Tag Archives: Vallejo CA

Letter: Bay Area Air Board needs to step up for cleaner air

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Where our mayor, supervisor stand

By Michelle Pellegrin, 08/04/16, 4:09 PM PDT

There are 24 people in the Bay Area with the power to regulate the air we breathe. Their decisions cause or reduce asthma, cancer and other illnesses that can and have resulted in death.

This regional board has so much power to affect peoples’ lives and deaths, yet most people haven’t even heard of this agency with the unwieldy name: The Bay Area Air Quality Management District — or BAAQMD.

The 24 members of this board — which includes Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis — have a mandate to protect public health.

The neighborhoods around the refineries have suffered severe health effects from emissions. The 2012 Chevron toxic explosion and fire in Richmond sent more than 15,000 people to the hospital, which is now closed. A broad coalition of Bay Area groups would like to see refinery emissions, which have continuously gone up for the past 20 years, capped and then methods found to reduce harmful emissions. The first step in this process is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

On Wednesday, July 20, after four long years and several refinery incidents, the board, in a room with standing room only, was to vote on this. What appeared as a simple slam dunk became a political football between clean air advocates and Big Oil.

Bay Area refineries have been preparing to process heavier dirtier crudes, which will increase emissions and their diseases. The wave of Crude By Rail (CBR) of proposed projects, such as the Valero Benicia CBR project, are designed to facilitate the importation of extreme crudes, such volatile oil from the Bakken fields and volatile heavy crude from the Canadian Tar Sands.

BAAQMD staff, in what can only be seen as another move to interminably delay implementing modern and necessary emission standards on Bay Area refineries, supported combining the simpler refinery emission cap EIR with a complex EIR on toxic chemical emissions for up to 900 businesses.

Bay Area refinery corridor communities and their allied cities want the EIRs to be conducted separately, as the EIR on refineries can be done much more quickly than the more complex toxic chemical EIR because it requires no infrastructure changes. They want answers and relief from the constant health problems they are suffering.

And here is where our mayor stepped in to show his stripes. Davis, just recently appointed to the board, gave a critical speech supporting combining the two EIRs. Who would have thought the BAAQMD’s newest member would have such sway with the board?

Anyone with respiratory health problems or cancer can give a big round of applause to our mayor and Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering, who made the motion to combine the two EIRs. We in Solano County have the dubious distinction of having the most anti-public health, pro-corporate members on the board.

Even the Contra Costa appointees where four of the five refineries are located weren’t as instrumental as the Solano reps in pushing for the delay of this most important EIR.

Luckily, other board members did uphold their duty to the public’s health and a compromise was reached. The EIRs will be combined but if they become bogged down then they will be separated out. In addition, and a very important one from the public’s point of view, there will be citizen oversight of the process.

The irony here is that this is a false dichotomy. Big Oil will keep functioning and we need them for those cars we drive. These companies provide jobs and add to our economies. But it is no longer legitimate to trade health for jobs. It is an outmoded model and has no place in deciding public policy. It is no longer acceptable for companies to dominate local economies and the policies of the people in those communities where they are located.

Big Oil has known for years that this is the direction things are moving. A 2014 article in the San Jose Mercury News notes the refineries are already working on improving their systems in anticipation of processing the dirtier and volatile oil from outside California.

As Tom Griffith, head of the Martinez Environmental Group back in 2014 stated, “The missed opportunity here is for the oil companies to refocus their sights on the future of renewable energy.”

We should be working together to improve public health. The corporate stranglehold on such important regional boards must end. Citizens need to be attend BAAQMD board meetings and provide input on upcoming board decisions for this to happen. The next meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 9:30 a.m. at the BAAQMD headquarters at 375 Beale St. San Francisco.

And here in Vallejo we need to do the same and be more engaged. We have seen the result of complicity between politicians and corporations that excluded public input: The absurd notion of putting a cement factory in a residential area with its disastrous public health consequences. Don’t let Mayor Davis and his cronies put our community in harm’s way. Say “no” to the Orcem/VMT cement plant and don’t vote in November for any candidate who supports it!

— Michelle Pellegrin/Vallejo

    “Uprail” government agencies critical of Valero Benicia environmental report

    Repost from the Fairfield Daily Republic

    Safety still a primary concern with Valero rail transport plan

    By Kevin W. Green, November 07, 2015
    The Valero oil refinery operates, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Benicia.  (Steve Reczkowski/Daily Republic file)
    The Valero oil refinery operates, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Benicia. (Steve Reczkowski/Daily Republic file)

    FAIRFIELD — Most of those who provided formal comments on the revised draft environmental impact report for the Valero crude-by-rail project in Benicia focused on a need for increased safety and possible mitigation measures.

    The city of Benicia Planning Department received plenty of input leading up to last week’s deadline for submitting written comments on the revised report.

    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 downtown Davis on their way to Benicia. The trains also pass through Dixon, Fairfield and Suisun City.

    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 Valero refinery would continue to receive crude by pipeline, the city said.

    Among the written comments submitted on the revised impact report was an eight-page response from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. The agency responded on behalf of the 22 cities and six counties in its jurisdiction, including the city of Davis and Yolo County.

    “Our earlier letter expressed grave concern that the DEIR concluded that crude oil shipments by rail pose no ‘significant hazard’ to our communities, and we urged the city of Benicia to revise the DEIR to fully inform decision-makers and the public of the potential risks of the project,” SACOG said in its remarks.

    The agency’s response included a list of eight measures its board of directors indicated that, at a minimum, should be followed.

    Those directives include advance notification to county and city emergency operations offices of all crude oil shipments; limits on storage of crude oil tank cars in urbanized areas of any size; and appropriate security for all shipments.

    Other directives outlined need for support, including full-cost funding for training and outfitting emergency response crews; and use of freight cars with electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, rollover protection and other features that mitigate what the agency believes are the risks associated with crude oil shipments.

    Finally, the agency calls for the implementation of Positive Train Control to prioritize areas with crude oil shipments.

    Solano County Resource Management Director Bill Emlen, a former Davis city manager, noted in his response that he had no specific comment on the revised report, but that the county stands behind its initial remarks about the original draft report.

    In those remarks, dated Sept. 8, 2014, Emlen said the county wanted more done to address potential derailments.

    The original draft EIR admitted the project “could pose significant hazard to the public or the environment,” but minimized the chances of that happening.

    “Although the consequences of such a release are potentially severe, the likelihood of such a release is very low,” the report said.

    Emlen disagreed that the accident risks associated with the crude-by-rail proposal are “less than significant” without mitigation.

    Valero plans to use a type of tank car designated as CPC-1232 to transport oil between Roseville and Benicia and there will be a 40 mph speed limit through federally designated “high-threat urban areas,” including cities along the route, according to the draft report.

    Emlen said it appears Valero’s use of the CPC-1232 tank cars is voluntary, rather than mandatory. He also pointed out that the federal designation for high-threat urban areas extends only 10 miles east of Vallejo and 10 miles west of Sacramento, which leaves out most of Solano County.

    Emlen cited a derailment and spill that took place in Virginia with a train using CPC-1232 tank cars and traveling 23 mph.

    “Therefore, the use of CPC-1232 tank cars at low speeds does not alone mitigate the potential impact from a train derailment,” he said.

    Other cities that submitted a written response on the revised draft included Davis, Albany, Gridley and Briggs. Other counties that responded included Yolo, Placer and Nevada counties.

    An original draft EIR was issued for the project in June 2014. Benicia said it issued the revised draft EIR in response to requests made in that original report. The city released the revised document Aug. 31 for a 45-day review period. It later extended the deadline for submitting written comments from Oct. 16 to Oct. 30.

    The Benicia Planning Commission also gathered public input on the revised document at a Sept. 29 meeting.

    The Valero project involves the installation of a new railcar unloading rack, rail track spurs, pumps, pipeline and associated infrastructure at the refinery, according to a city report. The crude would originate at sites in North America.

    Union Pacific Railroad would transport it using existing rail lines to Roseville, and from there to the refinery, the city said.

      Napa earthquake shuts down multiple rail services

      Repost from CBS Bay Area KPIX5

      Strong Napa Quake Stops Multiple Rail Services Through Bay Area

      by Brandon Mercer, August 24, 2014
      Amtrak Train at Crossing
      An Amtrak train at a railroad crossing. (CBS)

      SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The 6.0 magnitude quake Sunday morning in Napa County triggered multiple shutdowns of rail services throughout the Bay Area, including the cancellation of ACE train special Levi’s Stadium service and suspension of Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor service from Roseville to San Jose while track and bridges are inspected.

      BART trains are running on normal schedules as is Caltrain service on the peninsula. Caltrains cancelled one train because of logistical issues, but services is running, though with delays.

      Amtrak reports on Twitter that Union Pacific is inspecting the track right now.

      ACE posted this statement on its website this morning:

      Due to the earthquake in Napa, Union Pacific Railroad has notified all trains whom utilize their tracks for transportation in the area to not run trains. The ACE train to Levi’s Stadium has been cancelled due to this unforeseen issue. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused, however public safety is of the utmost importance.

      Refunds will be issued to all ticket holders for today’s train to Levi’s Stadium. Ticket holders will receive an email with more details soon