Valero surprised everyone with their request that the City Council delay consideration of their appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision. This would allow them time, they argued, to petition the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) for the agency’s perspective on the scope of federal preemption law governing rail operations. They admitted the delay could take at least three months.
Valero is using the Benicia Crude by Rail project as a test case to drastically expand the range of federal preemption of rail regulation. They are claiming that all activity associated with property with rail spurs, such as the off-loading of crude on Valero property, is covered by federal preemption and thus completely exempt from local and state control. Federal preemption means that all California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements would be superseded. And effects on uprail communities could not be considered at all.
“Make no mistake,” writes Benicia activist Marilyn Bardet, “Valero hopes to bank on setting a precedent, right here in Benicia, that would affect municipalities of every size and stripe across California and the U.S. seeking to protect their communities from the risks of dangerous oil trains plowing through their urban cores and rural landscapes.”
Public hearings will continue on April 4, extending to April 6 and 19, if necessary. We are still not exactly sure what will happen in the April 4 hearing. But we need to show our strength again to make sure the City Council eventually votes with the Planning Commission and in the public interest.
Please come to the April 4th council hearing to voice your concern:
- to support the authority and requirements of CEQA—for the public’s right to full disclosure of impacts, for enforceable mitigations and feasible project alternatives;
- to support the Benicia Planning Commission’s consensus judgment resulting in a unanimous vote to deny certification of the Final EIR and deny the project permit;
- to support Benicia’s authority to protect its health and safety and uphold the Benicia General Plan;
- to deny Valero’s appeal and audacious corporate attempt to interfere in local politics for their own gain.
We must stand with Benicia in fighting this attack on local democracy.
April 4 , 6 and 19 at 7 pm
Benicia City Hall
150 East L St.
Contact: Kat Black: 415-125-9561