Tag Archives: Environmental Impacts

Don’t lift ban on export of U.S. oil

Repost from the Asbury Park Press

MEHRHOFF: Don’t lift ban on export of U.S. oil

OPINION | Jessie Mehrhoff, November 12, 2015 11:21 a.m. EST
ThinkstockPhotos-495757792
(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s the fundamental connection between environmental degradation and human health that has me concerned about the prospect of Congress lifting the U.S. oil export ban, which will worsen climate change and threaten our communities with toxic spills.

The list of risks climate change poses to human health is long. Increased temperatures will spread tropical diseases to new latitudes. Heat waves will cause more deaths across the world. Warmer temperatures will lead to more health-threatening smog and decrease crop yields. Detailing these impacts and more in 2009, “The Lancet,” one of the world’s most respected medical journals, labeled climate change ‘the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”

These aren’t just future consequences, to be experienced on the other side of the globe. In New Jersey, we still face the impacts of superstorm Sandy three years later. Climate scientists at Rutgers University predict even more extreme weather if climate change goes unchecked.

In addition to these consequences, the American Lung Association’s 2015 State of the Air report card has given Monmouth County an “F” for the number of high-ozone level days, and finds more than 56,000 people in the county suffer from asthma. Climate change is only going to make numbers such as this climb as our air quality worsens.

To avoid global warming’s most devastating health impacts, we must end our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to pollution-free, renewable energy. Lifting our decades-old ban on the export of U.S.-produced oil represents the opposite course.

If the oil companies have a larger distribution market for oil produced in the U.S., they will drill more — upward of another 3.3 million barrels per day for the next 20 years, by some General Accounting Office estimates. Even if only a fraction of all this extra oil is burned, global warming pollution could still increase 22 million metric tons per year — the equivalent of five average-sized coal power plants.

In addition to worsening climate change, there’s the public health threat of transporting additional oil across the country. While most crude oil is shipped around the U.S. by pipeline, shipments by rail have been increasing. To keep up with increased demand, oil trains have grown larger and tow more tanker cars than ever before.

Currently, trains carrying highly flammable crude oil travel through 11 of the 21 counties in New Jersey —Mercer, Middlesex, Gloucester, Somerset, Hunterdon, Bergen, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Union and Warren — en route to refineries. These oil trains are an accident waiting to happen, and have spurred trainings across the state where firefighters, police and other emergency responders have prepared courses of action in an oil derailment emergency.

The fear of oil train accidents — where toxic crude oil is spilled into our communities — is not hyperbole. Accidents have been on the rise, with more oil accidentally dumped into our environment in 2013 alone than during the previous three decades combined.

In 2015, we’ve already seen three major oil train accidents. In Mount Carbon, West Virginia, a rail oil spill led to evacuations and a governor-declared state of emergency. In Galena, Illinois, a spill threatened to pollute the Mississippi River. A spill in Heimdal, North Dakota, forced the evacuation of a town.

If we are to prevent these accidents from taking place in the 11 New Jersey counties through which these trains travel, we must work to reduce the amount of oil these trains carry. Transporting the increased oil we would produce domestically if the oil export ban were lifted could require enough trains to span the country from Los Angeles to Boston seven times over.

Increasing our nation’s crude oil drilling and transportation by lifting our decades’ old ban on exports leads to more risk, not less. And the inconvenient truth of lifting the oil export ban means more drilling, more global warming pollution, and more threats to public health.

There is a way around lifting the oil export ban in the first place. President Obama is against lifting the ban, and the measure only narrowly cleared a Senate committee earlier in the month. That’s why we need Sen. Cory Booker to join Sen. Bob Menendez in standing strong against the oil industry and to vote to keep the ban in place — for the sake of the environment and public health.

Jessie Mehrhoff is lead organizer with Environment New Jersey, a citizen-based environmental advocacy organization.
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    CREDO Action generates over 1,800 letters opposing Valero Crude by Rail

    Repost from CREDO Action
    [Editor:  The following call to action arrived in thousands of email inboxes on October 27, 2015.  The response was huge – so far over 1800 CREDO-generated letters have been sent to the City of Benicia (in the first 24 hours).   The link here will take you to the CREDO Action page.  Letters deadline is 5pm on Friday, October 30, 2015.  – RS]

    Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero’s dangerous oil trains terminal

    Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero's dangerous oil trains terminal.

    Oil giant Valero is trying to build a massive oil trains terminal at its refinery in Benicia.

    Two 50-car oil trains per day would carry toxic fracked oil and tar sands across California to the refinery, passing through Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Fairfield and other cities before reaching their destination in Benicia.¹

    If approved by the Benicia City Council, the terminal would exacerbate local air pollution in Benicia and in communities along the rail route, expose those communities to the catastrophic danger of an oil train derailment and explosion, and fuel the climate crisis by encouraging fracking and tar sands extraction.

    The Benicia City Council is accepting public comments on the project until 5pm on Friday, October 30, 2015. Local opposition has already delayed the project once – we need to speak out right now and demand that the city council block Valero’s dangerous oil terminal.²

    Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero’s dangerous oil trains terminal. Submit a public comment directly to the city council.

    The number of crude by rail accidents in recent years has skyrocketed. In addition to the deadly oil train explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Québec in July 2013, which killed 47 people, there have been nine major oil train explosions in the United States since the start of 2013.

    In addition to the threat of deadly train derailments and explosions, Valero’s plan would worsen air quality for communities all along the rail line. In Benicia, shipping more fracked oil and tar sands to Valero’s refinery would only increase toxic refinery pollution. Further, oil trains leak dangerous chemicals, creating a toxic plume around rail lines up and down the rail route.³

    With no end in sight to the record drought threatening California, there is simply no excuse for green-lighting any fossil fuel infrastructure project that will encourage the extraction of more dirty fracked oil and tar sands and exacerbating climate change.

    Valero will get its way if we remain silent. Submit a public comment urging the Benicia City Council to reject Valero’s crude by rail project.

    ¹ Jaxon Van Derbeken, “Benicia sees cash in crude oil; neighbors see catastrophe,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 2014
    ² Tony Bizjak, “Benicia plans more study of crude-oil train impacts,” Sacramento Bee, February 3, 2015
    ³ Diane Bailey, “Valero’s Promise to Benicia: We’ll only have an environmental disaster once every 111 years,” NRDC Switchboard, September 17, 2014

    Send an email.

    Tell the Benicia City Council:

    Valero’s outrageous proposal to build an oil trains terminal at its refinery in Benicia threatens the health and safety of people all along the rail route.

    If approved by the Benicia City Council, the terminal would exacerbate local air pollution in Benicia and in communities along the rail route, expose those communities to the catastrophic danger of an oil train derailment and explosion, and fuel the climate crisis by encouraging fracking and tar sands extraction.

    I urge the Planning Commission and the City Council to reject Valero’s dangerous plan.

    Click here to send this email.

    Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero's dangerous oil trains terminal.

    Oil giant Valero is trying to build a massive oil trains terminal at its refinery in Benicia.

    Two 50-car oil trains per day would carry toxic fracked oil and tar sands across California to the refinery, passing through Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Fairfield and other cities before reaching their destination in Benicia.¹

    If approved by the Benicia City Council, the terminal would exacerbate local air pollution in Benicia and in communities along the rail route, expose those communities to the catastrophic danger of an oil train derailment and explosion, and fuel the climate crisis by encouraging fracking and tar sands extraction.

    The Benicia City Council is accepting public comments on the project until Friday. Local opposition has already delayed the project once – we need to speak out right now and demand that the city council block Valero’s dangerous oil terminal.²

    Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero’s dangerous oil trains terminal. Submit a public comment directly to the city council.

    The number of crude by rail accidents in recent years has skyrocketed. In addition to the deadly oil train explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Québec in July 2013, which killed 47 people, there have been nine major oil train explosions in the United States since the start of 2013.

    In addition to the threat of deadly train derailments and explosions, Valero’s plan would worsen air quality for communities all along the rail line. In Benicia, shipping more fracked oil and tar sands to Valero’s refinery would only increase toxic refinery pollution. Further, oil trains leak dangerous chemicals, creating a toxic plume around rail lines up and down the rail route.³

    With no end in sight to the record drought threatening California, there is simply no excuse for green-lighting any fossil fuel infrastructure project that will encourage the extraction of more dirty fracked oil and tar sands and exacerbating climate change.

    Valero will get its way if we remain silent. Submit a public comment urging the Benicia City Council to reject Valero’s crude by rail project.

    ¹ Jaxon Van Derbeken, “Benicia sees cash in crude oil; neighbors see catastrophe,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 2014
    ² Tony Bizjak, “Benicia plans more study of crude-oil train impacts,” Sacramento Bee, February 3, 2015
    ³ Diane Bailey, “Valero’s Promise to Benicia: We’ll only have an environmental disaster once every 111 years,” NRDC Switchboard, September 17, 2014

     

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      CALL TO ACTION: Public Comment on Revised DEIR for Valero Crude By Rail

      Repost from Stop Crude By Rail Facebook Event (by Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, SafeBenicia.org)

      HearingCALLTOACTION2015-09-29
      Click on the image to go to the Facebook event page. Let them know if you plan to attend.

      CALL TO ACTION: Public Comment on
      Revised DEIR for Valero Crude By Rail
      ~ Planning Commission Hearing ~
      Tuesday, September 29, at 5:30pm
      Benicia City Council Chambers

      The City of Benicia Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report (RDEIR) for a proposed crude-by-rail project. The proposed project would allow the Benicia Valero Refinery to receive up to 70,000 barrels per day of its crude by rail. The project involves installation of a new railcar unloading rack, rail track spurs, pumps, pipeline and other infrastructure at the refinery.

      The environmental analysis conducted to date indicates that there would be significant and unavoidable impacts on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous materials and biological resources.

      Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community and many other governmental agencies, organizations, businesses and individuals have also determined that there are huge safety risks, not only for Benicia, but for all communities and the environment along the entire uprail line from the extraction point to it’s destination in Benicia.

      Please join us to voice your concerns about the added environmental impacts and safety risks that this project will add, by attending the first hearing on the RDEIR.

      If you have any questions on this hearing, please contact our spokesperson Andrés Soto by calling him at (707) 742-3597 or emailing us at info@safebenicia.org.

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        BENICIA HERALD: Long-awaited reissue cites ‘significant’ environmental impacts; public given 45 days to comment

        Repost from the Benicia Herald

        Revised, expanded crude-by-rail report released

        Long-awaited reissue cites ‘significant’ environmental impacts; public given 45 days to comment

        By Nick Sestanovich, September 1, 2015

        “Because no reasonable, feasible mitigation measures are available that would, if implemented, reduce the significance below the established threshold, this secondary hazards- and hazardous materials-related impact would be significant and unavoidable.”  – The Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report on Valero’s Crude-by-Rail Project

        The long-awaited revision of the draft Valero Crude-by-Rail Project Environmental Impact Report was released Monday, almost a full year after California’s attorney general and others publicly challenged the scope and accuracy of the document.

        The new report cited additional negative environmental effects of the project pertaining to air quality, greenhouse gases, protected species and more, expanding its scope to cover impacts for more “uprail” communities — and finding “significant and unavoidable” effects that would result from approval of the project.

        The “recirculated” report (RDEIR) is just the latest development in Valero’s three-year battle to bring crude oil deliveries to its Benicia refinery by train. The proposal for a use permit to extend Union Pacific Railroad lines into its property so crude oil could be delivered by rail car, initially submitted to Benicia Planning Commission in late 2012, triggered an uproar over environmental and safety concerns, which prompted the drafting of an Environmental Impact Report.

        The document, released in 2014, was criticized by many, including Attorney General Kamala Harris and state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who felt the report’s focus on the 69 miles of rail between Benicia and Roseville didn’t adequately convey the scope of the project’s potentially negative impacts.

        The RDEIR addressed these concerns by expanding the range of its focus beyond Roseville to three new routes: the Oregon state line to Roseville; the Nevada state line to northern Roseville; and the Nevada state line to southern Roseville.

        In the process, the report uncovered more significant environmental impacts.

        The refinery has said it expected 50 to 100 additional rail cars to arrive up to twice a day, brought in at a time of day when there would be little impact on traffic. The trains would carry 70,000 barrels of North American crude each day, replacing shipped barrels from foreign sources, the refinery said in its use permit application.

        The DEIR had initially noted that greenhouse gas emissions generated by the Crude-by-Rail Project would be “less than significant.” The RDEIR updated the risk level of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions to “significant and unavoidable,” specifically if trains used the line from Oregon to Roseville, which would travel a round-trip distance of 594 miles per day.

        Additionally, the RDEIR found that the project would conflict with Executive Order S-3-05, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

        The revised report also found that nitrogen-oxide levels would increase in the Yolo-Solano region, among other areas, and that nitrogen emissions in Placer County “would exceed the cumulative 10-pounds-per-day significance threshold.”

        Biological resources are another area of concern. According to the report, crude-by-rail trains could have “potential impacts to biological resources along any southern route,” that “could include collision-related injury and mortality to protected wildlife and migratory bird species.”

        Finally, the RDEIR said, other hazards exist: If a train were to crash and result in a small oil spill, there would be a 100-percent chance of 100 gallons or more being released. Similarly, should a train crash in a high fire danger area, the risks would be inevitable.

        As the report notes, “Because no reasonable, feasible mitigation measures are available that would, if implemented, reduce the significance below the established threshold, this secondary hazards- and hazardous materials-related impact would be significant and unavoidable.”

        Conversely, other areas of concern such as noise pollution and earthquakes, were found to have little or no significant impact.

        “Valero’s effort to rush through their dangerous project and their long record of constant violations and fines of Bay Area Air Quality Management District emissions rules give many of us pause to reflect on the many risks associated with this project,” said Andres Soto, a Benicia resident and member of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, a group formed to opposed the Crude-by-Rail Project.

        “It is only due to the volume and detail of scope of all of the public comments received on the original Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) that Benicia chose to recirculate a seriously flawed DEIR. California Attorney General Kamala Harris and many uprail communities, as well as many Benicians, including BSHC, identified many critical shortcomings with the original DEIR.

        “Valero has shown nothing but intransigence and misinformation in the face of this opposition to its flawed proposal, thus we do not expect much to have changed in the RDEIR from the DEIR that would convince us that Valero and Union Pacific Railroad can make this project safe enough for Benicia. The risk of catastrophic explosions along the rail line and in Benicia, and the plan to process dirtier extreme crude oils strip-mined from Canadian tar sands and fracked in the Bakken shale formation is just too dangerous for our safety and our environment.

        “We hope that after thoroughly reviewing the RDEIR, our Planning Commission and City Council will have the wisdom to deny this project for the good of Benicia, our neighboring communities and the good of our planet.”

        A Valero representative was asked to comment on the newly released report but did not respond by press time Monday.

        Copies of the RDEIR are available at Benicia Public Library, 150 East L St.; at the Community Development Department at Benicia City Hall, 250 East L St.; and as a PDF download on the city’s website, www.ci.benicia.ca.us.

        Public comments on the RDEIR will be accepted by the city until Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. Comments may be submitted in writing to Amy Million, principal planner of the Community Development Department, 250 East L St., Benicia, CA 94510; or they may be given at formal public hearings on the project by Benicia Planning Commission, the first of which will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at City Hall.

        Additional Planning Commission meetings to receive comments on the RDEIR are scheduled for Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.

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