Tag Archives: Greenhouse gas emissions

U.S. Rep. Lois Capps: Oil-by-rail is too risky

Repost from the San Luis Obispo Tribune
[Editor:  See also the follow-up story covering the Cal Poly forum on Oct. 16: “Capps touts clean energy alternatives to Phillips 66 project at Cal Poly forum.”  – RS]

Phillip 66’s oil-by-rail plan is too risky

By Rep. Lois Capps, October 13, 2015
Lois Capps in her office in Washington, D.C.
Lois Capps in her office in Washington, D.C.

The Central Coast was thrust into the national spotlight in May as news broke of an oil pipeline rupture that allowed tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil to spill into the Pacific Ocean.

The ensuing damage devastated wildlife and our sensitive coastline, cost our local economy millions of dollars and put the health of Central Coast residents at risk. Sadly, this is just the most recent reminder of the hazards of drilling for and transporting fossil fuels.

In the months since the spill, I’ve redoubled my efforts to ensure federal agencies update and strengthen pipeline safety standards, prevent new offshore drilling and guarantee that our communities are properly compensated for their losses. And yet, just as the final traces of tar are cleaned from the rocks at Refugio Beach, another serious oil hazard looms on the Central Coast.

As many know, Phillips 66 has applied for a permit through San Luis Obispo County to construct a 1.3-mile rail spur to the Nipomo Mesa refinery. Construction of the new spur would allow the refinery to receive up to five deliveries of crude oil per week, with 2 million gallons aboard each mile-long freight train.

This rail spur proposal comes amidst booming North American oil production and a dramatic expansion across the country in the use of railroads to transport crude oil. Not surprisingly, the increased use of rail to transport oil over the last five years has correlated with a sharp increase in the number of derailments by oil-hauling trains. The increase in oil rail derailments is even more troubling considering the large investments made in recent years to improve rail safety.

The most devastating of these recent accidents occurred in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, when a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed in a downtown area and several cars exploded, killing 47 people and leveling half of the downtown area with a blast zone radius of more than half a mile.

Approving the Phillips 66 rail spur project would put communities throughout California at risk for a similar tragedy. If approved, communities within 1 mile of the rails would be within the potential blast radius of these crude oil freight trains as they make their way to their final destination in San Luis Obispo County. This is one of the many reasons why I am joining other community leaders, cities and counties throughout the state in opposing this project.

The Plains oil spill near Santa Barbara in May and the Phillips 66 rail spur project debate are both stark reminders of the dangers posed by our continued reliance upon oil and other fossil fuels to meet our energy needs.

We know that this dependence puts our environment, public health and economy at risk due to spills, derailments and the growing impacts of climate change.

With each extreme storm, severe wildfire and persistent drought, we’re reminded of the very real consequences of our continued dependence on fossil fuels.

The truth is that an economy that continues to rely upon fossil fuels is not prepared to succeed in the 21st century.

That is why I have spent my career in Congress advocating for efforts to transition to clean, renewable energy sources that produce the energy we need while also minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.

I am proud to say that the Central Coast is leading this transition. With our cuttingedge research universities, two of the largest solar fields in the world and some of the most innovative entrepreneurs and energy companies in the country, I am excited to see what the future holds.

Now, more than ever, we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to pivot away from our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable energy future.

That is why I am convening a panel of industry leaders and academic experts for a public forum at Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center on Friday to discuss how we can continue to expand our clean-energy economy on the Central Coast and across the country.

During the forum, I look forward to discussing the multitude of threats posed by our continued fossil fuel dependence, the progress made toward developing renewable energy sources, and how we can overcome the remaining barriers to fully transition to a cleanenergy future. Please join us this Friday at 1 p.m. as we come together to build a safer, cleaner energy economy suitable to meet the demands of the 21st century.

 

Share...

    OPEN LETTER: Oppose Valero Crude By Rail

    Letter received by email from the author, Lawrence (Larnie) Reid Fox

    To the Benicia City Planning Commission and City Council:

    By Larnie Fox, October 12, 2015

    I’m writing to request that you oppose Valero’s Crude Oil by Rail project.

    The Revised Draft EIR states that:

      • Potential train derailment would result in significant and unavoidable adverse effects to people and secondary effects to biological, cultural, and hydrological resources, and geology.
      • Impacts to air quality would be significant and unavoidable because the Project would contribute to an existing or projected air quality violation and result in a cumulatively considerable increase in ozone precursor emissions.
      • Impacts to greenhouse gas emissions would be significant and unavoidable because the Project would generate significant levels of GHG and conflict with plans adopted for reducing GHG emissions.

    What more do you need to know?

    There have been more crude-by-rail explosions and spills in the last two years than in the previous 40 years. The new crudes are demonstrably more hazardous than the crudes that have been processed in our community in the past, and have led to many horrendous accidents in other parts of North America. Accidents can and will happen.

    The Revised Draft EIR states that Valero proposes to use non-jacketed Casualty Prevention Circular (CPC)-1232-compliant tank cars.

    The National Transportation Safety Board has said that the CPC-1232 standard is only a minimal improvement over the older tank DOT-111s. NTSB officials say they are “not convinced that these modifications offer significant safety improvements.”

    There is overwhelming and passionate opposition to the project here in Benicia. There is also strong opposition from hundreds of individuals who live up-rail and from all over our state, and also from government entities including the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and our state’s Attorney General.

    If there is a spill or an explosion and fire, I for one, do not want my community to be culpable. We need to show the state and the world that we stand for safety and environmental responsibility, even if it cuts into corporate profits and tax revenues.

    The bottom line is that fossil fuels are going away, sooner or later, and Benicia will need to adapt, sooner or later. We need to take a longer-term and wider-scope view of the issue. We may reap short-term local gains by approving this project, but the cost is unacceptably high. In doing so, we would be putting our Industrial Park at risk, and inconveniencing them with the long trains. This area should be the economic engine for the next 100 years. We would be ignoring the legitimate concerns of communities up-rail from us. We would be responsible for putting environmentally sensitive areas at risk. We would be contributing to global warming and thus sea level rise, which poses a clear threat to our community and the rest of the world as well. We would be contributing to decimation of the old-growth forests in Northern Canada.

    It’s up to us to guard our own welfare, and also, as a City, to be responsible citizens of California, the USA and our fragile planet.

    Sincerely,

    Lawrence (Larnie) Reid Fox

    Share...

      VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD LETTER: Valero is NOT good neighbor!

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

      Valero is NOT a good neighbor!

      By Rebekah Ramos, September 25, 2015

      Valero’s self-proclaimed “Good Neighbor” status is laughable when you begin to peel back the onion and remove the layers of misinformation (or missing information) and reveal the same flavor of corporate propaganda and fearmongering that is used to hold small communities hostage.

      There are hidden costs to having Valero as a neighbor that you may not be aware of.

      Valero says the City of Benicia is losing more than $360K per year in revenue because of delays in approving their crude by rail project, which could get us 4 new police officers.

      Valero DOESN’T say…

        • CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) is a law that requires due diligence to properly evaluate environmental impacts and most importantly, inform the public of those impacts. City staff initially attempted to push this project through, under the radar, and without LITTLE public notification – skirting the law. Had it not been for a group of alert citizens bringing this to the public’s attention Valero would have gotten away with implementing a project that would have enormous ramifications to our health, safety, and economic viability, not only in our community, but every community along the rails.
        • Our personal safety is NOT at risk because we are short on police officers, it’s at risk because transporting highly volatile crude oil by rail is extremely risky business. More than 17 major oil train accidents have occurred in the last 24 months resulting in explosions, spills, and derailments.

      Valero says they contribute 25% to Benicia’s general fund.

      Valero DOESN’T say…

      • That number is actually 20% AND it doesn’t reflect the millions that Valero has taken away from the city’s coffers in recent years.
      • The City of Benicia was forced to pay Valero $2.3 million because Valero filed an appeal for a reduction in its property value from $1.02 billion to $230 million and $964 million to $100 million in 2012 and 2013 respectively despite climbing profits and gas prices since 2010. Benicia loses $2.3 million AND any on-going revenue generated from Valero’s property taxes. How many police officers do you think $2.3 million get us?

      Valero says the crude by rail project will reduce air emissions and decrease greenhouse gases. In addition, they say they are entitled to $57million in emission reduction credits because of improvements made to the refinery.

      Valero DOESN’T say…

      • The recirculated EIR for their crude by rail project specifically states that there will be significant increases in air emissions and greenhouse gases.
      • Valero has received dozens of notices of emissions violations nearly every single month of 2014 and 2015 including a violation for Benzene.
      • Valero has failed to install any publically accessible emissions monitoring equipment despite their pledge to do so since 2008.
      • Emission reduction credits would allow Valero to increase their emissions for new projects, sell or trade their credits to other polluters. Because of Cap and Trade legislation, big polluters in our own backyards get to pollute even more.
      • According to the EPA, Valero is the biggest polluter in Solano County, contributing 82% of all toxic releases in 2013. Data for 2014 and 15 is not available.

      Valero is desperate to turn a profit and will use whatever means is necessary – squeeze money from the city coffers, pollute our environment, and put our lives at risk – to satisfy the short-term interests of their shareholders. They even threaten to lay people off or sell the refinery if the city doesn’t comply.

      We can’t let one business keep our community in such an economically vulnerable situation. The City of Benicia has adopted a Climate Action Plan, but can’t seem to address THE REAL CLIMATE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, which is Valero. It’s time that serious action be taken to seek out and invite other, more sustainable industries to our city because Valero is NOT a Good Neighbor!

      Share...

        Letter to the Bay Area Air District: require strict emissions caps on refineries

        Posted with permission

        Benicia Resident Marilyn Bardet’s letter to the Chair of the Board, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)

        Direct staff to require numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissons
        By Marilyn Bardet, Sept 16, 2015

        Dear Chair Groom,

        Marilyn Bardet
        Marilyn Bardet, Benicia CA

        In response to the overwhelming testimony the District has received from all corners of the Bay Area, as chair of the BAAQMD board of directors, you, with your board, have the authority to direct District staff to revise DRAFT Rules 12-15 and 12-16 as currently released, to require strict numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissions, including GHG.

        By all means of public testimony over a two-year period, you have heard from concerned and affected members of the public, respected regional and national organizations (including Sierra Club, NRDC, CBE, 350 Bay Area, APEN, Sunflower Alliance) and other experts in the field who have recommended and put forward well-defined revisions that would impose strict numerical emissions caps on refinery emissions tied to current emissions baselines for TAC, VOCs, heavy metals and PM2.5, including GHG.

        You know that oil companies in the region aim to acquire and process the most dangerously polluting crude in the world — tar sands. Refineries processing changed crude slates whose blends have increasing amounts of heavy crude, unconventional crudes such as Bakken oil, and/or tar sands will adversely impact regional and local air quality, especially affecting front-line communities and those “downwind communities.” Allowing emissions to “go up to” long ago established permitting levels (Valero Benicia’s permit was established in 2003) is tantamount to the District “giving in” to benefit the oil industries’ profit, not public health.

        The District’s mandate is to clean up the air for the benefit of public health, and, in accordance with state mandates, to protect the climate by drastically reducing GHG. Oil refining is the biggest industrial source of GHG. Carbon trading by refineries will simply send “pollution credits” elsewhere and keep toxic emissions “at home” that kill thousands of people in the Bay Area each year. GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion threaten to destroy our global climate and way of life.

        Strong refinery rules that set numerical limits on toxic emissions tied to current baselines and limit GHGs are our best chance to protect public health and protect the climate.

        We need your leadership more than ever now! I am writing to ask that you make it clear to your directors that the “highest good” must be done by BAAQMD in the name of public health and climate protection, such that, until revisions to Rules 12-15 and 12-16 are adopted that set refinery emission caps at today’s levels, including for GHG, the agency will suspend permitting for refinery projects.

        This is a bold request, but these are very uncertain times that require every precaution and concerted action by leadership to create policies that protect people and the planet.

        Thank you for your public service, and for you attention to my comments.

        Respectfully,

        Marilyn Bardet
        Benicia
        Share...