Category Archives: Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

BENICIA HERALD: Crude by Rail opponents cite large opposition list

Appearing as the front page headline story in today’s Benicia Herald
(no online version, so no link)

Crude by Rail opponents cite large opposition list

By Elizabeth Warnimont, April 6, 2016

At the first of the current round of scheduled hearings regarding Valero Benicia Refinery’s Crude by Rail project at City Hall Monday, a number of government agencies and other groups came forward to express their opposition to the project, adding to a growing list of individuals, government entities and private groups to register their objections. A few individuals and groups also spoke in favor of the project.

During the public comment period, Catherine Black, chairwoman for Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, recited a partial list of groups currently opposing the project. Organizations, public agencies and public officials who have either had major concerns or have spoken out directly against the project, she stated, include, in no particular order:

  • Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community
  • Solano County
  • Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD) including Bay Area, Butte County, Feather River, Sacramento Metropolitan, County of Shasta and Yolo/Solano AQMDs
  • Placer County Air Pollution Control District
  • UC Davis
  • California Office of Spill Prevention and Response
  • The California Utilities Commission
  • The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
  • Amtrak
  • The California Department of Transportation
  • San Francisco Bay Keepers
  • Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California
  • Cool Davis
  • 350 Sacramento
  • 350 Bay Area
  • 350 Marin
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • National Resources Defense Council
  • Phil Serna, Sacramento County supervisor
  • Ironworkers 378
  • Sierra Club
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), an association of local governments in the six-county Sacramento region including El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Yolo and Yerba counties
  • The Yolo County Board of Supervisors
  • Martinez Environmental Group
  • Richmond Progressive Alliance
  • Global Community Monitor
  • the city of Albany
  • the city of Briggs and its fire department
  • the city of Gridley and its fire department
  • County of Nevada Community Development Agency
  • the town of Truckee
  • the city of West Sacramento
  • the Shasta County Department of Resource Management
  • Community Science Institute
  • Rodeo United to Defend the Environment
  • City of Davis Foundation
  • Sunflower Alliance
  • City of Pittsburg Defense Council
  • Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
  • Attorney General Kamala Harris
  • Yolo Climate Action
  • Berkeley City Council
  • State Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis)
  • Berkeley Vice Mayor Linda Maio
  • The Sacramento School District Board and the Benicia Planning Commission

Numerous supporting documents were also submitted Monday, including examples of court rulings relevant to the question of federal pre-emption.

“We acknowledge that there is a key value for domestic energy production,” Don Saylor, a representative of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and Sacramento Area Council’s board of directors, said. “That we depend on installations like the Valero refinery here in Benicia to power our economy. We also understand the federal role in railroad regulation. However, we have provided you with legal framework that we hope you consider, that points out your competing authority as a local, land use decision-making body.”

“The bodies that I represent are asking that you uphold the Planning Commission’s decision and deny the appeal before you,” he added.

Many of the concerns voiced at the hearing echoed those of previous hearings, including worn train tracks and heavy (over 150 tons each) crude-carrying trains, populations and environmentally sensitive areas within the “blast zone” that would be destroyed in the event of a derailment involving fire, air pollution from train exhaust, and traffic back-ups from Bayshore Road extending onto Interstate 680.

Concerns that stood out more Monday than they had at previous hearings, in the view of this reporter, included the long-term and widespread impact the Council’s decision will have for the state of California in general, and some particularly vulnerable populations lying in close vicinity to the tracks that would carry the crude-containing rail cars, including schools, homes and downtown areas.

The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) is the document that contains reference to all of these concerns, along with the applicant’s (Valero’s) responses to most of them. It is a three-volume work that does not number its pages but adds up to a total of 5.25 inches of paper, printed on both sides.   The document, as well as written and video documentation of City Council and Planning Commission meetings and hearings on the subject, are available to view online at the City of Benicia website, or by request at the City Clerk’s office at City Hall, located at 250 East L St.

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VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Public comments on Valero’s appeal

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor:  Many thanks to the Vallejo Times-Herald and reporter Irma Widjojo for her late-night service to our communities, covering hearings on this incredibly important issue of statewide and national significance. We can only wish the major news outlets in the Bay Area and Northern California were so inclined.  Oh, and … great photo!  – RS]

Public comments on Valero’s appeal

By Irma Widjojo, 04/05/16, 6:28 PM PDT
Irma Widjojo - Times-HeraldMembers of Benicians for Safe and Healthy Community unravel a scroll of signed petitions against Valero Benicia Refinery 's proposed crude-by-rail project during the group's public comment slot Monday night at the Benicia City Council Chambers.
Members of Benicians for Safe and Healthy Community unravel a scroll of signed petitions against Valero Benicia Refinery ‘s proposed crude-by-rail project during the group’s public comment slot Monday night at the Benicia City Council Chambers. Irma Widjojo — Times-Herald

Benicia >> About 50 people spoke Monday night to voice their opinion on Valero Benicia Refinery’s proposed project as the public comment period of the appeal hearing began.

Like previous public comment periods on the issue, the Benicia City Council Chambers was packed for the hearing, causing a number of people to be asked to listen from the overflow areas.

The City Council is being asked to consider the Planning Commission’s decision to deny Valero’s use permit application for the crude-by-rail project and to not certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report, or EIR.

Elected officials from surrounding areas, representatives from governmental and other agencies and spokesmen for organized groups were allowed to speak first at the meeting.

About 30 people came by a chartered bus from Sacramento and the “uprail” cities to oppose the project and spoke.

A local grassroots organization Benicians for Safe and Healthy Community also used a visual prop during its address in the form of a scroll of papers containing more than 4,080 signatures of those who are against the project.

At a March hearing, an attorney working with Valero on the project said the company intends to send a request for an opinion from the Surface Transportation Board on the issue of federal preemption in relation to the project.

At the end of the hearing, later in April, the council will also decide if it will wait to make a decision on the appeal after the Surface Transportation Board, or STB, returns with a declarative order.

The staff has recommended for the council not to wait because the agency’s decision can be appealed in court and waiting would risk for the EIR to become stale.

Those who support the project are urging the council to wait, while the other side ask for a decision to be made at the end of the hearing.

“Too much money and time have been spent on this process,” a speaker said. “Let’s not postpone it further.”

At stake is the ability for the refinery to bring in two 50-car trains a day carrying up to 70,000 barrels of North American crude oil. The company’s oil is now being transported into the city by marine vessels and pipeline.

Those who supported the project say Valero has been a good neighbor in Benicia and that the project is needed for the company to remain competitive.

The refinery said the $50 million project would result in about 120 temporary construction jobs and 20 full-time jobs, as well as generate tax revenues for the city.

However, those who are against the project said the risks outweigh the benefits.

In fact, the project EIR states that there are 11 “significant and unavoidable” impacts, though staff and Valero have said they cannot be mitigated because they are rail related and are preempted by federal laws.

The Planning Commission, however, disagreed, and denied the project.

Public comment will resume Wednesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 250 E. L St., and the hearing will then continue April 18 and 19, if necessary.

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2014-2016 Comments on Valero Crude by Rail by Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

By Roger Straw, March 10, 2016

Formal comments on Valero Crude by Rail by Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

I have been asked to make it easier for people to access the several important contributions made by Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC).

BSHC is an informal group of Benicia residents who first gathered in January of 2014 to oppose Valero’s dirty and dangerous Crude By Rail proposal.  At each step along the way, BSHC has contributed significant public comments on the City of Benicia’s environmental review. See below:


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