Tag Archives: NextGen Climate

SACRAMENTO BEE: Tom Steyer & Steve Young – Benicia should block oil trains

Repost from the Sacramento Bee

Benicia should block oil trains

By Tom Steyer and Steve YoungSpecial to The Bee, March 14, 2016 9:30AM

HIGHLIGHTS
•  Valero wants to bring trains carrying crude through Sacramento region to Benicia refinery
• Even without a catastrophe, oil trains pose a serious threat to public health and safety
• With clean energy and efficiency, California doesn’t need to take the risk

Railroad tracks lead to Valero’s refinery in Benicia. The company wants to ship oil there with two, 50-car trains a day.
Railroad tracks lead to Valero’s refinery in Benicia. The company wants to ship oil there with two, 50-car trains a day. Manny Crisostomo Sacramento Bee file

If approved, proposed new oil train terminals at refineries in California would turn our railways into crude oil superhighways. Mile-long oil trains would haul millions of gallons of toxic, explosive crude through downtown Sacramento and dozens of other California cities and towns. An estimated 5 million Californians live in the one-mile evacuation zone along oil train routes.

In Benicia, city officials are close to a final decision on the proposed Valero oil train terminal. It’s essential that City Council members, who hold a hearing on Tuesday, understand why oil trains are too dangerous for our communities. There is no sure way to protect public health while transporting crude oil by rail.

Tom Steyer

Valero wants to bring two 50-car trains carrying about 3 million gallons of oil to its Benicia refinery every day. The environmental review of the proposal cites the “potentially significant” hazard of a spill and fire.

In 2013, the oil train explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec, demonstrated the danger. It killed 47 people, destroyed dozens of buildings and poisoned a local lake. Three years later, residents still live with fear and anxiety, and scientists have recorded an “unprecedented” spike of fish deformities.

Steve_Young
Steve Young

But it doesn’t take a catastrophe for oil trains to pose a serious threat to public health and safety. They disrupt traffic, delay emergency response and bring more poisoned air and increased disease. That’s why six counties and 22 cities around Sacramento have already said no to these trains. But the safety of all Californians living in the blast zone lies in the hands of Benicia city officials who will decide whether to approve Valero’s permit.

On Feb. 11, after days of testimony from experts and community members, the city Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny the permit. Valero has appealed to the Benicia City Council, which will make the final decision.

Something similar is happening in San Luis Obispo County, where the county staff and the California Coastal Commission recommended that the county reject the Phillips 66 oil train terminal proposal. The county Planning Commission must decide soon, but the final decision will rest with county supervisors.

Last year, NextGen Climate, the Natural Resources Defense Council, ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment released a report on oil industry plans to ship dirty Canadian tar sands crude to West Coast refineries. The report found that heavy crude would increase carbon pollution by as much as 26 million metric tons – the equivalent of adding 5.5 million cars to the road.

The good news is that we don’t have to live with these oil risks barreling through town. We can make our communities safer by transitioning to clean energy. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed that improvements in fuel efficiency and energy technology could help us cut oil consumption in half by 2030.

There’s no place for extreme tar sands or Bakken crude in California’s emerging clean energy economy – and there’s no place in our communities for dangerous, unnecessary crude oil trains.

Tom Steyer is founder of NextGen Climate and can be contacted at info@nextgenclimate.org.  Steve Young is a Benicia planning commissioner and can be contacted at steveyoung94510@gmail.com.
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California State Senate vote on climate change, June 3

Press Release from NextGenClimate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
CONTACT: NGC Press Office, 415-802-2423
or press@nextgenclimate.org 

CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE’S OPPORTUNITY TO CONTINUE TO LEAD ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Tomorrow, the California State Senate has a chance to decisively move our state towards a clean energy future and reduce carbon pollution.

The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on SB 32 and SB 350—bills introduced by Senator Fran Pavley and Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León respectively—that take ambitious steps to ensure that California continues to lead the nation when it comes to addressing climate change. Based on the framework laid out by Governor Jerry Brown, this commonsense legislation would reduce carbon pollution by 80 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2050 and would reduce fossil fuel use in cars and trucks by 50 percent, ensure that 50 percent of California’s electricity comes from renewable sources and increase energy efficiency in buildings by 50 percent—all  by 2030.

“This commonsense legislation will increase our use of clean energy sources like wind and solar, reduce carbon pollution, and create good-paying jobs,” said NextGen Climate spokesperson Suzanne Henkels.

Under California’s landmark climate legislation, our economy continues to make progress while reducing carbon pollution to protect our children’s future. More than 430,000 people are employed by an advanced energy business in California—that’s more than in the motion picture, television, and radio industries combined—and these jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent this year.

With tomorrow’s vote, the Senate is on the verge of taking this record of success to the next level. We’re confident they’ll continue California’s long history of leadership in solving climate change and accelerate the transition to the advanced energy economy that our kids deserve.

# # #

NextGen Climate

NextGen Climate is focused on bringing climate change to the forefront of American politics. Founded by investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer in 2013, NextGen Climate acts politically to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity for all Americans.
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California billionaire fights to keep tar-sands oil out of state

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle
[Editor:  See the full report, West Coast Tar Sands Invasion.  See Anthony Swift’s NRDC Blog for summary details.  See also the ForestEthics press release.  – RS] 

Billionaire fights to keep tar-sands oil out of state

By David R. Baker, April 29, 2015
Tom Steyer hopes  to block Canada oil from the state. Photo: David Paul Morris, Bloomberg
Tom Steyer hopes to block Canada oil from the state. Photo: David Paul Morris, Bloomberg

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has a new mission

— keeping oil from Canada’s tar sands out of California.

Steyer’s NextGen Climate organization released a report Tuesday warning that an “invasion” of tankers and railcars carrying crude from the oil sands could soon hit West Coast refineries, which currently process very little Canadian oil.

Steyer, a major Democratic donor who quit his hedge fund to focus on fighting climate change, has risen to prominence as a vocal opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline extension, which would link the oil sands to American refineries on the Gulf Coast.

A train carries crude oil through Kansas City, Mo., in 2014. Environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate organization warns that railcars carrying oil from Canada could soon hit West Coast refineries. Photo: Curtis Tate, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
A train carries crude oil through Kansas City, Mo., in 2014. Environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate organization warns that railcars carrying oil from Canada could soon hit West Coast refineries. Photo: Curtis Tate, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

But Tuesday’s report, prepared with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of other environmental groups, notes that the oil industry is pursuing other pipeline routes that would carry tar-sands petroleum to Canada’s Pacific Coast. From there, it could be shipped to refineries in California and Washington. In California, companies have proposed five new terminals for receiving oil shipped by rail — another potential means of entry. California’s policies to fight climate change discourage but don’t prevent the use of oil-sands crude.

“Keystone is not the only way the tar sands threaten our country,” Steyer said Tuesday at an event in Oakland, releasing the report. “The owners of the tar sands are always looking for other routes to the world’s oceans and the world’s markets.”

Steyer and other environmentalists have made blocking Keystone a rallying cry in the fight against global warming, since extracting hydrocarbons from the oil sands releases far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than other forms of oil production. And unlike common oil, the diluted bitumen (a tar-like substance extracted from the sands) sinks in water, making spills from pipelines and tankers difficult to clean.

“It is shockingly toxic, it is extremely nasty and it takes forever to clean up,” Steyer said. “To end the risk from tar-sands oil once and for all, we need to move beyond oil to a clean energy future. Luckily, this is the kind of leadership California excels at.”

The oil industry, and the Canadian government, call the oil sands a reliable source of oil from a friendly ally. And industry representatives often note that California’s dependence on imported oil has grown in recent years, in large part because production in Alaska — once one of California’s biggest suppliers of crude — has dropped.

Steyer has devoted a sizable chunk of his personal fortune, estimated at $1.6 billion, to backing political candidates who support action on climate change and targeting those who don’t, spending $73 million in the last election cycle. He said Tuesday that he has not yet decided whether to pay for an advertising campaign against bringing oil-sands crude to the West Coast.

“I’m not 100 percent sure,” he said. “Exactly how we fight it, I don’t think we’ve determined.”

Crude from the tar sands makes up a tiny fraction of the oil processed in California refineries — less than 3 percent, according to the report. And while the amount of oil shipped into the the Golden State by rail has soared in recent years, most of that petroleum comes from North Dakota and other states where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has produced a glut of crude.

But oil companies have proposed two pipeline projects that would link the oil sands to the Pacific Ocean, both of them traveling through British Columbia. If built, they could lead to an additional 2,000 oil tankers and barges moving up and down the West Coast each year, according to the report. The rail terminal projects proposed in California could raise the amount of oil-sands crude processed in the state each day from the current 50,000 barrels to 650,000 barrels by 2040.

However, that outcome is hardly certain.

A California policy known as the low carbon fuel standard requires oil companies to cut by 10 percent the amount of carbon dioxide associated with each gallon of fuel they sell in the state, reaching that milestone by 2020. In addition, the state’s cap-and-trade system forces refineries to cut their overall greenhouse gas emissions. Neither policy specifically prevents refineries from using oil-sands crude, but both give oil companies a powerful incentive to use other sources of petroleum.

Anthony Swift, one of the report’s authors, said California needs to adopt more stringent emissions targets to keep out crude from the oil sands.

“These policies are a very good start,” said Swift, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We need to get more robust targets — for both the low carbon fuel standard and the cap — to signal to the industry that California is not going to be an option for tar-sands refining.”

David R. Baker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
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