Tag Archives: Global Community Monitor

LETTER OF OPPOSITION: Five environmental attorneys and others

By Roger Straw, March 31, 2016

On March 31, five environmental attorneys and a host of experts and others (including Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community) sent the Benicia City Council this strong 3-page letter of opposition to Valero’s oil trains proposal.  (For a much longer download, see the Letter with Attachments [13 MB, 214 pages].)

Attorney signatories:

    • Jackie Prange, Staff Attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council;
    • Roger Lin, Staff Attorney for Communities for a Better Environment;
    • George Torgun, Managing Attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper;
    • Clare Lakewood, Staff Attorney for Center for Biological Diversity;
    • Elly Benson, Staff Attorney for Sierra Club.

Others signing the letter:

    • Ethan Buckner, ForestEthics;
    • Katherine Black, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community;
    • Janet Johnson, Richmond Progressive Alliance;
    • David McCoard, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter;
    • Jessica Hendricks, Global Community Monitor;
    • Colin Miller, Bay Localize;
    • Denny Larson, Community Science Institute;
    • Nancy Rieser, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment;
    • Steve Nadel, Sunflower Alliance;
    • Kalli Graham, Pittsburg Defense Council;
    • Richard Gray, 350 Bay Area and 350 Marin;
    • Bradley Angel, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice;
    • Sandy Saeturn, Asian Pacific Environmental Network

SIGNIFICANT EXCERPT:

The City Council can, and must, uphold the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision to deny the use permit for the Valero crude-by-rail project. Federal law does not preempt the City from denying the permit for this project. Furthermore, the City should not tolerate Valero’ s delay tactic of seeking a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board (STB). As explained below, the STB does not have jurisdiction over this project and will almost certainly decline to hear Valero’ s petition for the very same reason that preemption does not apply. Finally, even if preemption were to apply here, the project’s on-site impacts, especially the increases in refinery pollution, require the City to deny the permit.

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    Pittsburg CA: Critics blast proposed oil terminal, even without Bakken crude trains

    Repost from The Contra Costa Times
    [Editor:  Significant quote: “WesPac officials said they dropped inbound crude oil shipments by rail from their plans for several reasons, including public sentiment against it, an unstable regulatory environment surrounding those shipments, and drops in crude oil prices that have made such shipments less economically viable.”  – RS]

    Pittsburg: Critics blast proposed oil terminal, even without Bakken crude trains

    By Sam Richards, 04/07/2015 12:31:04 PM PDT

    PITTSBURG — Train loads of Bakken crude oil are no longer in the plans for a proposed oil storage terminal near the waterfront, but that does not mean the project is being welcomed to town with open arms.

    The City Council voted 5-0 Monday night to approve amending the environmental report for WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed Pittsburg Terminal Project, which would renovate and modernize a long-dormant PG&E tank farm between West 10th Street and the Sacramento River waterfront.

    The key change is that the five previously planned 104-car trains of domestic oil, mostly the volatile Bakken crude, are no longer part of the project. The new EIR will reflect that.

    Councilman Sal Evola stressed that the vote reflected the council’s desire for “the process” to play out and fully vet the proposal.

    “Every project at least deserves its fair process,” Evola said. “I’m all for preserving our industrial base, but we have to do it safely, and fair process is needed.”

    Others were less interested in process, saying the WesPac proposal to bring an average of 242,000 barrels of crude or partially refined crude oil to be unloaded daily from ships and from pipelines, and stored in 16 tanks on 125 acres, is a problem for various reasons.

    Speakers told the council that vapors from the storage tanks, the possibility of spills into the Sacramento Delta and the danger of the tanks exploding — all near hundreds of downtown homes — are potential issues, and that the project should simply be rejected.

    “The only way you can mitigate this project is not do it,” said Willie Mims, representing the NAACP and the Black Political Association.

    And though some at the meeting Monday night are grateful that WesPac that no longer plans to bring crude oil to the terminal by rail, others told the council that leaving out rail shipments doesn’t come close to salvaging the project. Some 30 people holding up “No WesPac” signs or wearing similar T-shirts crowded the council meeting.

    Without the trains, the Pittsburg Terminal Project would now take oil from ships and a pipeline from the Central Valley and store it for later processing by refineries in Martinez, Benicia, Rodeo and Richmond.

    Pamela Aranz of Antioch, representing the group Global Community Monitor, was one of several speakers who criticized the WesPac proposal as a dinosaur — old-fashioned, with increasingly outmoded technology. Others said the oil terminal would be at cross purposes with a nicely developing downtown area. Developing wind and/or solar power on that land, Aranz and others said, would make better sense.

    Plans for the Pittsburg Terminal Project, first proposed in 2011, had been dormant for the past year, after local groups like Pittsburg Defense Council had protested the prospect of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude oil rolling in to the city. Communities across the United States — including Pittsburg, Richmond and Berkeley — have come out in opposed to crude by rail shipments through their cities after several high-profile derailments, including one in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, in 2013 killed 47 people and destroyed part of that city.

    The new environmental report, to be paid for by WesPac, will replace an earlier one that was criticized in 2014 by the state Attorney General’s office because it did not suitably analyze air pollution impacts, address the risks of accidents involving storing and moving oil, consider the project’s climate change impacts, and consider a “reasonable range of alternatives” that could reduce impacts. WesPac officials said they dropped inbound crude oil shipments by rail from their plans for several reasons, including public sentiment against it, an unstable regulatory environment surrounding those shipments, and drops in crude oil prices that have made such shipments less economically viable.

    If the needed approvals come at a typical pace, renovation work at the old PG&E tanks could begin in early 2016, and likely would take between 18 and 24 months.

    Representatives from several area labor union locals supported moving ahead with the environmental study. Some said Monday night they wanted the jobs, both to rebuild the terminal and to operate it. Others said they favored the environmental process determining whether the terminal would be a safe place for union workers to be.

    That, Evola said, is one benefit of continuing the process. “We want to be overly transparent,” he said.

    That is fine with Lisa Graham and other members of Pittsburg Defense Council.

    “We’ll be shining a bright spotlight on the project in the coming months,” she said.

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      Activists In Richmond Halt Oil Tankers

      Repost from Popular Resistance
      [Editor: See this story also on the Richmond Standard, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. and the Sacramento Bee.  – RS]

      Citizens Risk Arrest to Halt Operations at Richmond Oil Train Terminal: Call on Air Quality Agency to Reverse Illegal Permit, Protect Public Health

      By Eddie Scher, risingtidenorthamerica.org, September 4, 2014

      1stopoil[Richmond, CA] Today more than a dozen Bay Area citizens chained themselves to a gate at the Kinder Morgan rail terminal in Richmond to stop operations. The citizens risked arrest to protest mile-long oil trains that threaten the safety of area residents and are a massive new source of air and carbon pollution in the region.

      Among the demonstrators were residents of Richmond, Rodeo, Martinez, and Benicia, all towns that currently see dangerous oil trains moving through residential areas. Earlier this year the regional air quality agency, known as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, changed an existing permit to allow oil trains at the rail facility. Demonstrators contend that the agency broke the law when it modified the existing permit without additional environmental and safety review.

      On Friday the San Francisco Superior Court will hold a hearing on a lawsuit filed by groups challenging the legality of the permit change and asking for a halt to oil train operations at the facility.

      “I work with Richmond residents who already struggle with cancer, asthma and other devastating health impacts of pollution. Now they are living with bomb-trains full of explosive Bakken crude oil driving through their neighborhoods. By allowing this to happen, BAAQMD is failing to protect us and choosing Kinder Morgan’s profits over our safety,” said Megan Zapanta, Asian Pacific Environmental Network Richmond Community Organizer.

      “People in Richmond are angry that the Air District, who are supposed to protect us, instead has put our community at catastrophic risk along with all the uprail communities. This irresponsible behavior must be stopped NOW!” said Andres Soto, organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.

      “It’s unacceptable and illegal that the Air District allowed Kinder Morgan to bring explosive Bakken oil by rail from North Dakota without going through the processes established by state law to protect air quality and the safety of families in Pittsburg, Martinez, Crockett, Rodeo, Benicia, and Richmond. We demand that all operations related to oil by rail at Kinder Morgan stop immediately,” says Pamela Arauz, on behalf of Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition.

      “The law in the State of California requires public agencies like the Air District to inform the public of projects like the Kinder Morgan Bomb Train operation.  Not only that, the law requires an environmental review and public input into the process of issuing permits.  The Air District broke the law when they secretly approved this dangerous project,” stated Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor.

      “As the Bay Area Air District and other government agencies are failing to protect the health and lives of communities from the reckless shipments of crude oil by rail, the people are taking action to protect our communities,” said Bradley Angel, Executive Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

      “The Air District took a reckless, illegal shortcut that puts our families at risk. We’ve seen what happens when one of these trains derails and catches fire, we can’t let that happen here,” said Ethan Buckner, US organizer with ForestEthics.

      “Climate disruption is bearing down on us even faster because of the extreme extraction of tar sands and shale oil. With Bomb Trains carrying millions of gallons of that dangerous crude rolling on Bay Area rails, all of our lives are on the line. Instead of the alarming dead-end expansion of the fossil fuel industry we need a rapid transition to renewable energy now,” said Shoshana Wechsler of the Sunflower Alliance.

      “To be sure, we take the oil refineries’ contempt for fenceline communities for granted. But frankly, it was shocking to see how covertly BAAQMD threw our public health under the bus,” said Nancy Rieser, Co-founder, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment (C.R.U.D.E.)

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