On March 31, five environmental attorneys and a host of experts and others (including Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community) sent the Benicia City Council this strong 3-page letter of opposition to Valero’s oil trains proposal. (For a much longer download, see the Letter with Attachments [13 MB, 214 pages].)
Jackie Prange, Staff Attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council;
Roger Lin, Staff Attorney for Communities for a Better Environment;
George Torgun, Managing Attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper;
Clare Lakewood, Staff Attorney for Center for Biological Diversity;
Elly Benson, Staff Attorney for Sierra Club.
Others signing the letter:
Ethan Buckner, ForestEthics;
Katherine Black, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community;
Janet Johnson, Richmond Progressive Alliance;
David McCoard, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter;
Jessica Hendricks, Global Community Monitor;
Colin Miller, Bay Localize;
Denny Larson, Community Science Institute;
Nancy Rieser, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment;
Steve Nadel, Sunflower Alliance;
Kalli Graham, Pittsburg Defense Council;
Richard Gray, 350 Bay Area and 350 Marin;
Bradley Angel, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice;
Sandy Saeturn, Asian Pacific Environmental Network
The City Council can, and must, uphold the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision to deny the use permit for the Valero crude-by-rail project. Federal law does not preempt the City from denying the permit for this project. Furthermore, the City should not tolerate Valero’ s delay tactic of seeking a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board (STB). As explained below, the STB does not have jurisdiction over this project and will almost certainly decline to hear Valero’ s petition for the very same reason that preemption does not apply. Finally, even if preemption were to apply here, the project’s on-site impacts, especially the increases in refinery pollution, require the City to deny the permit.
Benicia Resident Marilyn Bardet’s letter to the Chair of the Board, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)
Direct staff to require numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissons
By Marilyn Bardet, Sept 16, 2015
Dear Chair Groom,
In response to the overwhelming testimony the District has received from all corners of the Bay Area, as chair of the BAAQMD board of directors, you, with your board, have the authority to direct District staff to revise DRAFT Rules 12-15 and 12-16 as currently released, to require strict numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissions, including GHG.
By all means of public testimony over a two-year period, you have heard from concerned and affected members of the public, respected regional and national organizations (including Sierra Club, NRDC, CBE, 350 Bay Area, APEN, Sunflower Alliance) and other experts in the field who have recommended and put forward well-defined revisions that would impose strict numerical emissions caps on refinery emissions tied to current emissions baselines for TAC, VOCs, heavy metals and PM2.5, including GHG.
You know that oil companies in the region aim to acquire and process the most dangerously polluting crude in the world — tar sands. Refineries processing changed crude slates whose blends have increasing amounts of heavy crude, unconventional crudes such as Bakken oil, and/or tar sands will adversely impact regional and local air quality, especially affecting front-line communities and those “downwind communities.” Allowing emissions to “go up to” long ago established permitting levels (Valero Benicia’s permit was established in 2003) is tantamount to the District “giving in” to benefit the oil industries’ profit, not public health.
The District’s mandate is to clean up the air for the benefit of public health, and, in accordance with state mandates, to protect the climate by drastically reducing GHG. Oil refining is the biggest industrial source of GHG. Carbon trading by refineries will simply send “pollution credits” elsewhere and keep toxic emissions “at home” that kill thousands of people in the Bay Area each year. GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion threaten to destroy our global climate and way of life.
Strong refinery rules that set numerical limits on toxic emissions tied to current baselines and limit GHGs are our best chance to protect public health and protect the climate.
We need your leadership more than ever now! I am writing to ask that you make it clear to your directors that the “highest good” must be done by BAAQMD in the name of public health and climate protection, such that, until revisions to Rules 12-15 and 12-16 are adopted that set refinery emission caps at today’s levels, including for GHG, the agency will suspend permitting for refinery projects.
This is a bold request, but these are very uncertain times that require every precaution and concerted action by leadership to create policies that protect people and the planet.
Thank you for your public service, and for you attention to my comments.
Activists form human barricade to protest crude-by-rail facility
09.04.14 | Rebecca Bowe
This morning [Thu/4], at 7am in Richmond, Calif., four environmental activists used U-locks to fasten themselves by the neck to the fence of an oil shipping facility operated by Kinder Morgan.
They were interlocked with another four activists, who had their arms secured with handmade lock-boxes. “I’m locked to a lock box connected to my partner, Ann, who is locked with a U-lock to the fence,” Andre Soto, of Richmond-based Communities for a Better Environment, explained by phone a little after 8am.
At that time, Soto said several Richmond police officers had been dispatched to the scene and were calmly surveying the human barricade. He wondered out loud if they would be arrested.
The environmentalists risked arrest to prevent trucks from leaving the Kinder Morgan facility for area refineries with offloaded oil shipped in by train.
Crude-by-rail transport at Kinder Morgan’s bulk rail terminal, located in the Burlington Northern / Santa Fe railyard in Richmond, is the subject of a lawsuit filed in March by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
The suit, targeting Kinder Morgan as well as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), charges that Kinder Morgan was illegally awarded a permit for crude-by-rail operations without going through a formal environmental review process, which would have necessitated public hearings and community feedback. The case asks for operations to be halted while the project undergoes review under the California Environmental Quality Act. A hearing will be held in San Francisco Superior Court at 1:30pm tomorrow.
Ethan Buckner of Forest Ethics, who was also locked to the fence, said activists were especially concerned that the crude oil being shipped into Richmond, much of which originates in North Dakota, was volatile, presenting safety concerns.
“The oil trains are … very old tank cars that are subject to puncture, and have been known to fail over and over again while carrying oil,” Buckner said. Much of the oil shipped into the Richmond transfer point by rail originates from the Bakken shale region, which has been dramatically transformed by the controversial extraction method known as fracking.
“Nobody was notified that these oil trains were going to be rolling in,” Buckner said. That morning’s protest, he added, was meant to “send a clear message to Kinder Morgan and the Air District that if we can’t count on our public agencies to protect our communities, we’re going to do it ourselves.”
In the end, none of the activists were arrested. They voluntarily unlocked themselves from the fence and left the railyard around 10am. “After three hours we decided thsat we had made our point,” Eddie Scher of Forest Ethics said afterward, speaking by phone.
Along with a group of around ten others participating in the civil disobedience action, the activists who locked themselves to the fence were affiliated with Bay Area environmental organizations including 350 Bay Area, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sunflower Alliance, the Martinez Environmental Group, and Crocket Rodeo United to Defend the Environment.
Reached by phone, Ralph Borrmann, a spokesperson for BAAQMD, said, “We have no comment on the current litigation, or any actions relating to it.” He added that more information would come out during the Sept. 5 hearing.
When the Bay Guardian asked Kinder Morgan for a comment on the matter, spokesperson Richard Wheatley responded, “You’re not going to get one. We’re not going to comment on it.” Asked for a comment on the lawsuit, Wheatley said, “We’re not going to comment ahead of that hearing. And we’re not going to comment on the protesters.”