Repost from Center For Biological Diversity
[Editor: read the Center’s letter for some excellent points on Valero’s revised draft environmental impact report (RDEIR). Your comments on the RDEIR are due in Benicia city offices by 5pm Pacific time, October 30, 2015. – RS]
Right now is a critical moment to stop oil trains in California. Oil giant Valero wants to build a massive terminal for oil trains at its Benicia refinery.
If Valero gets its way, mile-long oil trains carrying explosive and toxic crude will travel daily throughout California. The project’s environmental review admits that impacts from hazardous materials will be “significant and unavoidable.” The risks to health and safety are unacceptable.
We also know that this project is a disaster for the climate. Building a new oil train terminal would lock us into decades of using some of the most carbon-intensive oil on the planet: Canadian tar sands and fracked North Dakota Bakken crude. At a time of extreme drought and intense heat waves, we need to invest in safe and clean energy projects.
Text of the Center’s letter (go here and edit as you like):
I am writing with serious concern about Valero’s proposed oil train offloading facility in Benicia. According to the environmental impact report (EIR), this project would create several “significant and unavoidable impacts” that could harm my community.
For one, bringing oil trains into Benicia is expected to create unacceptable increases in toxic air pollution to towns along the rail route and near the refinery. Specifically the EIR identifies increases in nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, benzene and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). Oil trains of this size typically have three diesel engines emitting the equivalent pollution of 1,500 cars each, or 4,500 per train.
According to the EIR, the cumulative risk of spills, explosions and fires along the Union Pacific mainline “would be significant for all of the tank car designs.” This includes the not-yet-built DOT-117 cars, which require a puncture resistance of only 18 mph even while current speed limits are set to 50 mph in most areas. Just one accident could result in significant loss of life, long-term economic damage and contamination of our precious wetlands and waterways.
The EIR also wrongly assumes the “worst case” scenario is a spill of just eight tanker cars, or about 240,000 gallons. The train that incinerated Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013 spilled more than 1.6 million gallons of crude (about 60 tanker cars), and accidents in West Virginia, Alabama and North Dakota have also resulted in 20 or more tanker cars catching fire. Without an accurate worst-case-scenario analysis that reflects existing data on recent spills, this project cannot be approved.
The revised EIR also identifies “significant and unavoidable” climate impacts that conflict with California’s existing law to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 80 percent below 1990 levels and move to an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. At a time of extreme drought and intense heat waves, we must invest in safe, clean energy rather than dangerous oil infrastructure.
And finally, an analysis of census data has shown that a vast majority of people who will be harmed by this project live in EPA-designated environmental-justice communities — primarily low-income and of color. Approving this project will only add to a legacy of environmental injustice.
For all these reasons, I urge you, the planning commission and city council to deny certification for this EIR and reject Valero’s proposed oil train terminal in Benicia.
Again, to send this letter to Benicia city planners, click here.