Tag Archives: City of Benicia

AUBURN CALIFORNIA: No to proposal that would bring oil through Auburn

Repost from the Auburn Journal

Another View: No to proposal that would bring oil through Auburn

By: Rosalie Wohlfromm / Guest Columnist

Rosalie WohlfrommDo you remember back in 2013, when there was a train derailment carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec? That incident resulted in a fiery explosion and caused the death of 47 people.

It has been reported that crude oil from North Dakota and Canada into California would be expected to rise from just 1 percent of total oil imports in 2013 to 25 percent by 2016, according to state energy officials.

This oil would travel by rail through densely populated areas to refineries on the coast. One of these routes is right through our town of Auburn.  We could see trains pulling 100 oil tanker cars going past our homes, schools and parks.

Since 2013, we have heard of numerous derailments causing evacuations of citizens from their homes. One of the latest was last February in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is now known that the cause of the derailment was  a broken rail, which was missed in two previous inspections.

Oil giant Valero wants to build a massive terminal for oil trains at its Benicia refinery. Union Pacific runs from Reno via Donner Pass, a dangerous route that, according to the Environmental Impact Report for Valero Crude by Rail Project, has only 3.5 percent of Class 4 or 5 track, the quality deemed by the U.S. Dept of Transportation necessary to support daily travel of extremely heavy unit trains made up of over 100 tank cars loaded with crude oil.

The City of Benicia is currently in the process of approving or rejecting the Valero Refinery’s proposed CBR project, which would permit Union Pacific to haul crude oil through Auburn.  If this project is approved, Auburn could see oil trains loaded with highly flammable oil from North Dakota running right through our town on their way to Benicia. I ask you to remember what happened in Lynchburg. That could happen here.

Concerned citizens of Benicia are asking for those of us along the rail lines to call or write the City of Benicia City Manager, Brad Kilger, 250 E.L. Street, Benicia CA 94510 or e-mail Planner Amy Million at amillion@ci.benicia.ca.us.   Please submit your comments by 5pm on Oct. 30.

Winners of first Benicia Eco Award announced

Repost from the Vallejo Times Herald

Winners of first Benicia Eco Award announced

By Times-Herald staff report, 07/28/15, 1:09 pm PDT; UPDATED 08/05/15
Constance Beutel and Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson. COURTESY PHOTO

Benicia >> A reception was held at the Benicia City Hall courtyard before the City Council meeting on July 21 to celebrate the accomplishments of the first Eco-Award winners. They were presented to the City Council afterward.

A resident and a business were selected in each category: energy reduction and renewable energy, water efficiency and conservation, recycling and trash reduction. A non-profit/community-based organization was also chosen as an overall winner.

The seven winners received a $100 gift certificate to First Street Café and a recycled glass trophy designed by Lindsay Art Glass of Benicia as well as a certificate signed by Mayor Patterson.

The Benicia Eco Award, by Lindsay Art Glass. COURTESY PHOTO

The winners are as follow:

  • Residents: Constance Beutel for energy reduction and renewable energy; Steve and Marty Young for water efficiency and conservation; and Mary Lou and John McVeigh for recycling and trash reduction.
  • Business: Ponder Environmental Services, Inc. for energy reduction and renewable energy; Pedrotti Ace Hardware for water efficiency and conservation; and Ruszel Woodworks for recycling and trash reduction.
  • Community-based or non-profit organization: Benicia Community Gardens.

The event was a “Zero Waste” event, meaning there was no trash from the event. All food scraps went to John & Mary Lou’s chickens, real dishes and utensils eliminated any paper or plastic waste, and the cups were recycled. The napkins were composted. Real fruit flavored water hydration stations were provided so no water bottles or sodas were needed.

The program is sponsored by the Green Umbrella group, a coalition of Benicia organizations and individuals dedicated to working together with a focus on environmentalism and sustainability. The group’s work is funded by a grant from the Community Sustainability Commission with support from Arts Benicia and the City of Benicia. Awards are sponsored by Marin Clean Energy, WattzOn, and Republic Services.

FEMA Flood Maps: Valero oil train risks likely greater than previously known

Benicia Industrial Park in high risk flood zone

By Roger Straw, Benicia Independent, 6/12/15
FEMA map - Benicia Industrial Park - Panel_634_PORTRAIT(1200)
Click on map to enlarge

On June 8, the City of Benicia notified residents and businesses that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released a new set of flood hazard maps for Solano County. These maps delineate areas that are at risk for coastal flooding as identified through the San Francisco Bay Area Coastal Study. The new maps are released for public review for a 90-day appeal period ending September 7, 2015.

The map above shows Benicia’s Industrial Park, with Lake Herman at the top.  This FEMA map shows utter vulnerability of the area proposed for Valero’s rail terminal off-loading racks.

It is likely these maps will add yet another layer of risk to Valero’s proposal.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the City’s consultants will need even more time to weigh these risks before releasing the revised Draft Environmental Impact Report.  The report is currently scheduled for release on August 31, 2015.




THE BENICIA HERALD: Report on city’s climate change vulnerability calls for action

City Media Release

June 8, 2015

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released preliminary flood hazard maps also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Solano County. These maps delineate areas that are at risk for coastal flooding as identified through the San Francisco Bay Area Coastal Study. The new maps are released for public review for a 90-day appeal period ending September 7, 2015. The maps are expected to become effective in summer, 2016.

Flood hazard maps indicate whether properties are in areas of high, moderate or low flood risk. In reviewing the preliminary maps, which are not yet adopted, many property owners may find that their risk is higher or lower than the current maps indicate. While the preliminary flood maps provide improved accuracy about flood risks based upon past data and modeling for future flood events, they do not project or account for potential impacts associated with climate change and sea level rise.

Flooding is the most common disaster in the United States. Property owners in a high-risk flood zone are required to have flood insurance if they hold a mortgage that is secured by loans from federally regulated or insured lenders. Additionally, homeowners, renters and business owners are encouraged to look at the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps to become familiar with flood risks in their community. These flood maps can help individuals and businesses make informed decisions about flood insurance options and flood protection measures.

The new maps are preliminary and have not yet been officially adopted. The City of Benicia encourages residents and business owners to review the preliminary maps to learn about local flood risks and identify any concerns or questions about the information provided.  A public comment and appeal period will be opening on June 10, 2015 where property owners will be able to submit comments and appeals to FEMA regarding the maps’ accuracy. Following the appeal period, FEMA staff will prepare final maps, which are expected to become effective in summer, 2016. When the maps become effective, any related new insurance and floodplain management requirements will take effect.

Owners of affected properties will be notified by a letter sent to the current owner of record. Affected property owners and interested others are invited to attend an open house meeting on July 8, 2015 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Liberty High School Gymnasium, 350 East K Street. Staff from FEMA and the City of Benicia will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. To learn more, contact the City of Benicia at 707-746-4240.

The preliminary flood maps are available for viewing in the Community Development and Public Works Departments, located at 250 East L Street in Benicia. The City offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. noon and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Maps are also available to view on the City of Benicia’s website by selecting the yellow “Flood Maps” tab on the left-hand side of the homepage http://www.ci.benicia.ca.us or at the Benicia Public Library, 150 East L Street, during the library’s regular hours of operation, Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m.

To obtain information from FEMA directly, visit http://www.fema.gov/preliminaryfloodhaza…, call 877-FEMA-MAP (877-336-2627) or email FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com.

CONTACT: Graham Wadsworth
Public Works Director/City Engineer
(707) 746-4240



Valero Benicia environmental report delayed again – not likely to withstand further scrutiny

By Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent

Valero Benicia Crude By Rail environmental report delayed for review of new federal regulations

Valero_Crude_by_Rail-Project_Description_March_2013_(cover_page)The City of Benicia issued an announcement on May 21, 2015 delaying its release of a revised draft environmental impact report on Valero Benicia Refinery’s proposal to construct an offloading facility for delivery of crude by rail.

With this delay, The City will now have spent more than two and a half years processing Valero’s proposal and responding to the objections of concerned residents, experts and nearby officials.

Valero’s application for a use permit came to City staff in December, 2012.  In May of 2013, Benicia’s Community Development Director issued a Notice of Intent and a Mitigated Negative Declaration, concluding that the proposal with mitigations was so benign as to not even need environmental review.

Following outcries and organized opposition, the City commenced a full environmental review in August, 2013.  The Draft EIR was released after several delays in June, 2014.   That review received an avalanche of critiques, including expert local analyses, professional review and letters from residents and area governing bodies and a highly critical letter from the California Attorney General.

After yet another lengthy delay, the City announced in February 2015 that, in response to the magnitude of public criticisms, project consultants would revise the DEIR and release it by June 30, 2015 for recirculation and another 45-day public comment period.

According to the City of Benicia’s Thursday announcement, the new 2-month delay (until August 31, 2015) will give consultants “time to include additional analysis of the new regulations announced on May 1, 2015 by the Department of Transportation to strengthen safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail.”

The City consultant’s analysis, seemingly favoring Valero’s proposal from the outset, will likely make the case that new federal safety standards strengthen environmental protections for this project and improve Valero’s chances for landing a use permit.  This analysis, of course, will come under heavy fire due to the inadequacy of the new federal rules, and likely will not withstand the scrutiny of Benicia citizens, officials and regional authorities and stakeholders.

All along, leaders of Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC) have stressed that Valero’s proposal is fatally flawed as shown in a list of significant DEIR failures, including the longstanding lack of adequate federal safety regulations governing rail transport of high hazard flammable liquids (see especially Section 2, #3, pp. 13-15).

More recently, BSHC has joined a chorus of national and international environmentalists and elected officials who are dismissive of the new (May 1) rules issued by the Department of Transportation.  (See NYTimes article.)  The new rules fail to adequately govern oil train routing, speed, braking systems and public notification, and leave entirely too many years for retirement and retrofitting of unsafe tank cars and the design and manufacture of tank cars to newer, safer standards.

BSHC and others have called for an immediate moratorium on all shipment of crude oil by rail, and a speedy transition to clean and renewable energy sources that will “leave the oil in the soil.”

The City’s announcement:

“The anticipated release of the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report (RDEIR) on the Valero Crude by Rail project has been postponed to August 31, 2015.  The delay will provide the City with the necessary time to include additional analysis of the new regulations announced on May 1, 2015 by the Department of Transportation to strengthen safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail. The RDEIR will have a 45-day comment period, beginning August 31, 2015, which will include public hearings where the community may comment on the RDEIR. After the comment period closes, the City will complete the Final EIR which will include responses to all comments on the original Draft EIR and the RDEIR. The Final EIR and the project will then be discussed at subsequent public hearings.”