Tag Archives: Environmental review

An Ethical Case Against Valero Crude By Rail

By Roger D. Straw, Benicia Herald Editor
October 30, 2015

Roger D. StrawIn June of 2013, I wrote a guest opinion for the Benicia Herald, “Do Benicians want tar-sands oil brought here?” I had just learned that the City of Benicia staff was proposing to give Valero Refinery a quick and easy pass to begin construction of an offloading rack for oil trains carrying “North American crude.” Valero was seeking permission to begin bringing in two 50-car Union Pacific trains every day, filled with a crude oil. Valero and the City would not disclose where the oil was coming from, but everyone knew of the boom in production in Canada (tar-sands crude) and North Dakota (Bakken crude).

At that time, my most pressing concern was that Benicia, my home town, not be the cause of destruction elsewhere. Tar-sands oil strip mining is the dirtiest, most energy-intensive and environmentally destructive oil production method in the world. It struck me then, and it still does, as a moral issue. Our beautiful small City on the Carquinez has a conscience. We have a global awareness and a responsibility to all who live uprail of our fair city. Our decisions have consequences beyond our border.

My article, and my conscience-driven concern, came BEFORE the massive and deadly oil train explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. That wreck and the many horrific explosions that followed involving Bakken crude oil and tar-sands “dilbit” (diluted bitumen) became the sad poster children of a movement to STOP crude by rail. It became all too easy for Benicians to base our opposition on a very legitimate self-protective fear. Not here. Not in our back yard. No explosions in OUR Industrial Park, in our town, on our pristine bit of coastal waters.

But fear mustn’t deaden our heart.

I was encouraged to read in the City’s recent Revised Draft EIR, that the document would analyze environmental impacts all the way to the train’s point of origin, including North Dakota and Canada:

“In response to requests made in comments on the DEIR, the City is issuing this Revised DEIR for public input to consider potential impacts that could occur “uprail” of Roseville, California (i.e., between a crude oil train’s point of origin and the California State border, and from the border to Roseville) and to supplement the DEIR’s evaluation of the potential consequences of upsets or accidents involving crude oil trains based on new information that has become available since the DEIR was published.” [emphasis added]

Sadly, the City’s consultants never made good on their intention. Our moral obligation to those uprail of Benicia extends, according to the consultants, to our neighbors in Fairfield, Vacaville, Davis, Sacramento, Roseville and to the good folks and mountain treasures beyond, but ONLY TO CALIFORNIA’S BORDER. What happens at the source, in Canada where boreal forests and humans and wildlife are dying; what happens in North Dakota where the night is now lit and the earth is polluted wholesale with oil fracking machinery – what happens there is of no concern to Benicians. Too far away to care. Their air, their land, their water is not our air, land and water. Evidently, according to our highly paid consultants, this is not, after all, one planet.

Or is it?

Our Planning Commissioners have more than a civic duty. They and we are called morally and ethically to understand our larger role in climate change and to protect the earth and its inhabitants. Our decision has consequences.

Together, we can STOP crude by rail.

Only two weeks (no, one week!) left to voice your opposition to Valero Crude By Rail

October 16, 2016

Send a letter of opposition today!

Below are just a few of the reasons you can cite in your letter to the City.  These points came from a handout by Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community.  Here are two other letter guides: Center for Biological Diversity and ForestEthics.  Send your email to : amillion@ci.benicia.ca.us or send to  Amy Million, Principal Planner, City of Benicia, 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510.

• Tank car design is inadequate, with extremely poor safety records – BOTH DOT-111 AND the “safer” CPC-1232 cars are not safe and have derailed and exploded in other communities.  The  federal government can’t agree on a safe car and its years away from being implemented.
• New Federal Department of Transportation Rules (May, 2015) are inadequate and do not move quickly enough.
• Derailed oil trains that explode cannot be extinguished and so are left to burn themselves out which takes several days.  Emergency response plans are non-existent for a catastrophic derailment and explosion.
• The RDEIR proposes three dangerous routes: a) through the Sierras, the Feather River route – note the recent corn car derailment with resulting spill in the Feather River, b) the Dunsmuir route with the historic spill into the River and c) the Truckee / Donner Lake route with its treacherous mountain grades and beautiful resort areas.  All 3 routes go through areas described by the state as high hazard areas for derailments.  What are the risks of fires in our mountains and spills into all of the waterways the trains pass over?
• We question the statistics on the possible rates of derailments and train explosions.
• High hazard flammable trains will be going through highly populated areas like Davis and Sacramento when the National Transportation Safety Board says they should be rerouted whenever possible away from populated areas.
• Union Pacific can run trains any time they want to and even send in two train shipments in one day.  Neither the City of Benicia nor Valero have control over routes, cars, and shipment times.  Note statements about “federal pre-emption” in the appendices.
• What are the economic risks if there was a derailment and explosion and the refinery was to catch on fire?  Valero’s tank farm is in the blast zone.
• The Draft Revised EIR says there are significant hazards to the public through a reasonably foreseeable accident.  Why would we tolerate this?
• What are the environmental impacts when such extreme methods to get the oil, such as fracking and basically strip mining for tar sands are used to get the oil that is coming by rail?

• There’s lots more – add your own concerns – speak from the heart and with conviction!

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community
(707) 742-3597

Opposed to Crude by Rail and/or critical of the EIR

• Over 1300 who signed the petition (mostly Benicians)
• Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community (SafeBenicia.org and on Facebook at StopCrudeByRail)
• Hundreds of Benicians and others who wrote letters calling into question the claims of the Environmental Impact Report
• California’s Attorney General
• The Sacramento Area Council of Governments
• The City of Davis, California
• Natural Resources Defense Council
• Sierra Club
• ForestEthics
• Center for Biological Diversity
• EarthJustice
• Sunflower Alliance
• Communities for a Better Environment
• Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition (BARCC)
• Crocket Rodeo United to Defend the Environment (C.R.U.D.E.)
• Idle No More – Bay Area
• Martinez Environmental Group
• 350 Bay Area
• Global Community Monitor
• … and many more

More information:

Take Action (including more info on letter-writing)
Project Documents (Valero’s proposal)
Project Review (letters on the EIR submitted by agencies and individuals)
Local Media Coverage (letters to the news media)






We have moved into the final phase of the City of Benicia’s comment period.  Your voice is important as the Planning Commission

Valero Crude By Rail – Public comment period for RDEIR extended to 60-day review period

Email announcement from the City of Benicia

Friday, September 25, 2015 2:20 PM

UPDATE: Public comment period for Valero CBR RDEIR extended to 60-day review period

In response to requests by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the public comment period for the RDEIR has been extended to a 60-day review period ending on October 30, 2015.

The City of Benicia Planning Commission will hold a formal public hearing to receive comments on the RDEIR on September 29, 2015. In anticipation of the number of speakers, additional Planning Commission meetings to receive comments on the RDEIR are scheduled for September 30, October 1, and October 8, 2015. These additional meetings will only be held as necessary to hear public comment. All meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, Benicia City Hall, located at 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510.  Comments on the RDEIR may be provided at the public hearing, or may be submitted in writing, no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 30, 2015.

Submit your comment: No oil trains in Benicia, no oil trains in California

Repost from ForestEthics
[Editor:  The link here will take you to ForestEthics’ excellent AND EASY sign-on page, where you can submit your thoughts, concerns and questions  to the City of Benicia.  This is critical NOW, as the Benicia Planning Commission considers whether to permit a new oil train facility in California.  – RS]

Submit your comment: No oil trains in Benicia, no oil trains in California

STOP Crude By Rail in Benicia California!

Right now is a critical moment in the fight to stop oil trains in California. Oil giant Valero wants to build a massive oil trains terminal at its Benicia refinery.

Act now to urge Benicia’s decision makers to reject Valero’s proposed oil train terminal.

Should Valero get its way, oil trains carrying explosive and toxic extreme crude will travel daily through Northern California – including right behind California’s state capitol building – en route to the Benicia refinery. The project’s environmental review even admits that impacts from “hazardous materials” will be “significant and unavoidable.” This risk is unacceptable.

Aside from the public health and safety dangers of oil trains, we know that this project is a disaster for the climate. Building a new oil train terminal now locks Benicia into decades of using some of the most carbon-intensive oil on the planet: Canadian tar sands and fracked North Dakota Bakken crude. At a time when wildfires are raging and the drought continues to worsen, our communities need to invest in safe, healthy, clean energy projects that build climate resilience.

Submit your comments now: No oil trains in Benicia, no oil trains in California.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to support grassroots organizing led by Benicians for a Safe & Healthy Community as we prepare for upcoming public hearings on Valero’s oil trains proposal. We hope you consider joining us by attending the Planning Commission hearing on September 29 or volunteering with the campaign.

Thanks for all you do,

Ethan Buckner
ForestEthics Extreme Oil Campaigner