Tag Archives: California Attorney General Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris sent 2 important letters to the City of Benicia

By Roger Straw, August 11, 2020

Future Vice President Kamala Harris remembered in Benicia for her strong support

Kamala Harris, former California Attorney General and current Vice Presidential running mate for Joe Biden

Joe Biden’s nominee for Vice President, California Senator Kamala Harris, has a remarkable connection for many of us here in Benicia.  Her support for a safe and healthy world was incredibly important in the 2016 defeat of Valero Benicia’s dirty and dangerous oil train proposal.  The story should be told now, to honor Harris’ candidacy and to encourage support for a Biden/Harris ticket among all who care about clean air, land and water.

During our 3½ year battle to defeat Valero Benicia’s Crude By Rail proposal, then California Attorney General Kamala Harris wrote two letters challenging Valero’s project and the City of Benicia’s environmental review.  Her support was critical in support of local organizing efforts by Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community and others far and wide.

Harris’ first letter came on October 2, 2014.  The letter is summarized and linked here:

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL LETTER CRITICAL OF VALERO DEIR

OCTOBER 8, 2014, Summary, from p. 2: Unfortunately, the DEIR for this Project fails to properly account for many of the Project’s potentially significant impacts pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act(CEQA). Specifically, the DEIR: 1. … Continue reading California Attorney General letter critical of Valero DEIR→

Harris’ support added incalculable weight to the credibility of local and regional organizers, and caught the attention of news agencies across the country:

BLOOMBERG: CALIFORNIA AG REJECTS TRADE-SECRET CLAIMS FOR CRUDE-BY-RAIL

OCTOBER 22, 2014, Repost from Bloomberg News By Victoria Slind-Flor – California Attorney General Kamala Harris expressed reservations about the trade-secret provisions in a proposal for a crude-by-rail project in Benicia, California. In a letter to the city’s Community Development Department, she said the draft environmental impact report for … Continue reading Bloomberg: California AG Rejects Trade-Secret Claims for Crude-by-Rail→

RAILROADS FILE SUIT AGAINST STATE OF CALIFORNIA

OCTOBER 9, 2014, Repost from The Sacramento Bee – By Tony Bizjak and Curtis Tate – The battle over crude oil trains in California intensified this week, reaching into the legal sphere with potential national repercussions. The state’s … Continue reading Railroads file suit against state of California→

A year and a half later, on April 14, 2016, Harris sent a second letter asserting that Benicia’s Planning Commission and City Council have every right to deny a land use permit for Valero’s proposed Crude by Rail offloading rack.  I highlighted her convincing prosecutorial language in my headline:

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: “FOR BENICIA TO TURN A BLIND EYE…”

APRIL 15, 2016, By Roger Straw – California Attorney General Kamala Harris: letter disagrees with City of Benicia staff, consultants and Valero Today the City of Benicia received a letter from California Attorney General Kamala Harris disagreeing with City staff, consultants and Valero Refinery. The letter asserts that Benicia’s Planning Commission and City Council have every right to deny a … Continue reading CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: “For Benicia to turn a blind eye…”→

And again, her challenge was picked up by media outlets far and wide.  A sampling:

EAST BAY EXPRESS: ATTORNEY GENERAL HARRIS: BENICIA HAS POWER TO REJECT OIL FACILITY

APRIL 15, 2016, By Jean Tepperman – In a strongly-worded letter sent Thursday to City of Benicia officials, California Deputy Attorney General Scott J. Lichtig wrote that Valero, the City of Benicia’s planning staff, and an outside attorney advising the … Continue reading EAST BAY EXPRESS: Attorney General Harris: Benicia Has Power to Reject Oil Facility→

SACRAMENTO BEE: CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL KAMALA HARRIS CHALLENGES BENICIA OIL PLAN

APRIL 14, 2016, By Tony Bizjak – HIGHLIGHTS: • Harris said Benicia has the right to say no, is not pre-empted by federal law • Two 50-car oil trains would travel daily through downtown Sacramento • Valero spokesman: ‘We remain confident … Continue reading SACRAMENTO BEE: California Attorney General Kamala Harris challenges Benicia oil plan→

Finally… Benicia wasn’t the only recipient of Harris’ environmental support during those days.  See also…

DIANE BAILEY: CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL LETTER, PROTESTS IN PITTSBURG 1/21/14

JANUARY 18, 2014, Repost from Diane Bailey’s blog, Switchboard, Natural Resources Defense Council California Attorney General Tells Major Oil Terminal Developer, WesPac, to Hold Up in Pittsburg Posted January 17, 2014 by Diane Bailey in Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment, Moving Beyond Oil The California Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, sent a stark letter to the City of Pittsburg this week warning of … Continue reading Diane Bailey: California Attorney General Letter, Protests in Pittsburg 1/21/14→


For a trip down memory lane, see my permanent archive: The successful effort to STOP oil trains in Benicia, California

(beniciaindependent.com/crude-by-rail-archive/)

Roger Straw

Benicia City Council to consider findings for FINAL denial of Valero CBR

By Roger Straw, October 4, 2014

benicia_logoBenicia City staff released the AGENDA for the October 4 City Council meeting, including an important staff report, CONFIRMATION OF THE RESOLUTION TO DENY THE USE PERMIT FOR THE VALERO CRUDE BY RAIL PROJECT.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
At the September 20, 2016 City Council meeting, the Council denied the use permit for the Valero Crude By Rail project and requested a revised resolution be brought back for final approval at the October 4th Council meeting. Per the Council’s direction, the proposed resolution incorporates some General Plan policies as well as issues raised by the state Attorney General, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Caltrans.

The agenda also included the following important documents:

It will be an important Council meeting tonight. Plan to attend if you can – 7pm in Council Chambers, 250 East L Street, Benicia.

 

DAVIS ENTERPRISE: Benicia hears oil-train concerns from Davisites

Repost from the Davis Enterprise
[Editor:  I know Lynne as a strong advocate against Valero’s Crude By Rail proposal.  Her fair-minded coverage of both sides of the debate in this article is amazing and admirable.  A good overview of the hearing on Monday.  – RS]

Benicia hears oil-train concerns from Davisites

By Lynne Nittler, April 06, 2016

BENICIA — Davis was well-represented at a Benicia City Council hearing Monday for Valero Oil’s crude-by-rail project. Of the approximately 48 people who spoke, 12 came from Davis or Dixon, and another six were from Sacramento.

The speakers voiced their opposition to the oil company’s proposal to expand its refinery and accept 100 rail cars daily full of North American crude oil on a route that comes directly through downtown Davis.

The hearing continues with more public testimony tonight plus April 18 and 19 at the City Chambers in Benicia.

The evening began with a rally of those opposed to the project counter-balanced by a gathering of Valero workers and supporters of the project. A busload of 23 people from Sacramento stopped to pick up seven more in Davis, arriving just as the hearing began in the packed chambers.

Officials were allowed to speak first, beginning with Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, who also represented the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. He traced Yolo County’s effort over the past three years to communicate the serious safety concerns and to offer possible mitigation measures that were acknowledged but not addressed in the EIR.

He said 500,000 of the 2.4 million residents in the SACOG area — the counties of Yolo, Sacramento, Sutter, Yuba, Placer and El Dorado — live in the blast zone of the railroads, i.e., within a quarter-mile radius of the tracks. Of those, 260,000 are residents, 200,000 work in the area and 28,000 are students.

While acknowledging that Valero and its jobs are important, Saylor emphasized that this project “requires a shared commitment to protecting public safety.” He said the project should not be approved until the safety concerns are resolved.

Matt Jones of the Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District represented all seven districts that have responded jointly in writing to three versions of the environmental impact report for the Valero project. He said the EIR documents the impacts correctly, but fails to offer or respond to any mitigations, even when the Sacramento Metropolitan AQMD offered staff time to work out an off-site mitigation plan.

Jones reminded the Benicia council that San Luis Obispo County is examining a similar crude-by-rail proposal, and Phillips 66 has voluntarily offered such off-site mitigations.

Eric Lee, a city of Davis planner, made a plea for Benicia council members to uphold the decision of their Planning Commission, which voted on Feb. 11 not to certify the final environmental impact report and denied Valero’s permit.

He added that Davis believes that legally, the local jurisdictions are not pre-empted by federal rail regulations and that up-rail cities are entitled to have their comments addressed in the EIR.

He concluded by saying that the city of Benicia has a legal obligation to safeguard the public.

“I continue to be concerned about the Valero crude-by-rail project regarding the significant air quality impact,” state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, wrote in a letter to the Benicia council, read by her representative, Alex Pader. Wolk recommended specific steps, and if said they cannot be met, then the project should not move forward.

She reminded the council members that her own obligation is to protect the public from harm, which she has done with two pieces of legislation on oil-train safety, and said their obligation to safeguard the public is no less.

Marilyn Bardet, spokeswoman for Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, encouraged the council members to use their ethical judgment, and read all the material from the past years, plus what is pouring in now, to inform themselves at this crucial juncture in the decision-making process. She urged them to uphold the decision of the Planning Commission.

After a break, a mix of speakers pro (12) and con (16) spoke for up to five minutes each.

One Valero proponent said America has a tremendous thirst for oil; therefore, don’t we have a responsibility to produce it?
Jasmine Powell, a resident of Benicia, said Valero never risks its outstanding safety record as indicated by its high OSHA ratings.

Michael Wolfe, senior vice president of an engineering services firm, said California crude is increasingly scarce and Alaskan crude is running out as well. Valero is seeking to purchase North American oil to avoid importing more foreign oil. California already imports more foreign crude than any other state, Wolfe said.

Seven other Valero workers and supporters spoke of their trust in Valero’s high safety standards.

On the other side, Frances Burke of Davis spoke of the Planning Commission’s work as “epic,” and made an eloquent plea for the up-rail communities not to be dismissed as collateral damage.

Don Mooney , an environmental lawyer from Davis, said in his 25 years in environmental law, he had not seen a case with more uniform opposition, where so many have stood opposed for the same reasons.

Katherine Black simply read the list of officials and organizations opposing the project for five minutes, including all seven air quality management districts, all 22 cities and six counties who belong to SACOG, the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response and the California attorney general.

The Benicia City Council will hear more testimony tonight.

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