Category Archives: Cumulative impacts

Latest Benicia DEIR comments: Center For Biological Diversity, Communities for a Better Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council

On December 16, the City of Benicia released yet another document highly critical of the Valero Crude-by-Rail Draft EIR.  The massive report was submitted for the record on December 5 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Communities for a Better Environment, and Natural Resources Defense Council.  The document focuses on biological resources and climate change.  Many thanks to our friends in these excellent organizations!

The summary page follows:

CBD-CBE-NRDC_lttrhdDecember 5, 2014

Amy Million, Principal Planner
Community Development Department
250 East L Street
Benicia, CA 94510
amillion@ci.benicia.ca.us

Re: The City of Benicia’s Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Valero Benicia Crude by Rail Project

Dear Ms. Million,

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Communities for a Better Environment, and Natural Resources Defense Council, we submit the following comments on the City of Benicia’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Valero Benicia Crude by Rail Project (Project). The Project, if approved, would allow the Valero refinery to receive up to 70,000 barrels per day of crude oil by train, which equates to a potential for 1.07 billion gallons of crude oil imported by train each year.

These comments supplement prior comment letters by detailing the significant deficiencies in the DEIR’s assessment of impacts to Biological Resources in Section 4.2. Specifically the DEIR (1) fails to adequately analyze and mitigate impacts to biological resources at the Project area; (2) fails to adequately analyze and mitigate impacts along the rail lines serving the Project; (3) fails to properly analyze the cumulative impacts of increased crude oil shipments on biological resources; and (4) fails to adequately evaluate impacts related to climate change.

Because this Project would result in significant impacts to biological resources, the City cannot certify the DEIR before adopting all feasible mitigation measures. At present, the DEIR fails to identify and analyze mitigation measures that would reduce the Project’s impacts.

However, there are numerous mitigation measures and alternatives that would reduce the impacts of the Project. These measures must be analyzed in the DEIR, so that the full range of options are publicly disclosed and considered by decision‐makers.

[Editor: The document continues … Note that the “Public Comment” link below goes to a huge 584-page document on the City’s website, a 24mb download.  WordPress will not allow an upload of this magnitude here on The Benicia Independent.  The bulk of the document (570 pages) is supplemental studies, all important, but for the heart of the document, see the 14-page Comment Letter minus the supplements.  – RS)

Public Comments October 17-December 15, 2014  (A single comment letter, from the Center for Biological Diversity, Communities for a Better Environment, and Natural Resources Defense Council.)

    VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Sacramento-area leaders concerned about crude-rail risks

    Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald

    Sacramento-area leaders concerned about crude-rail risks

    Uprail communities urge Benicia to address oil train safety hazards
    By Tony Burchyns, 08/09/2014

    Sacramento-area leaders are voicing concerns about Valero’s proposed crude-by-rail plan, accusing Benicia of paying too little attention to potential “very serious” hazards of increased oil train shipments through Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa counties.

    In a draft comment letter on the project, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments last week sharply criticized a Benicia study that found that the crude oil trains rattling through cities and sensitive habitats would pose no “significant hazard” whatsoever.

    “We believe that conclusion is fundamentally flawed, disregards the recent events demonstrating the very serious risk to life and property that these shipments pose, and contradicts the conclusions of the federal government, which is mobilizing to respond to these risks,” the letter states.

    In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that crude-by-rail shipments pose an “imminent hazard,” based on a recent pattern of fires and spills involving crude oil shipments from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

    The letter urges the city to “substantially revise” the project’s draft environmental impact report “so that it will fully inform the public and the City Council of the full impacts.”

    Valero is proposing daily shipments of up to 70,000 barrels of crude to its Benicia refinery. The tank cars would originate at unspecified North American sites and be shipped to the Union Pacific Railroad’s Roseville yard, where they would be assembled into two daily 50-car trains to Benicia.

    Last month, Benicia officials extended the public comment period on the project’s draft environmental impact report to Sept. 15.

    The council — which represents six counties and 22 cities in the Sacramento region — is set to approve its draft letter later this month. Meanwhile, the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, Yolo County Board of Supervisors and Caltrans separately have submitted comment letters to Benicia expressing concerns about the project.

    Yolo County officials contend that Benicia’s project analysis “provides only a brief review of the environmental, safety, and noise effects on upstream communities.”

    “All areas along the route will have the same trains traveling on them,” the Yolo County officials wrote. They added that potential risks to all communities along the rail line should be studied.

    The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District recommended that the city offset increased air emissions from locomotives by supporting clean-tech programs in the region. The district also faulted the city for not studying the project’s cumulative air pollution effects throughout Sacramento and Yolo counties, as well as parts of Placer, El Dorado, Solano and Sutter counties.

    Caltrans focussed its concerns on how oil train deliveries would impact Interstate 680 near the Bayshore Road off-ramp. They recommend safety measures — including rail signals — at the Bayshore Road crossing to prevent freeway backups during peak commute hours.

    The agency also requested that a mechanism be put in place to advise Caltrans directly of any accidents affecting the freeway.

    Benicia Senior Planner Amy Million said the city would respond to all valid project concerns following the close of the public comment period. The next public hearing on the project is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 250 E. L St.

      Contra Costa County: Supervisors order recirculation of environmental report on Rodeo refinery project

      Repost from The Contra Costa Times
      [Editor: Note the 8th paragraph (emphasis added).  Back in January of this year, the BAAQMD itself has – according to this article – “weighed in … saying the environmental report should include calculations of toxic air contaminant emissions from the refinery and assess cumulative health risks of other refinery projects in the region“.  Surely then, this is also true for the Valero Benicia EIR.  Can the City’s consultant be charged with calculating cumulative emissions Bay-Area-wide as part of its EIR?  Or should the BAAQMD issue its own inclusive estimates DURING the proposal’s 45-day comment period?   – RS]

      Contra Costa County: Supervisors order recirculation of environmental report on Rodeo refinery project

      By Tom Lochner Contra Costa TimesPosted:   06/09/2014

      MARTINEZ — Health impacts related to a propane and butane recovery project at the Phillips 66 petroleum refinery in Rodeo should be studied before moving ahead with approvals, according to county officials, but the refinery claims that delay could doom the project.

      The board voted last week 5-0 to recirculate the project’s environmental impact report and continue the public hearing, which also includes consideration of two appeals of the project’s land use permit, to Sept. 23.

      Conservation and Development Director Catherine Kutsuris noted that the EIR does not include a cumulative study of health impacts on the surrounding communities recommended under a 2011 revision of the guidelines of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The health study must be completed and submitted for public comment before the EIR can be certified, Kutsuris said.

      The Phillips 66 Liquid Petroleum Gas Recovery Project calls for installing new equipment to recover and sell propane and butane instead of burning the fuel at the refinery or flaring off excesses. The refinery says the project will reduce pollution while creating well-paying jobs and generating taxes.

      “The economic realities are, if we recirculate and we have another delay, we will be canceling this project,” Sam Parino, operations manager at Phillips 66 Rodeo, told the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors at the June 3 public hearing, although the company later softened its stance.

      The project has suffered a string of recent setbacks after breezing through the early stages of the approval process, beginning with the endorsement of the Rodeo Municipal Advisory Council last summer, followed by county Planning Commission approval of a land use permit in November.

      A packed January hearing on the EIR and appeals of the Planning Commission land use permit led to passionate testimony from both sides.

      The Bay Area Air Quality Management District also weighed in at that time, saying the environmental report should include calculations of toxic air contaminant emissions from the refinery and assess cumulative health risks of other refinery projects in the region. There are pending projects at Chevron in Richmond, Shell in Martinez and Valero in Benicia. Also pending is an oil storage and transfer joint venture in Pittsburg by WesPac Energy and Oiltanking Holding Americas, with rail, marine and pipeline components.

      Refinery spokesman Mark Hughes urged the board to order the health study without recirculating the EIR, saying it would be “tragic” if the refinery suffers economic loss and the community misses out on emission reductions and jobs promised as part of this project.

      On Monday, Phillips 66 appeared to be backing down from its threat to scuttle the project.

      “We will continue to pursue the land use permitting approvals of the LPG Recovery Project to ensure the long-term viability of the Rodeo refinery and the many jobs it provides,” Hughes said in an email. “We are confident that a revised EIR will ultimately help decision-makers and our community to better understand the benefits of the project and approve the application.”

      Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.