Tag Archives: Contra Costa County CA

Enviros Sue California State Lands Commission Over Tesoro Terminal Lease

Repost from Law360

Enviros Sue Calif. Land Agency Over Tesoro Terminal Lease

By Juan Carlos Rodriguez, April 20, 2015, 5:59 PM ET

New York — Two environmental groups on Friday sued the California State Lands Commission for allegedly renewing Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co.’s lease at an oil receiving facility near San Francisco bay without adequately considering the business’ impacts on the surrounding area.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Communities for A Better Environment alleged the CSLC violated the California Environmental Quality Act in March when it renewed the 30-year lease for Tesoro’s Avon Marine Terminal. The CSLC’s Final Environmental Impact Report was faulty for a variety of reasons, including that it doesn’t specify what kind of oil will be imported to the terminal, the petition for a writ of mandate said.

It said the Avon Terminal imports crude oil feedstocks to Tesoro’s nearby Golden Eagle Refinery and exports refined petroleum products, like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

“The EIR for the Avon Terminal fails as an informational document as it is conspicuously silent about the types of crude oil feedstocks that will be handled at the terminal and the additional risks that may be created by Tesoro’s plans to process lower quality and heavy crudes at the Golden Eagle Refinery,” the petition said.

It said that Tesoro plans to process increasing quantities of lower quality crude oil feedstocks at the Golden Eagle Refinery, including Bakken crude. The environmental groups said transporting and processing Bakken crude creates numerous health and safety risks because it’s highly volatile and is dirtier than most other crude feedstocks, releasing high levels of benzene, volatile organic compounds, and toxic air contaminants when processed.

The Avon Terminal EIR is deficient in other ways as well, according to the groups. They said that in analyzing the environmental effects of renewing the Avon Terminal lease, the EIR considers only the Avon Terminal’s effects and fails to consider the combined effects of Tesoro’s integrated facilities, including those of the refinery and another nearby terminal.

“This artificial isolation of the Avon Terminal improperly masks the full extent of the effects of Tesoro’s integrated refinery operations,” the petition said.

The EIR also underestimates the annual number of ships that will dock at the relicensed Avon Terminal over its thirty-year lease, resulting in an underestimation of the air, water, wildlife, and other impacts of the Avon Terminal’s future operations, according to the petition.

“As a result of these and related deficiencies, the EIR fails to fully inform the public and decision-makers of the project’s significant health, safety, and environmental impacts and fails to analyze and mitigate these impacts as the California Environmental Quality Act requires,” the petition said.

Contra Costa County hosts four of the five major petroleum refineries in northern California, and the fifth is nearby, the petition said, making it the second largest refining center in the western U.S. It said residents in the area suffer from high rates of asthma and many are ill-equipped to deal with these burdens, as more than half the residents are low-income minorities.

“Tesoro’s operations also affect wildlife. The project area provides habitat for state and federally listed species, such as coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead; delta smelt; green sturgeon; black and Ridgway’s rails; salt marsh harvest mouse; and three endangered plant species,” the petition said.

The environmental groups are asking the CSLC to void the EIR for the Avon Terminal lease approval; set aside and withdraw approvals of the project; and refrain from granting any further approvals for the Avon Terminal lease approval until the commission complies fully with the requirements of CEQA.

The CSLC declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday.

The plaintiffs are represented by Irene V. Gutierrez and Trent W. Orr of Earthjustice and Roger Lin.

Counsel information for the CSLC was not available Monday.

The case is Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. California State Lands Commission, number 15-0569 in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Contra Costa.

–Editing by Emily Kokoll.
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    Pittsburg CA: WesPac oil storage project no longer includes Bakken crude trains

    Repost from the San Jose Mercury News
    [Editor: For original project documents and the recent announcement, see the City of Pittsburg’s WesPac Pittsburg Energy Infrastructure Project.  – RS]

    Pittsburg: WesPac oil storage project no longer includes Bakken crude trains

    By Sam Richards, 04/01/2015 11:40:04 AM PDT

    PITTSBURG — Amid the growing national debate over the safety of transporting crude oil by trains, an energy firm has dropped the rail component from a controversial proposal to transform an old PG&E tank farm into a regional oil storage facility here.

    WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed Pittsburg Terminal Project, which had been attacked by local activists as posing a serious safety threat, is back on the table after a year of dormancy.

    But the elimination of the crude-by-rail element doesn’t mean critics are satisfied that a revived oil storage and shipping operation would be safe for the community. The dormant tanks are less than a half-mile from hundreds of houses and apartments on West 10th Street and in the downtown area between Eighth Street and the waterfront.

    “There are still environmental issues … having the stored oil in those tanks so close to homes, ground pollution issues, vapors from the big tanks,” said Frank Gordon of Pittsburg, a vocal opponent of the project in the past.

    The City Council on Monday is expected to approve another review of the proposed oil storage facility’s environmental impact reports — this time excluding the prospect of rail deliveries.

    The WesPac plan, as presented in October 2013, included facilities just north of Parkside Avenue — south of the tank farm — to handle as many as five 104-car oil trainloads a week.

    Art Diefenbach, WesPac’s Pittsburg project manager then and now, said this week that the “regulatory environment” surrounding rail shipments of crude oil — in particular, the more volatile Bakken crude from an area covering parts of North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan in Canada — isn’t stable enough to plan a major project around.

    “We just can’t proceed with that uncertainty floating out there,” said Diefenbach, also noting that falling crude prices help make shipping oil by rail a less attractive alternative, at least in the short term.

    He said protests against the crude oil trains — in Pittsburg, the East Bay and the nation — were a factor in the plan change, too. Such decisions, he said, “are always a combination of factors.”

    Oil trains, he said, are out of the picture for the foreseeable future.

    Several communities in the East Bay have expressed alarm in recent months about the transport of crude by rail through the region in the wake of several high-profile derailments and accidents in North America in recent years, including one in Quebec in 2013 that killed 47 people and destroyed part of a town. At a meeting in Crockett last week, residents raised concerns about plans to ship oil by rail through Contra Costa County and other parts of the Bay Area to a refinery in Central California.

    Without trains, all oil arriving at the WesPac facility would be via either ship or a pipeline from the southern reaches of the Central Valley.

    Pittsburg Mayor Pete Longmire said removing the trains from the WesPac equation should result in a safer project for the community. “And it’s probably less controversial than before,” he said.

    Although the council will decide Monday night on only an amendment to one of the project’s environmental studies, Longmire expects a large crowd to turn out to discuss what many still likely see as a polluting facility that could present a health danger to the hundreds of people who live near the old tanks.

    WesPac Energy, as the company was called then, first applied in March 2011 for needed permits to renovate and restart the former PG&E oil storage and transfer facilities off West 10th Street on the city’s northwestern edge. The $200 million project calls for an average of 242,000 barrels of crude or partially refined crude oil to be unloaded daily from ships on the nearby Sacramento River, and from pipelines, and stored in 16 tanks on 125 acres.

    The oil would then be moved to Contra Costa County refineries, and the Valero refinery in Benicia, via pipeline for processing.

    The Pittsburg Defense Council, a group of opponents to the WesPac project in general, had decried the prospect of Bakken crude oil coming into town for unloading. Some already has rolled through Pittsburg on BNSF rails, destined for a Kinder-Morgan facility in Richmond.

    Diefenbach said that, assuming various approvals come at a typical pace, construction could begin in early 2016, and likely would take from 18 to 24 months.

    Longmire said he doesn’t have strong feelings about WesPac either way at this point but insists that the project — with its jobs and its boost to the local economy — must be safe. Gordon said he is still leaning against it. They agree, though, the formal permitting process must be allowed to play out.

    Said Gordon, “We’ll have to see what they do with the new” environmental impact report.

    If you go…

    The Pittsburg City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall council chamber, 65 Civic Ave. in Pittsburg. The public is welcome.

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      Concerns of communities heard at meeting of the Cal Energy Commission in Crockett CA

      Repost from The Contra Costa Times

      Contra Costa residents pushing for more information on crude by rail

      By Karina Ioffee, Bay Area News Group,  03/27/2015 05:22:01 PM PDT

      CROCKETT — With plans in the works to transport crude oil by rail through Contra Costa County cities to a Central California refinery, local residents say they want assurances that state and federal agencies are doing everything they can to keep them safe.

      Less than 1 percent of crude that California refineries received in 2014 came by rail, but the negative perception of transporting oil by train has grown sharply because of highly publicized accidents. A derailment in Quebec in 2013 killed 47 people and destroyed parts of a town; another in West Virginia contaminated local water sources and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

      Tanker cars sit on railroad tracks near the Shell Refinery in Martinez on May 6, 2013.
      Tanker cars sit on railroad tracks near the Shell Refinery in Martinez on May 6, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

      If the Phillips 66 plans are approved, an estimated five trains a week, each hauling 80 tank cars, could travel through Contra Costa cities, then Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose along the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, before arriving at the refinery in Santa Maria.

      At a community meeting here Thursday, residents peppered a representative from the California Energy Commission about what kind of emergency plans were in place should a train derail and explode, what timelines the federal government had for new and improved tanker cars, and whether railroad companies have enough insurance in case of a catastrophic event.

      Many came away unsatisfied with what they heard, saying they were terrified by the prospect of rail cars filled with Bakken crude from North Dakota, which is lighter and more combustible than most types of petroleum.

      “The oil companies are getting all the benefits and the communities who live near them are taking all the risk,” said Nancy Rieser, who lives in Crockett and is a member of Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment, a community organization.

      Her group is pushing the railroad industry to release its risk-assessment information, required for insurance purposes, to better understand what kind of plans companies have in an event of an emergency and whether their insurance policies would cover a large incident. Railroad companies have so far declined to release the information.

      “You need to have hospitals at the ready, you need to have first responders, so if you keep it a secret, it’s as if the plan didn’t exist,” Rieser said. “You can’t be coy with the communities.”

      Regulations about rail safety are written and enforced by the Federal Railroad Administration, and the California Public Utilities Commission focuses on enforcement in the state, employing inspectors to make sure railroads comply with the law. There is also an alphabet soup of state agencies such as the Office of Emergency Services (OES), the Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR).

      But to what extent the agencies are working together to prepare for crude-by-rail transports and how they’re sharing information remains unclear. Last year, an Interagency Rail Safety Working Group, put together by Gov. Jerry Brown, produced a report recommending that additional inspectors be hired to evaluate tracks, rail cars and bridges; more training for local emergency responders; and real-time shipment information to local firefighters when a train is passing through a community. According to the report, incidents statewide involving oil by rail increased from three in 2011 to 25 in 2013.

      Many at Thursday’s meeting said the only way to prevent future accidents was to ban the transport of crude by rail completely, until all rail cars and tracks had been inspected.

      “These trains are really scary because we live so close to them and we feel the effects deeply through emissions and air pollution,” said Aimee Durfee, a Martinez resident. Statewide, Californians use more than 40 million gallons of gasoline each day, according to the California Energy Commission.

      Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said railroad companies are already shifting to new cars — outfitted with heat shields, thicker tank material and pressure-relief devices — although the process is gradual because of the sheer volume of the fleet, estimated at more than 25,000. New rulings specifying tanker car standards and timelines about phasing in updated technology are also expected this May.

      “No human activity is completely risk-free,” Weinstein said, adding that the spill rate for trains transporting crude was roughly four times higher than accidents involving pipelines.

      “Communities are resistant to crude by rail and they are against pipelines, but they also want to go to the pump and be able to fill up their car.”

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