Tag Archives: Draft EIR

Yolo County Board of Supervisors critical of Valero Draft EIR

[Editor: The Yolo County Board of Supervisors submitted an incredibly important letter to the City of Benicia critical of the Draft EIR for Valero Crude by Rail.  In their letter, the Board lays out the importance under California law of taking into account indirect impacts beyond those of the immediate project, including “upstream” communities along the rails in Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano, and Contra Costa counties.  Benicia organizers offer profound thanks to our “uprail” neighbors whose health and safety concerns are also ours.  Below is a brief excerpt.  For the full document in PDF format, click here.  – RS]

Yolo County Board of Supervisors

July 15, 2014


Amy Million, Principal Planner
Community Development Department
250 East L Street
Benicia, CA 94510

RE: Valero Benicia Crude by Rail

Dear Ms. Million:

Yolo County has reviewed the City of Benicia’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (“DEIR”) related to the project at the Valero Oil Refinery that would result in the daily delivery of 70,000 barrels of oil by rail to the Refinery (the “Valero Project”). The Valero Project would move approximately 80% of Valero’s crude deliveries from ocean tankers to railways that traverse through our local communities and sensitive environmental resources.  Notwithstanding the change in where the oil is traveling, the DEIR pays little attention to the potential upstream effects of increased oil by rail shipments through Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano, and Contra Costa counties.

As discussed below, the DEIR provides only a brief review of the environmental, safety, and noise effects on upstream communities. This DEIR justifies this cursory analysis because the effects are “indirect” and not in the Project’s immediate vicinity.  […continued…]

Vallejo Times-Herald: Letter to the Editor by Kathy Kerridge

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald, LETTERS

Kathy Kerridge: You make the call in Benicia

Vallejo Times-Herald, Letters, 06/26/2014  

Benicia is being asked to make a huge decision regarding our health and safety by approving Valero’s Crude by Rail project, which would bring 100 carloads of crude oil into Benicia each day.

This crude could be the same that has been involved in explosive derailments all over the United States and Canada, including one incident that caused the death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. It could also be from the Canadian tar sands, which has proved impossible to clean up in a spill.

Our planning commission wisely determined that an Environmental Impact Report be done to evaluate this project. It is now our turn to weigh in on this important document. That seems a bit daunting since most of us have never heard of or read an environmental impact report. Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community will be holding a workshop on how the average person can read at comment on this report. The workshop runs on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Benicia Library.

This project has enormous implications for our city, county and state. You have the opportunity to shape the decision.

Kathy Kerridge
Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

Sacramento Bee editorial: First steps on oil train safety, but more to do

Repost from The Sacramento Bee
[Editor: The Bee’s editorial board hit the nail on the head, but not hard enough.  Which is to say, the editors have joined with the chorus of legislators who want a good patch job for train wrecks that they presume are unstoppable.  Oil train safety would be best guaranteed by pressing the federal government to ban oil trains.  Allowing these “bomb trains” to rumble through our communities approaches criminal recklessness, and should be stopped.  Big business does not – or at least should not – dictate the direction we take as a nation.  – RS]

Editorial: First steps on oil train safety, but more to do

By the Editorial Board   |  Jun. 19, 2014
G092G6L04.3Staff Photographer
Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento announced legislation in April to require more disclosure to emergency officials of oil shipments by rail. Randall Benton

These are not all the steps that are needed, but it’s good to see the Legislature trying to get ahead of a potential (oil) train wreck.  As part of the budget they approved Sunday, legislators added seven rail safety inspectors. They also included a 6.5-cent fee proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown on each barrel of crude oil that comes to California by rail. The $11 million or so raised annually will be used to prevent and clean up oil spills, especially in inland waterways.

On Monday, the state Senate passed a resolution urging the federal government to pass laws and rules to protect communities from oil train accidents, including tougher standards on tank cars, and to put “safety over cost effectiveness.” That sends an important message because so far, federal officials have not required enough of railroads and oil companies – either in safety measures or public disclosure – to keep pace with a rapid increase in rail shipments of oil extracted through hydraulic fracturing, especially in Canada and North Dakota.

But there’s more that California officials can do.

Sens. Jerry Hill of San Mateo and Lois Wolk of Davis have a bill for a second as-yet unspecified shipping fee on oil companies to fund training and equipment for firefighters and other first responders. A recent state report found that 40 percent of local firefighters are volunteers who generally don’t have the resources to handle major hazardous material spills.

First responders often don’t have all the information they need, either, as reporting by The Sacramento Bee has made clear. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento is pushing a bill to require companies to tell emergency officials about crude oil shipments. The latest version does away with an exemption from the state public records law; instead it says reports would be deemed “proprietary information” that could only be shared with “government personnel with emergency response, planning or security-related responsibilities on a need-to-know basis.”

Time is of the essence since oil trains could be running through the Sacramento region later this year. Valero Refining Co. is seeking approval to route two 50-car oil trains a day through Roseville, Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis to its refinery in Benicia.

An environmental impact report released Tuesday offers some reassurances but no guarantees. The draft report concludes that while a crash or spill could be catastrophic, the likelihood of an incident is “very low.” The probability of a spill of 100 gallons or more along the 69 miles between Roseville and Benicia is calculated at once every 111 years.

Yet, it has happened elsewhere – six major oil train crashes in North America just in the last year, including the horrific fireball in Quebec that killed 47 residents.

More than 135,000 people in Sacramento and 25,000 in Davis live within a half-mile of rail tracks, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported Wednesday. They’re counting on legislators to do all they can to make sure oil trains pass safely through our cities.

Woodland Democrat: Senator Lois Wolk responds to draft environmental report on crude shipments

Repost from the Woodland Democrat

Senator Lois Wolk responds to draft environmental report on crude shipments

By DigitalFirst, 06/20/2014

Environmental documents released this week report that there are “significant and unavoidable” air quality impacts if a project from a local refinery to move crude-by-rail moves forward.

That’s not going far enough, however, according to Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis.

The Valero Benicia Refinery is seeking approval to bring two 50-tanker car trains of crude oil in and out of Benicia every day, replacing crude shipments by boat. A draft environmental impact report on the plan was released earlier this week.

Valero officials have said the project is necessary to remain competitive on the West Coast. Opponents, however, have raised concerns about the type of crude that could be coming in those tanker cars, such as highly flammable oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, or Canadian tars sands oil, regarded as more polluting than other crude stocks.

Wolk, who has authored a bill to provide funding for cities to adequately respond to rail emergencies, weighed in on the Draft Environmental Impact Report Thursday.

“The community was wise to demand an EIR for this project,” Wolk said in a prepared statement. “Now that we have one, I seriously question whether the EIR has adequately evaluated the true risk of an accident or a spill involved with this project. In the past year there have been six major incidents across North America where rail accidents resulted in millions of gallons of spilled crude oil. Yet the EIR estimates the risk of oil train spills between Roseville and Benicia would be about only once per 111 years? That defies logic and is a risky assumption based on recent experience. It only takes one minor mishap to cause a major accident or spill and potentially catastrophic impacts to the heavily populated communities through which these trains will run.”

Wolk said the risk requires more action.

“Given the risk from possible spills and accidents involving this hazardous cargo and the project’s anticipated effect on air quality, I urge the City of Benicia, Valero, and Union Pacific to work with the community to implement extraordinary safety measures to guarantee public safety if this project moves forward,” she said.

Wolk, along with Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, authored Senate Bill 506 to provide funding to help communities like Benicia provide adequate emergency response to accidents and spills involving rail transports of crude oil and other hazardous materials.

“California needs to keep in step with the significant increase in shipments of these dangerous materials in order to respond to the growing risk to California’s citizens,” she said.

The EIR also noted that the project would result in “no impact” or “less-than-significant” impacts locally to biological resources, cultural resources, energy conservation, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards and hazardous materials, water quality, land use and planning and noise.

The roughly 1,500-page report will be circulated for a 45-day public comment period ending on Aug. 1, city officials said.

For safe and healthy communities…