Tag Archives: Yolo County

DAVIS ENTERPRISE: Area agencies oppose Valero oil train petition

Repost from the Davis Enterprise

Davis joins regional agencies in opposing Valero oil train petition

By Felicia Alvarez, July 10, 2016

In the latest addition to the turbulent saga of Valero Refining Company’s proposal to expand a crude oil-by-rail train route through the Sacramento-Davis region to a refinery in Benicia, the City of Davis, Yolo County, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments have submitted formal letters opposing the Valero’s latest moves to approve the project.

The local agencies are joined by a formidable coalition opposing Valero’s project, including State Attorney General Kamala Harris, the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, and a number of air quality management districts.

The letters oppose Valero’s most recent steps to push through the crude-by-rail proposal and expansion of their Benicia refinery.

Last February saw the Benicia Planning Commission unanimously vote down the project’s environmental impact report. Valero decided to take it to the federal level, petitioning the Surface Transportation board for a federal preemption [by] the railroads.

Preemption would allow the company to expand its operations to transport oil through Davis along Interstate 80 toward the refinery in Benicia. It would also include routes that travel to San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield, and several other projects in Oregon and Washington.

The route of the most local concern would see 100-car trains travel through Old East Davis, downtown Davis, and the south end of UC Davis each day.

Last Friday, the City of Davis delivered its own letter to the Surface Transportation Board opposing Valero’s proposal. The city signed alongside Yolo County, Oakland, Berkeley and SACOG.

Fighting to maintain local control of planning and zoning management of the proposal in the interest of public safety, the letter states:

“Valero’s complaints do not actually pertain to rail operations at all. They pertain to the operations of oil refineries within California, refineries that wish, for their own financial benefits, to be exempted from compliance with state and local environmental and planning laws.”

The local agencies go on to argue that granting preemption is outside of the role of the board to rule on an oil refinery’s obligations.

The Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District decried Valero’s petition as well, drafting a letter alongside the Butte, Sutter, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta and Bay Area air quality management districts. 

The letter points to the project’s revised draft environmental impact report, which lists the additional air quality impacts that would be felt across multiple air districts if additional railcar trips were made across the region.

” … federal preemption prohibits the mitigation of project emissions either directly from locomotives or indirectly through the purchase of emission offsets,” the letter states, adding that this is what prompted the air quality districts to oppose the petition.

Yolo Solano AQMD’s letter goes on to echo the city’s argument that Valero is not a rail carrier, and therefore is not eligible to receive a preemption on the railroads from the Surface Transportation Board.

The Benicia City Council is slated to give the oil train proposal another hearing in September.

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    Oil train organizing in Davis, California

    Repost from an email, Lynne Nittler, of Davis, CA
    [Editor:  Lynne Nittler and her friends at Cool Davis and Yolano Climate Action do a great job of organizing.  Davis is a primary “uprail community” that would be at high risk if Valero Benicia Refinery’s Crude By Rail proposal is permitted.  I appreciated Lynne’s recent update and summary, below.  – RS]

    Oil Train: photos, Ca Energy Commission powerpoint, & actions

    From: Lynne Nittler
    Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:15 PM

    Dear oil train friends,

    1.  July 11 Stop Oil Trains Action –  photos

    On July 11, over 80 Davis residents turned out to remember the 2013 oil derailment that decimated Lac-Megantic, taking 47 lives.  Davis faces the threat of a similar accident.  Currently, at least one oil train of Bakken Crude per week passes through Davis headed to the Bay Area.  Two more 100-car trains per day are planned for the near future for the Valero Refinery in Benicia and the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo…unless citizens stop them.

    The Davis Stop Oil Trains action was one of many during the Week of Oil Train Action.  Check out photographs from actions across the country here.  Look for Davis!  https://www.flickr.com/photos/foresethics/sets/72157655110369339

    See our own review with photos here:  https://yolanoclimateaction.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/davis-residents-protest-oil-trains-moving-through-town/

    2.  Review of July 11:

    Locally, the ForestEthics  www.Blast-Zone.org map shows endangered homes and businesses along 2nd Street including the police station, Carlton Plaza Senior Living and Rancho Yolo.  The entire Davis downtown is vulnerable along with parts of UC Davis campus and apartments complexes along Olive Drive.

    The July 11 Vigil and Rally highlighted public opposition to oil trains passing through Davis. Too many residents live in the oil train blast zone, the one mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.

    Wearing fiery red, yellow and orange shirts, Davisites met at the train station and walked through the Davis blast zone downtown to the Rotary Stage in Central Park.

    We sang feisty songs led by the Raging Grannies.  We’ll be starting a group in Davis.  Let Lynne know if you’re interested.

    Mayor Dan Wolk explained the city council’s resolution opposing oil by rail, available at http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20140422/04B-Opposing-Oil-By-Rail.pdf

    City Councilman Lucas Frerichs spoke on the Sacramento Area Council of Government’s nearly unanimous decision to confront the issue.  SACOG is composed of 22 cities and 6 counties.  http://www.sacog.org/calendar/2014/08/rail/pdf/2-Valero%20EIR%20Comments.pdf

    At the state level, Senator Lois Wolk shared the past and present legislative responses to the sudden surge of crude-by-rail transport into California aimed at protecting the public as well as sensitive habitat and waterways.

    Supervisor Jim Provenza and Damien Luzzo focused on the extraction side of the issue in Yolo County.  Damien offered his story about how he came to oppose fracking at http://tinyurl.com/CAFrackWars and the Pledge of Resistance at http://tinyurl.com/FrackingPledgeOfResistance.  Sign his petition to ban fracking!

    3.  Urgent Action:  Urge Assemblyman Bill Dodd to support SB32 & SB350!   Information on the proposed Yolo ban on fracking were available as well as a letter to Assemblyman Bill Dodd urging him to support two critical climate bills due for a vote in mid-August:

    • SB32 extending our CA carbon reduction bill, and
    • SB350 aiming for 50% lower car emissions, 50% greater building efficiency, and 50% more solar and wind-generated electricity  by 2030.

    4.  Conclusion:

    There is NO safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude. Two years after Lac-Mégantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising.  Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety, and our climate.

    Given the unresolved dangers of crude oil transport by rail and the overload of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere, a more prudent path is to leave all extreme crude in the ground, transition to clean, renewable energy, and practice energy conservation in an effort to reverse climate change and live sustainably on a finite planet.

    5.  Next oil train actions:

    Powerpoint by CA Energy Commission: Read attached, a thorough and up-to-date powerpoint, to educate yourself on national and state oil and crude by rail issues in CA.  Excellent resource!

    Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo:  We are waiting for a hearing announcement where we can testify.

    Valero Refinery in Benicia:  The revised DEIR will be released on Aug. 31 for a 45-day written public comment period.  Our letters will be crucial when the Planning commission and late the City council makes their decisions whether to finalize the EIR and permit Valero’s rail spur.

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      Davis, California: Brave the blast zone to make a point – Saturday, July 11

      Repost from The Davis Enterprise
      [Editor:  Details at CoolDavis and Yolano Climate Action.  – RS]

      Brave the blast zone to make a point

      By Lynne Nittler, July 08, 2015
      Lac Megantic
      Protesters in Portland carry placards bearing the names of 47 people who died two years ago when an oil train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Courtesy photo

      There is no safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude oil. Two years after Lac-Mégantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising. Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety and our climate.

      On Saturday, July 11, Davis residents will remember the 2013 oil derailment that took 47 lives in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Davis faces the threat of a similar accident. Currently, at least one oil train per week passes through Davis headed to the Bay Area.

      Two more 100-car trains per day are planned for the near future for the Valero Refinery in Benicia and the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo … unless citizens stop them.

      The ForestEthics map at www.Blast-Zone.org shows endangered homes and businesses along Second Street in Davis, including the police station, Carlton Plaza senior community and Rancho Yolo. The entire Davis downtown is vulnerable, along with parts of UC Davis campus and apartments complexes along Olive Drive.

      Saturday’s vigil and rally highlight public opposition to oil trains passing through Davis. Too many residents live in the oil train blast zone, the 1-mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.

      “My home is in the oil train blast zone,” says Frances Burke, a downtown resident and oil train activist. “I have to breathe the extra particulates in the air from each additional daily train. Meanwhile, the new federal regulations do little to protect me.

      “In the event of an accident, first responders can only evacuate people from fireballs that happen despite trains moving at slower speeds in the supposedly safer tank cars. Oil trains are too dangerous for communities.”

      Wearing fiery red, yellow and orange shirts, Davisites are invited to meet at the train station and walk through the Davis blast zone downtown to the Rotary Stage in Central Park.

      “Five times in the first five months of 2015 we’ve watched oil trains derail and explode into toxic fireballs,” said Elizabeth Lasensky of Yolo MoveOn, as she made her sign for Saturday’s event. “The Department of Transportation reported in July 2014 that we can expect 10 to 12 derailments a year! It’s only a matter of time before an oil train derails in a major urban area, and the railroads don’t carry sufficient liability for such a disaster!”

      After rousing songs by the Raging Grannies, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk will speak of the City Council’s resolution opposing oil by rail, available at http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20140422/04B-Opposing-Oil-By-Rail.pdf followed by Councilman Lucas Frerichs, speaking about the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ nearly unanimous decision to confront the issue: http://www.sacog.org/calendar/2014/08/rail/pdf/2-Valero%20EIR%20Comments.pdf. SACOG is made up of 22 cities and six counties.

      At the state level, Sen. Lois Wolk will share the legislative response to the sudden surge of crude-by-rail transport into California, which is aimed at protecting the public as well as sensitive habitat and waterways.

      Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza and Damien Luzzo will focus on the extraction side of the issue in Yolo County. Luzzo offers his story about how he came to oppose fracking at http://tinyurl.com/CAFrackWars and the Pledge of Resistance at http://tinyurl.com/FrackingPledgeOfResistance.

      “With well over 100 pledges signed on and 500 visitors online, this fracking pledge of resistance is starting to take off,” Luzzo says of his plan to make California fracking-free. “My article explaining the origins of the pledge has attracted over 1,000 people. The word is definitely getting out there.”

      Information on oil trains and the proposed ban on fracking in Yolo County will be available at the Cool Davis booth at the Farmers Market in Central Park.

      “The truth is, we don’t need any of the extreme oil,” says Reeda Palmer of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. “The explosive Bakken and the toxic tar sands crude that moves by rail is a small percent of total U.S. oil consumption.

      “As we move our economy to clean energy, we can’t allow oil companies to bring Bakken, tar sands and other fracked oil — the dirtiest, most dangerous sources of oil — onto the market to pollute the atmosphere when we have clean alternatives.”

      Given the unresolved dangers of crude oil transport by rail and the overload of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere, a more prudent path is to leave all extreme crude in the ground, transition to clean, renewable energy and practice energy conservation in an effort to live sustainably on a finite planet.

      — Lynne Nittler is a Davis resident, the founder of Yolano Climate Action Central and an active member of Cool Davis.

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