Tag Archives: Suisun Marsh

Center For Biological Diversity submits comment letter – opposing gas drilling in Suisun Marsh

By Roger Straw, February 26, 2021

The Center For Biological Diversity submitted the following letter commenting on the proposed Hunters Point gas well drilling exploration in Suisun Marsh.  The letter is sent on behalf of The Center and 11 other Bay Area groups: Friends of the Earth, Fresh Air Vallejo, Sunflower Alliance, San Francisco Baykeeper, Sierra Club Redwood Chapter, Climate Protectors, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, 350 Bay Area, Communities for a Better Environment, Good Neighbor Steering Committee of Benicia, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

The two-page cover letter addressed to the San Francisco District Army Corps of Engineers, is followed by 30 pages of detailed comments, downloadable here as a PDF.  The letter opens with the following summary comment:

…Approving new gas development would cause significant harm to air and water quality, the surrounding ecosystem, and the climate. Issuing permits for new fossil fuel development is fundamentally incompatible with a safe and healthy future. We urge the Army Corps to consider the attached comments, which discusses why the application for this Project is grossly inadequate and does not meet the minimum standards of state and federal environmental laws. We strongly urge the Army Corps to reject this dangerous and short-sighted Project and work instead to protect communities and the environment from industry pollution. At minimum, the Army Corp must not approve this Project without a full environmental impact study, at least one public hearing, and further opportunities to submit comments on this harmful Project. […continued…]

Center For Biological Diversity – Comment letter opposing gas drilling in Suisun Marsh

ALERT – TIME SENSITIVE! Need to send letters to stop drilling project in Suisun Marsh

By Kathy Kerridge, February 24, 2021

STOP THE HUNTERS POINT GAS DRILLING PROJECT!

Proposed Sunset Exploration Exploratory well – Latitude: “N 38.158096” Longitude: “W -122’059177”

Do you want to see a gas drilling operation in the Suisun Marsh?
I know I don’t.

The Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of evaluating a request for exploratory drilling in the marsh. There is an existing well, which has been plugged, that Sunset Exploration would like to do exploratory drilling in. Of course if the exploration shows that the gas is worth pursuing then that would involve putting in a bigger drilling operation and putting in an 8,821 foot pipeline to connect with an existing pipeline.

I don’t think either of these things are appropriate in the biggest marshes on the West Coast.

Your comments on this project are due on February 26.  More info below.

BACKGROUND:  Here is the link to the project description: https://www.spn.usace.army.mil/Portals/68/docs/regulatory/publicnotices/2021/SPN-2011-00065_PN_2020.01.25.pdf  This is the public notice for the gas drilling project before the Army Corp of Engineers.

You can download my sample letter with the required information for comments. I suggest that everyone oppose this and ask for a public hearing. You don’t have to use my words. Some variation may be appropriate.  I have also attached a letter from Monica Brown.

Here is where to send the comments:

Roberta.A.Morganstern@usace.army.mil

Your comments must include the following:

Project: Hunter’s Point Natural Gas Well Drilling Project
Applicant: Robert Nunn of Sunset Exploration located at 10500 Brentwood Boulevard, Brentwood, California, through its agent, Hope Kingma of WRA, Inc.
PUBLIC NOTICE NUMBER: 2011-00065N
PUBLIC NOTICE DATE: January 25, 2021
COMMENTS DUE DATE: February 26, 2021

The project also needs approval from the Executive Officer, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region, 1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400, Oakland, California 94612, Your comments can be directed to them by the close of the comment period, February 26.

Approvals will also be required from other agencies including Solano County, but wouldn’t it be nice to stop this dead in its tracks.

Public interest factors which may be relevant to the decision process include: conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, cultural values, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shore erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.

Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest in the project.
Your comments may include a request for a public hearing on the project prior to a determination on the Department of the Army permit application; such requests shall state, with particularity, the reasons for holding a public hearing.

Kathy Kerridge

BENICIA HERALD LETTER: Allowing crude by rail is asking for trouble, Kathy Kerridge

Repost from the Benicia Herald
[Editor:  No link is provided for this letter because the Benicia Herald does not publish letters in its online edition.  A version of this letter also appeared in the Contra Costa Times.  – RS]

Allowing crude by rail is asking for trouble

By Kathy Kerridge, August 16, 2015, Benicia Herald

It’s time for Benicia and California to say no to bringing in crude oil by rail (CBR). This is the highly explosive and flammable Bakken crude from North Dakota, which exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47.  This is what Valero wants to bring into Benicia and other refineries want to bring into the Bay Area.  There have been 30 major crude by rail accidents since 2012, including the latest on July 17 in Montana that spilled 35,000 gallons from a train that was going the legal speed limit.

The refineries also want to bring in tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada.  A spill of tar sands crude in water cannot be cleaned up.  The substances that dilute the tar sands (like benzene) so it can be transported evaporate and the tar sands sink to the bottom of the water.  $1 billion, yes that’s right billion, has been spent on the Kalamazoo River spill of tar sands and the river is still not clean.  Do we want a spill on the Benicia Rail Bridge into the Carquinez Strait or one in the Suisun Marsh?  How about the Feather River Canyon where a train carrying corn recently derailed sending its cargo into the river?

Say no to CRB going over high hazard areas.  Every rail line into the state goes through one.  Say no to CBR by earthquake faults.   Say no to trains carrying crude in cars designed to carry corn syrup.  Say no to the new cars which have also split and spilled in recent derailments.  Say no to bomb trains going through densely populated areas like Sacramento, Davis, and the East Bay.  Just say no to putting people, our water sources and our environment at risk

Western Cities Magazine: A Growing Risk – Oil Trains Raise Safety and Environmental Concerns

Repost from Western City Magazine

A Growing Risk: Oil Trains Raise Safety and Environmental Concerns

By Cory Golden, in the February 2015 issue of Western City
George Spade/Shutterstock.com
George Spade/Shutterstock.com

More and more often, trains snake down through California from its northern borders, with locomotives leading long lines of tank cars brimming with volatile crude oil.

Rail remains among the safest modes of transport, but the growing volume of crude being hauled to California refineries — coupled with televised images of fiery oil train accidents elsewhere — have ratcheted up the safety and environmental concerns of city officials and the residents they serve.

Local and state lawmakers have found that their hands are largely tied by federal laws and court rulings pre-empting new state and local regulation of rail traffic.

Growing Volume and an Increasing Number of Accidents

Until recently, California’s refineries were served almost entirely through ports. An oil boom in North Dakota and Canada from the Bakken shale formation and a lack of pipeline infrastructure have led to a dramatic increase in oil-by-rail shipments nationwide.

Oil imports to California by rail shot up 506 percent to 6.3 million barrels in 2013 (one barrel equals 42 gallons). That number will climb to 150 million barrels by 2016, according to the California Energy Commission.

The surge represents an “unanticipated, unacceptable risk posed to California,” said Paul King, deputy director for the California Public Utilities Commission’s Office of Oil Rail Safety, during a Senate hearing last year.

As the volume of oil being transported by rail has swelled, derailments in the United States and Canada have also increased. Despite $5 billion in industry spending on infrastructure and safety measures — with half of that for maintenance — railroads spilled more crude in the United States during 2013 than in the previous four decades combined, according to an analysis of federal data by McClatchy DC News.

Railroads continue to boast a better than 99 percent safety record, and most spills have been small, but with each tank car holding more than 25,000 gallons of oil, the exceptions — including eight mishaps in 2013 and early 2014 — have been dramatic and devastating, none more so than an accident in July 2013. That’s when 63 cars from a runaway train exploded, leveling much of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and killing 47 people.

So far, California has been spared a major crude oil accident, but the number of spills here is climbing: from 98 in 2010 to 182 in 2013, according to the California Office of Emergency Services (OES).

Trains carrying Bakken crude travel south through Northern California, turning from the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and rumbling through the hearts of cities large and small. The trains pass within blocks of the state Capitol, hospitals and schools and through sensitive ecological areas such as the Feather River Canyon and Suisun Marsh.

Lethal Accidents Spur a Push for Increased Safety Measures

The Lac-Mégantic accident and others that have followed have led to a push for change at the federal level. Two agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, shoulder responsibility for writing and enforcing railroad safety regulations.

In early 2014, the DOT and railroad industry announced a series of voluntary steps to increase safety. The DOT released a comprehensive rule-making proposal in July 2014, calling for structurally stronger tank cars, new operating requirements, speed restrictions, enhanced braking controls and route risk assessments, and a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids.

The DOT proposal calls for phasing out within two years older model tank cars, called DOT-111s, long known to be vulnerable to rupturing in a crash. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents, first urged replacing or retrofitting them in 1991.

In September 2014, the American Petroleum Institute and Association of American Railroads jointly asked the DOT for more time — up to seven years to retrofit tank cars.

Another safety measure, called positive train control (PTC), makes use of global positioning systems. It is intended to prevent collisions, derailments due to high speeds and other movements that could cause accidents, like a train using track where maintenance is under way. PTC can alert train crews to danger and even stop a train remotely.

Following a 2008 Metrolink crash in Los Angeles that killed 25 people — caused when an engineer missed a stop signal and collided with a Union Pacific freight train — Congress mandated PTC implementation on 60,000 miles of track nationwide. Large railroads have spent $4.5 billion to implement the technology, but the industry says it cannot meet its 2015 deadline.

Among the members of California’s congressional delegation demanding stricter regulations are Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who have called for more information to be released to first responders on train movements.

Sen. Feinstein also wrote a letter that urged the DOT to include pneumatic brakes, which can greatly reduce stopping distances, in its planned review of tank car design, and to extend the PTC requirement to any route used by trains carrying flammable liquids near population centers or sensitive habitat.

Meanwhile, Industry Continues to Grow

The growth in domestic crude oil is reflected in projects that include seven proposed, completed or under-construction expansions that together would have a maximum oil-by-rail capacity of 561,000 barrels per day at Bakersfield, Benicia, Pittsburg, Santa Maria, Stockton and Desert Hot Springs (see “Increasing Refinery Capacity” below).

As of December 2014, the Kinder Morgan Inc. facility in Richmond was the only refinery that could receive unit trains, which are trains with 100 or more tank cars carrying a single commodity and bound for the same destination.

InterState Oil Co. had its permit to offload crude at McClellan Park, in Sacramento County, revoked in November 2014 by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. The district said it had issued the permit in error and that it required a full review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Refineries in Bakersfield, Vernon, Carson and Long Beach were receiving crude deliveries from manifest trains, which carry a mix of cargo.

Safety Efforts Focus on Planning, Preparedness and Response

The Federal Rail Safety Act of 1970 authorized the U.S. secretary of transportation to create uniform national safety regulations. States are allowed to adopt additional, compatible rules if they do not hinder interstate commerce and address a local safety hazard. Courts have consistently ruled against almost all attempts by states to use the local safety hazard exception, however.

Thus, unable to regulate train movements, California lawmakers and agencies have pursued three main courses of action: planning, preparedness and response.

In the Golden State, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) shares authority with the federal government to enforce federal safety requirements, and OES and local agencies lead emergency response. In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown expanded the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to include inland areas.

The Legislature approved a Senate Joint Resolution, SJR 27 (Padilla), urging the DOT to safeguard communities and habitat, strengthen the tank car fleet, mandate the earlier voluntary safety agreement with railroads and prioritize safety over cost effectiveness.

Recent legislation includes AB 380 (Dickinson, Chapter 533, Statutes of 2014), which calls for increased spill-response planning for state and local agencies and requires carriers to submit commodity flow data to OES, and SB 1064 (Hill, Chapter 557, Statutes of 2014), which seeks to improve accountability and transparency regarding CPUC’s responses to federal safety recommendations.

The FY 2014–15 state budget also allocated $10 million to the CPUC, which planned to add seven more track inspectors, and authorized the state oil spill prevention fund to be used for spills in inland areas. In addition, the budget expanded the 6.5 cent per-barrel fee to include all crude oil entering the state.

The 10 state agencies that have some hand in rail safety and accident response have formed the Interagency Rail Safety Working Group. It issued a report last June that called for, among other things, older tank cars to be removed from service, stronger cars, improved braking, PTC and better markings on cars so that firefighters know how to proceed in an accident.

Speaking to Richmond residents in December 2014, Gordon Schremp, senior fuels specialist for the California Energy Commission, welcomed the moves to increase safety at the federal level. All indications were that railroads were complying with new measures like lower speed limits, he said.

“Does it mean there will be zero derailments? No, but the goal is to get there,” said Schremp.

Local government officials face a daunting challenge when it comes to disaster response.

The Interagency Rail Safety Working Group also found that, as of June 2014, there were no hazardous materials response teams in rural areas of Northern California and units in other areas of the state lacked the training and equipment needed to take a lead role. Forty percent of the state’s firefighters are volunteers.

“Training is of the utmost importance,” said Deputy Chief Thomas Campbell, who oversees the Cal OES Hazardous Materials Programs. “We understand that local governments are limited in finances and that it’s difficult to get firefighters out of rural communities to train because they are volunteers.”

Some Local Communities Oppose Expansion

At the local level the proposed expansion of California refineries sometimes has run into heated opposition.

After news reports revealed that Bakken crude was being transported into the City of Richmond, City Manager Bill Lindsay wrote a letter to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in November 2014 calling for it to revoke energy company Kinder Morgan’s permit to offload the crude there. That followed a lawsuit filed by environmental groups to revoke the permit — a suit tossed out by the judge because it was filed too late.

Elsewhere, a proposal by Valero Energy Corp. would bring 1.4 million gallons of crude daily to its Benicia refinery. The proposal has been met with letters questioning the city’s environmental and safety analysis from senders that have included the CPUC, Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority and cities along the rail line, including Davis and Sacramento. The Union Pacific Railroad has responded by stressing federal pre-emption of rail traffic.

Even as those proposals played out, a pair of derailments in Northern California underscored the importance of the debate. While neither spill involved crude oil or hazardous materials, both served as a warning of the need for California to improve its emergency response capability. Eleven cars carrying freight derailed and spilled into the Feather River Canyon near Belden on Nov. 25, 2014. Three days later, one car tumbled off the tracks near Richmond. The cars were loaded with corn in the first instance and refrigerated pork in the second.

What’s Ahead

The League continues to closely monitor developments in oil by rail. In September 2014 the League made recommendations to the DOT on the federal rule-making governing rail safety. The recommendations included providing more information and training to first responders, mandating speed limits and stronger tank cars, and using all available data to assess the risks and consequences of crude oil transport. Two months later, the National League of Cities passed a resolution stressing many of the same safety measures.

League of California Cities staff conducted a series of webinars during fall 2014 to better acquaint members with the oil-by-rail issue, and its Public Safety and Transportation policy committees took up the subject in January 2015 meetings.


Increasing Refinery Capacity

The California Energy Commission is tracking the following projects, which would dramatically increase the oil-by-rail capacity of refineries:

  • Plains All American Pipeline LP in Bakersfield, which took its first delivery in November 2014, has a capacity of 65,000 barrels per day (bpd);
  • Alon USA Energy Inc. in Bakersfield, under construction, will be able to receive 150,000 bpd;
  • Valero Energy Corp. in Benicia, which is presently undergoing permit review, would have a 70,000 bpd capacity;
  • WesPac Energy-Pittsburg LLC in Pittsburg, undergoing permit review, could receive up 50,000 bpd by rail and 192,000 bpd through its marine terminal; and
  • Phillips 66 in Santa Maria, undergoing permit review, could accept 41,000 bpd.

In addition, Targa Resources Corp. at the Port of Stockton is planning an expansion that would enable it to receive 65,000 bpd. And Questar Gas Corp. is planning a project that could see it offload 120,000 bpd near Desert Hot Springs, then send it through a repurposed 96-mile pipeline to Los Angeles.


Photo credits: Ksb/Shutterstock.com; Steven Frame/Shutterstock.com.