Tag Archives: Sunflower Alliance

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.

    NRDC et al: Important comments on Final EIR, Valero Crude By Rail

    The Benicia Independent is in receipt of a letter sent to the City of Benicia Planning Commission by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) detailing the failure of the EIR to “adequately analyze, disclose and mitigate the [Valero Crude by Rail] Project’s significant environmental impacts.”

    The letter has not yet been posted to the City’s website as of this writing.

    NRDC, joined by experts, attorneys and advocates representing 18 other Bay Area environmental groups (listed below), also responds to the City of Benicia staff report.  The staff report recommended certification of the EIR and approval of the project.

    The NRDC letter details at length the EIR’s various omissions and failures of law, logic and scientific method.  Comments are organized into sections on Air Quality, Environmental Justice, Hazards, Water Quality, Biological Resources  and “Additional Impacts Not Analyzed.”

    The additional section on the Staff Report makes a lengthy and careful legal case against the City’s claim that federal law preempts Benicia from mitigating impacts or denying approval for the project.

    In conclusion, the letter states, “Benicia Municipal Code 17.104.060, prohibits the City from approving a project that will be detrimental ‘to the public health, safety, or welfare of persons residing or working’ near the project, ‘to properties or improvements in the vicinity,’ or ‘to the general welfare of the city.’  For all the reasons stated above and in our prior comments, the Project will harm Benicians, other communities throughout the state, and our climate. The City should decline to certify the EIR and deny the permit for this Project.”  [emphasis added]

    This important and powerful letter has nineteen signatories:

    • Natural Resources Defense Council
    • Communities for a Better Environment
    • San Francisco Baykeeper
    • Center for Biological Diversity
    • Sierra Club
    • Richmond Progressive Alliance
    • ForestEthics
    • Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter
    • Bay Localize
    • Community Science Institute
    Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community
    • Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment
    • Martinez Environmental Group
    • Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
    • Sunflower Alliance
    • Pittsburg Defense Council
    • 350 Bay Area and 350 Marin
    • Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
    • Rodeo Citizens Association
    • Asian Pacific Environmental Network

      Bay Area activists celebrate WesPac withdrawal of oil terminal proposal

      Repost from ForestEthics
      [Editor:  Also check out ForestEthics’ blog post by Ethan Buckner, “Pittsburg Defeats WesPac: Biggest California Crude Oil Project Stopped in its Tracks.”  (Great photos.)  – RS]

      WesPac Energy Withdraws Pittsburg, CA, Oil Terminal Proposal

      Activists to attend the upcoming city council meeting at Pittsburg City Hall on Monday, December 14 at 7:00pm

      By Eddie Scher, ForestEthics, Wednesday Dec 9, 2015
      [Pittsburg, CA] On November 16, WesPac Energy formally withdrew its proposed 242,000 barrel-per-day oil storage and transfer facility in Pittsburg, California. The crude oil facility would have included a marine port for oil tankers, more than a dozen oil storage tanks, an oil train offloading terminal, and multiple pipelines to local refineries.

      In 2014 WesPac agreed to remove the oil train component to the project due to mounting community pressure and a scathing letter from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, but still planned to move ahead with the tank farm, marine berth, and pipeline extensions.

      To celebrate the victory local activists will attend the upcoming city council meeting at Pittsburg City Hall on Monday, December 14 at 7:00pm.

      Members of the coalition of citizen organizations working to protect the people and environment of Pittsburg released the following statements:

      “We knew that WesPac was not good for our community and having them as our neighbor would do nothing to make Pittsburg a better place to live” saysKalli Graham, co-founder of the Pittsburg Defense Council.  It was time for us to roll up our sleeves and take action. We had homes to protect and families to keep safe. We did everything we could to tell everyone who would listen that this project was wrong. We canvassed our neighborhoods, lobbied our city and county officials and educated our community on the dangers this project would have on our town. We organized a grassroots movement, created a non-profit organization and rallied our community into action. We stood together as neighbors to fight this project until we’d stalled it for so long that it was no longer viable. We took a stand against the biggest, dirty industry this planet has known so far and we WON!”

      “The citizens of Pittsburg stood toe to toe with the oil industry, they did not blink, they did not flinch, and today they have won,” says Ethan Buckner, ForestEthics extreme oil campaigner. “Thanks to the leadership of Kalli Graham and the Pittsburg Defense Council, and thousands of Pittsburg residents, it is clear that oil trains, tankers, tank farms, and pipelines are not welcome here. Here’s a message to Phillips 66, Valero, and other oil companies with dangerous oil trains projects in the works: The people of California and across North America don’t want your extreme oil, we want clean energy and climate solutions.”

      “The WesPac crude by rail project was clearly designed to import dirty Canadian tar sands to Bay Area refineries,” says Andrés Soto, Richmond organizer with Communities for a Better Environment. “This victory is not enough. To protect us from future dirty oil projects, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District must adopt strict limitations on refinery emissions now.

      “Thanks to the people of Pittsburg for sending this clear signal to the City of Benicia and Valero that Valero’s dangerous crude by rail project is not only a bad idea, it is no longer economically viable,” says Katherine Black, organizer with Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community.

      “WesPac’s own environmental review documents, inadequate as they were, showed that the project would harm this community and the environment by polluting the land, air, and water” says Jackie Prange, Staff Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council. WesPac made the right choice to give up now rather than face defeat in court.”

      “I’ve often considered the WesPac project to be the Bay Area’s Keystone XL – a perfect example of new fossil fuel infrastructure that would enable the oil industry to grow,” says community organizer Martin Mackerel. I couldn’t be happier that we stopped this project from being built. I hope our victory inspires others to block all new fossil fuel infrastructure in their backyards. Together we can stop this industry from murdering humanity’s future.”

      “WesPac’s dangerous and grandiose plans for a mega-oil terminal in Pittsburg have been thwarted not only by market forces—OPEC and faltering oil barrel prices—but by a force of nature commonly known as People Power, the combined efforts of nameless individuals driven not by profit motives but by fierce love of community and desire for ecological sanity,” says Shoshana Wechsler of the SunFlower Alliance.

      “The WesPac oil storage facility would have posed significant pollution threats to San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Baykeeper is proud to have been part of the team that stopped WesPac, and we’ll continue our work to protect the Bay from the expansion of oil refining and oil transport in the Bay Area,” says Sejal Choksi, San Francisco Baykeeper.

      “Pittsburg is a strong community, and one that determined that we were not going to allow the hazardous WesPac project to be placed in our backyard,” says Gregory Osorio of the Pittsburg Ethics Council. “Many people worked countless hours – first Lyana Monterrey who started the organizing in Pittsburg before the WesPac project was on ANYONE’s radar. To George Monterrey for his ‘fire’, and Danny Lopez, the graphics artist for the movement. The credit for this victory belongs to the nonprofit environmental groups such as Forest Ethics, NRDC, Sierra Club, and Sunflower Alliance, who all made enormous contributions. We wish to thank everyone who labored tirelessly to keep this potentially catastrophic project from being dumped in our backyard.”