Tag Archives: Benicia City Council

OPEN LETTER: Oppose Valero Crude By Rail

Letter received by email from the author, Lawrence (Larnie) Reid Fox

To the Benicia City Planning Commission and City Council:

By Larnie Fox, October 12, 2015

I’m writing to request that you oppose Valero’s Crude Oil by Rail project.

The Revised Draft EIR states that:

    • Potential train derailment would result in significant and unavoidable adverse effects to people and secondary effects to biological, cultural, and hydrological resources, and geology.
    • Impacts to air quality would be significant and unavoidable because the Project would contribute to an existing or projected air quality violation and result in a cumulatively considerable increase in ozone precursor emissions.
    • Impacts to greenhouse gas emissions would be significant and unavoidable because the Project would generate significant levels of GHG and conflict with plans adopted for reducing GHG emissions.

What more do you need to know?

There have been more crude-by-rail explosions and spills in the last two years than in the previous 40 years. The new crudes are demonstrably more hazardous than the crudes that have been processed in our community in the past, and have led to many horrendous accidents in other parts of North America. Accidents can and will happen.

The Revised Draft EIR states that Valero proposes to use non-jacketed Casualty Prevention Circular (CPC)-1232-compliant tank cars.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said that the CPC-1232 standard is only a minimal improvement over the older tank DOT-111s. NTSB officials say they are “not convinced that these modifications offer significant safety improvements.”

There is overwhelming and passionate opposition to the project here in Benicia. There is also strong opposition from hundreds of individuals who live up-rail and from all over our state, and also from government entities including the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and our state’s Attorney General.

If there is a spill or an explosion and fire, I for one, do not want my community to be culpable. We need to show the state and the world that we stand for safety and environmental responsibility, even if it cuts into corporate profits and tax revenues.

The bottom line is that fossil fuels are going away, sooner or later, and Benicia will need to adapt, sooner or later. We need to take a longer-term and wider-scope view of the issue. We may reap short-term local gains by approving this project, but the cost is unacceptably high. In doing so, we would be putting our Industrial Park at risk, and inconveniencing them with the long trains. This area should be the economic engine for the next 100 years. We would be ignoring the legitimate concerns of communities up-rail from us. We would be responsible for putting environmentally sensitive areas at risk. We would be contributing to global warming and thus sea level rise, which poses a clear threat to our community and the rest of the world as well. We would be contributing to decimation of the old-growth forests in Northern Canada.

It’s up to us to guard our own welfare, and also, as a City, to be responsible citizens of California, the USA and our fragile planet.

Sincerely,

Lawrence (Larnie) Reid Fox

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    Andrés Soto letter: Not fooled by Big Oil and Big Rail

    Letter to the editor, The Benicia Herald
    [Editor: Note that letters do not appear in the online edition of the Benicia Herald.  Andrés Soto lives in Benicia and is well-known throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for his environmental justice advocacy and his mastery of the saxophone.  I particularly like Andrés’ focus on 19th century historical context.  – RS]

    Not fooled by Big Oil and Big Rail

    By Andrés Soto, July 23, 2015

    Dear Editor:

    Andres Soto
    Andrés Soto

    The recent phenomenon of transporting dangerous, volatile Bakken Crude by rail has created an opportunity for the American people to learn the true motives of Big Oil and Big Rail and what we as impacted communities can do about it.

    Continuing derailments, explosions, fires and evacuations have shined the light on the Profit At Any Cost attitude of Big Oil and Big Rail. These industries grew up together in the late 19th century and led to some of the most egregious periods of income inequality, corruption and social conflict in US history.

    Now these industries are asking us to trust them and allow them to bring Bomb Trains through our communities, putting our town’s economic viability at risk for a short-term economic gain. Exploding trains all over North America tell us a different story and we are not fooled.

    Currently, the Valero Crude By Rail Project and the Phillips 66 San Luis Obispo Crude By Rail Project both put our town at risk for a catastrophe. Communities all over the country are standing up to oppose this high risk venture by Big Oil and Big Rail. Recently, the WesPAC Crude By Rail Project in Pittsburg, California removed the rail part of the project to make it a straight pipeline project.

    Fracked Bakken Crude and strip mined Alberta Tar Sands Crude are just two of the Extreme Extracted Crude strategies by Big Oil to bring oil to market that would be better left in the ground. An intelligent global cooling plan to save our planet for future generations and all species requires the we leave the oil beneath the soil!.

    Valero has already admitted it can and is bringing Extreme Crude in by barge to the Port of Benicia, thus it does not need the Valero Crude By Rail Project to be profitable. Therefore, it begs the question: Why would we, the people of Benicia, allow this project to proceed when it is just too dangerous?

    Global warming is going to cause significant parts of Benicia to be underwater. Shouldn’t we be working on preventing that, rather than trying find ways to contribute to the problem?

    We are the people of Benicia and our voices need to be heard! The Benicia Planning Commission and the Benicia City Council have a responsibility to listen to us and do what is in the best interests of ALL Benicians. Stop Valero’s Dangerous Crude By rail Project!!!

    Andrés Soto
    Benicia, CA
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      Davis Enterprise: Garamendi calls for greater Bakken oil-by-rail safety

      Repost from The Davis Enterprise
      [Editor:  Significant quote: “‘DOT began working on updated rules in April of 2012 and from 2006 to April of 2014, a total of 281 tank cars derailed in the U.S. and Canada, claiming 48 lives and releasing almost 5 million gallons of crude and ethanol,’ the letter reads.  ‘Serious crude-carrying train incidents are occurring once every seven weeks on average, and a DOT report predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing billions of dollars in damage and possibly costing hundreds of lives.'”   That said, Mayor Wolk joined the long list of officials who say they don’t want to STOP oil trains, only make them “safer.”  Good luck.  More photos here.  – RS]

      Garamendi calls for greater Bakken oil-by-rail safety

      By Dave Ryan, April 9, 2015
      Rail1W
      Davis Mayor Dan Wolk speaks at a news conference Wednesday organized by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, to promote the congressman’s legislation that aims to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil. As many as 100 tank cars filled with the volatile oil could come through Davis every day if a proposed Valero oil refinery expansion is OK’d. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

      Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, called for less volatile Bakken crude oil — which is transported across the country by rail — on Wednesday morning, using the backdrop of the Davis Amtrak station to drive his point home.

      Garamendi introduced the Bakken Crude Stabilization Act on March 26 in a bid to protect what he said are 16 million Americans living and working near railroad shipment lines. If approved, the bill will require lower vapor pressure for transported Bakken crude to reduce its volatility, a practice currently required in Texas and to some degree in North Dakota.

      An oil tanker rumbles past the Davis train depot at Second and H streets Wednesday morning, interrupting a news conference organized by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, to address oil-by-rail safety. Sue Cockrell/ Enterprise photo

      Vapors like propane and butane add to the unstable nature of Bakken crude during train derailments.

      On Wednesday, Garamendi and other government officials explained why requiring more safety for railroad tank cars is essential to communities along rail lines like Davis and Fairfield, should there be an explosion. As if on cue, freight trains carrying black tank cars rumbled by as Garamendi spoke.

      “You’d wipe out downtown Davis and possibly hundreds of people,” he said, adding that stripping out volatile vapors would prevent a fireball rising what he said was a hundred feet in the air.

      Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson said there are refineries and pipelines in his county, but also populations along rail lines and an environmentally sensitive marshland.

      “If we de-gas the oil, that is a huge thing for safety,” Thomson said. “We need to ask that legislation be passed. … We need to move this quickly.”

      Environmental groups say Bakken crude oil is transported through Yolo and Solano counties along Union Pacific Railroad lines that run through Davis, Dixon, Fairfield and Suisun City on their way to the Valero oil refinery in Benicia. A proposal is pending before the Benicia City Council that could increase the number of rail tank cars moving through those cities, increasing shipments to about 70,000 barrels of oil a day in two, 50-car-long shipments.

      So-called “up-rail” community groups are fighting the proposal, and local governments in Yolo and Solano counties are working for better safety and oversight of the Valero project, which is still in the environmental review process.

      Davis Mayor Dan Wolk said local agencies’ goal in the Valero project is not to stop commerce, but to ensure that adequate safety measures are in place.

      Meanwhile, at the state level, a warren of rules protecting rail commerce prohibit states and localities from enacting restrictions on rail traffic, leading to calls for the federal government to step in.

      However, laws protecting railroads, some more than a century old, ensure that railroads have a strong hand in approving any new regulations that the federal Department of Transportation or the Federal Railroad Administration may impose on their industry. Most regulations are created by consensus with the railroads.

      Garamendi said a legislative approach is the quickest way to get the railroads to implement safety standards.

      “Every day we delay the implementation of a stronger safety standard for the transport of Bakken crude oil by rail, lives and communities are at risk,” the congressman said in a prepared statement released at the news conference.

      “We need the federal government to step in and ensure that the vapor pressure of transported crude oil is lower, making it more stable and safer to transport. We also need to upgrade and ensure the maintenance of rail lines, tank cars, brake systems and our emergency response plans.”

      Getting railroads to help beef up local safety planning is a big part of what state and local governments are trying to wring out of the rail industry. One key demand is to get the railroads to disclose to emergency first responders what is inside their tank cars.

      In a March 3 letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation written by Garamendi and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D- Sacramento, the pair said the need for safer train cars has long been documented and is overdue.

      “DOT began working on updated rules in April of 2012 and from 2006 to April of 2014, a total of 281 tank cars derailed in the U.S. and Canada, claiming 48 lives and releasing almost 5 million gallons of crude and ethanol,” the letter reads.

      “Serious crude-carrying train incidents are occurring once every seven weeks on average, and a DOT report predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing billions of dollars in damage and possibly costing hundreds of lives.”

      Asked Wednesday what the chances are of a railroad safety bill passing through a Republican-controlled Congress, Garamendi said “excellent,” evoking some chuckles from other government officials standing by.

       

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        Benicia city council to send letter supporting safer rail measures

        Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
        [Editor:  See original documents on the City of Benicia’s website:
              – Staff’s Agenda Report
              – Mayor Patterson’s draft letter of support (not approved)
              – League of Cities letter requesting letters of support & sample letter (sample letter approved)
        For a local news report that fails to describe the City’s recommendations in the letter, see The Benicia Herald.  (The Herald previously detailed these recommendations.)  – RS]

        Benicia council to send letter supporting safer rail measures

        By Irma Widjojo, 04/08/15, 8:36 PM PDT

        Benicia >> The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to send a letter in support of several rail safety recommendations to the Federal Office of Management and Budget.

        Mayor Elizabeth Patterson asked the council to consider sending the letter as requested by the League of Cities, of which Benicia is a member.

        The league has adopted 10 recommendation as official policy to “increase rail safety in the transport of hazardous materials.”

        The recommendations include mandating speed limits and electronically controlled braking systems, increasing the federal funding for training and equipment purchases for first responders, regulating the parking and storage of tank cars and others.

        Patterson on Tuesday said sending such a letter usually doesn’t require it to be presented in a city council meeting, however City Councilman Tom Campbell has voiced his concerns due to the pending Valero Crude by Rail project.

        “I wanted the city attorney to give an opinion if we are going to run into an issue of possibly prejudicing ourselves,” Campbell said Tuesday.

        The city is currently processing the use permit and Environmental Impact Report for the project.

        City Attorney Heather McLaughlin said there would not be an issue of bias, since the letter only states that “we just want the oil transported safely.”

        Though the council voted unanimously to send the letter, they opted for the version that was provided by the league, instead of the one that was slightly edited by Patterson.

        “I would go along with the language of the league as provided for consistency,” Vice Mayor Mark Hughes said.

        A Benicia resident and environmental activist spoke during the public comment period stating that the letter will not have any effect on the Valero project.

        “The letter is not going to make much impact as much as I appreciate the spirit of it,” Marilyn Bardet said. “The rail will be built before any policy is put in place.”

        Patterson has also has been an outspoken advocate of tougher crude-by-rail safety measures.

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