Tag Archives: Noise pollution

Davis Enterprise Editorial: Benicia washes its hands of us

Repost from the Davis Enterprise

Our view: Benicia washes its hands of us

By Our View | November 15, 2015

The issue: Bay Area city can’t see past its own back yard on refinery project

The city of Benicia — the only entity capable of exerting any control over the crude-oil shipments set to arrive at a planned expansion of a Valero oil terminal — has shown in a draft environmental impact report that any impact the terminal has on communities farther up the train tracks is none of its business.

THE PROPOSED project would allow Valero to transport crude oil to its Benicia refinery on two 50-car freight trains daily on Union Pacific tracks that come right through Davis, Dixon, Fairfield and Suisun City on their way to Benicia. The rail shipments would replace up to 70,000 barrels per day of crude oil currently transported to the refinery by ship, according to city documents.

The original draft EIR, released in 2014, didn’t adequately address safety and environmental concerns. Local governments — including the city of Davis, Yolo County and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments — weighed in on the draft, urging Benicia to take a second look.

Benicia withdrew the draft and went back to work, and the new document acknowledges the risks of pollution, noise and, oh yes, catastrophic explosions from oil trains, the likes of which leveled Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in 2013.

Disappointingly, having recognized the issues involved, the report simply says there’s no way to mitigate them and recommends moving ahead. With a bureaucratic shrug of the shoulders, the concerns of communities from Roseville to Suisun City are dismissed.

NATURALLY, SACOG disagrees, and so do we. While it’s true that there’s not a lot Benicia can do itself to mitigate the impact of its project, it can force Valero to do something about it.

SACOG urges a raft of measures that are within Valero’s control: advanced notification to local emergency personnel of all shipments, limits on storage of crude-oil tanks in urban areas, funding to train emergency responders, cars with electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, money for rail-safety improvements, implementation of Positive Train Control protocols and, most importantly, a prohibition on shipments of unstabilized crude oil that hasn’t been stripped of the volatile elements that made Lac-Mégantic and other derailments so catastrophic.

Due to federal laws, cities along the railway lines have no ability to control what goes through. Only Benicia, now, while the project is still on the drawing board, has the authority to set reasonable limits and conditions on a project that puts millions of people along the railroad in harm’s way.

We urge the Benicia City Council to use its discretionary authority in this matter to protect those of us who have no say in the process.

    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.

      Community Meeting: Our Vision of the Northern Waterfront

      Repost from the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition (BARCC)
      [Editor:  For Contra Costa County background (beware of spin), see the 124-page 2014 report, “Revitalizing Contra Costa’s Northern Waterfront.”  For the County’s Power Point overview (great maps and aerial photos), see “Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative.”  – RS]

      Community Meeting: Our Vision of the Northern Waterfront

      Organized & Sponsored by Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition, and the Sierra Club SF Chapter.
      RSVP at http://northernwaterfrontlunchrsvp.eventbrite.com
      Northern Waterfront Area
      Community Meeting: Our Vision of the Northern Waterfront – Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 10:00am-1:00pm, Nick Rodriguez Community Center Theater, 213 F St, Antioch, California 94509

      If you live in Contra Costa County, you may have heard of a massive effort called the Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative, which aims to re-­industrialize the coastline along the Carquinez Strait. However, it’s more likely you might not have heard about it, since it has been operating mostly behind closed doors, with minimal input from local residents.

      Community Meeting: Our Vision of the Northern Waterfront – Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 10:00am-1:00pm, Nick Rodriguez Community Center Theater, 213 F St, Antioch, California 94509  RSVP for lunch reservation.
      Launched in 2013, this initiative is an economic development revitalization “framework” led by Supervisors Federal Glover and Mary Piepho, and targets the towns of Hercules, Martinez, Concord, Pittsburg, Antioch, and Oakley, as well as unincorporated Rodeo, Crockett, Port Costa, Mountain View, Vine Hill, Clyde and Bay Point.Contra Costa is already the second most industrialized county in California, behind Los Angeles. Despite this dubious status, the Northern Waterfront initiative is a 20­ year plan to permanently transform our county and bring even more industry here. The plan has no targets for renewable energy growth, no caps on cumulative emissions and no goals for attracting sustainable businesses. When county staff were recently asked about the “green” industries they planned to develop, the only example they could give was carpet recycling ­­ while this is technically “green” for the consumer, it leaves the dirt and chemicals in our communities.The Northern Waterfront initiative has failed to include voices of residents living in the affected industrial areas, and has instead chosen to focus on institutional “stakeholders” like local government and business associations. Instead of working with the community, the Northern Waterfront initiative treats us as an obstacle to be dealt with. Their “Competitive Assessment of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” (9/30/13) admits as a “weakness” that Residential land uses are incompatible with the needs of industry. Citizens in the area may protest more industry because their presence generally increases deleterious effects on the community such as traffic, noise and air pollution.In addition to affecting human health and safety, the Northern Waterfront Initiative also puts our coastline, water and natural environment at risk. For example, the plan itself is focused on water intensive businesses! It includes a feasibility study to dredge the Carquinez Strait from Richmond to Stockton, from 35 feet to 38 feet. Funded by Contra Costa County, Western States Petroleum Association and the Port of Stockton, the dredging will allow oil barges to fill to capacity and bring even more oil into the Bay. Dredging has a number of hazards: it can increase salinity into the Delta (a shortsighted move during a drought), and it would release a century of buried toxins into our Bay.The Northern Waterfront initiative has projected various numbers of jobs created — one 20-year prediction was 5,000 jobs, another was 18,000 jobs. But what kind of jobs? And will workers want to live in an even more unhealthy and highly industrialized community? The Northern Waterfront initiative is not a plan to transition away from the old fossil fuel economy, but just more “business as usual,” despite the well-documented fact that the transition to renewable energy is an opportunity for job growth. Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson has established that if California transitioned to 100% renewable energy, it would create over 450,000 jobs statewide (Source: www.solutionsproject.org).Please join us at August 15th community meeting where a representative and consultant of the county will be presenting the Initiative, and county and local gov’t officials have been invited. More importantly, join us to share our vision beyond fossils fuels.

      We need your support in letting people know about this event. To access event flyers and other media tools, you can use for a Facebook post, email blast or newsletter insert, please go to: http://bit.ly/NWMedia. We appreciate any efforts you can make to get the word out.For more information, please call 925-709-4295 or email info@bayarearcc.org
      Thank you,
      Members of the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
      Lunch will be served, so advance registration is required
      Please register here: http://northernwaterfrontlunchrsvp.eventbrite.com/

      OR join on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/809066505881284/

      If you need/can offer a ride from BART Pittsburg/Bay Point or need to carpool,
      sign up here http://www.groupcarpool.com/t/4p8swn

      To access event flyers and other media tools, please go to:
      http://bit.ly/NWMedia

      Two-Futures ... Which-one-will-you-choose?
      Community Meeting: Our Vision of the Northern Waterfront – Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 10:00am-1:00pm, Nick Rodriguez Community Center Theater, 213 F St, Antioch, California 94509