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:
Various attachments – letters submitted previously for the record by the California Attorney General, Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). (Be patient – a very large download.)
A 9/28/16 letter from the law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo offering proposed findings for denial of the permit. Along with Adams Broadwell, the letter was submitted by attorneys representing Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Communities for a Better Environment and the Sierra Club, STAND, San Francisco Bay Keeper and Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community.
It will be an important Council meeting tonight. Plan to attend if you can – 7pm in Council Chambers, 250 East L Street, Benicia.
Repost from KQED [Editor: A colleague reports that “The Altomont Pass pipeline brings heavy crude oil from southern San Joaquin Valley oilfields to some of our Bay Area refineries.” – RS]
Pipeline at Center of Altamont Pass Oil Spill Also Ruptured Last September
By Ted Goldberg, May 24, 2016
California’s fire marshal has launched an investigation into an oil pipeline rupture that spilled at least 20,000 gallons of crude near Tracy over the weekend — eight months after the same pipeline had a break in a similar location.
Shell Pipeline crews are still cleaning up from the most recent spill near Interstate 580 and the border between Alameda and San Joaquin counties four days after the 24-inch diameter line broke.
Crews with the oil giant were able to complete repairs on the pipe on Monday, according to a Shell official.
The pipeline stretches from Coalinga in Fresno County to Martinez.
The rupture on the line was first reported at 3 a.m. on Friday, said Lisa Medina, an environmental specialist at the San Joaquin County Environmental Health Department.
Shell discovered a loss of pressure in the pipeline, filed a report with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and then shut the line down.
San Joaquin County officials believe the spill covered an area 250 feet long by 40 feet wide, Medina said in an interview.
A preliminary test of the pipeline found a split of approximately 18 to 20 inches in length, said company spokesman Ray Fisher in an email.
Fisher also confirmed that the same pipeline ruptured and caused an oil spill in the same vicinity, near West Patterson Pass Road, last Sept. 17.
Here’s a link to Shell’s report on that incident that found the rupture spilled 21,000 gallons of oil, about the same amount as Friday’s break.
Fisher said Shell inspects its pipelines every three years, and the company conducted an inspection of the line after the September incident.
He added that the line has no history of corrosion problems.
It’s unclear what caused the most recent spill.
On Tuesday, state fire officials confirmed that the Office of the State Fire Marshal had opened a probe into the pipeline rupture.
Federal regulators are not investigating the break, but are providing technical support to the state, said an official with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The spill prompted concerns from environmentalists.
Sierra Club representatives pointed out that the spill near the Altamont Pass came weeks after Shell spilled about 90,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and a year after a major spill involving another company’s pipeline on the Santa Barbara County coast.
“Sadly, it’s become undeniable that oil spills will remain the status quo if we continue our dependence on dirty fuels,” said the Sierra Club’s Lena Moffitt in a statement. “This is just Shell’s latest disaster and the company has done nothing to assuage fears that it can stop its reckless actions.”
“The environmental impacts could be very serious,” Patrick Sullivan, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview. Sullivan said the spill could hurt birds and other animals in the area and could contaminate nearby groundwater.
State water regulators, though, say they’re not concerned the spill could affect water in the area.
“Given the location and the relatively limited extent of the spill, it is highly unlikely that the spill would affect underlying groundwater and even more unlikely that it would impact any drinking water supplies,” said Miryam Baras, a spokeswoman for the State Water Resources Control Board, in an email.
Sullivan also questioned whether Shell’s statements on the size of the oil spill were correct.
“We don’t know how much oil has been spilled,” Sullivan said. “With previous pipeline spills the initial estimates have sometimes turned out to be wrong. They’ve turned out to be under-estimates.”
Fisher, the Shell spokesman, said the company had not revised its estimates.
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.