On November 14, a coalition of local groups convened an expert panel to share with Benicians about the importance of establishing an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO). Organizers believe that a local ISO will give our community a seat at the table and enable a faster response in times of industrial emergency situations.
Washington Agency Votes to Reject Vancouver Energy’s Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal
By Justin Mikulka • Wednesday, November 29, 2017 – 10:29
In another major blow to the West Coast oil-by-rail industry, a Washington state agency voted unanimously to recommend Governor Jay Inslee reject the Vancouver Energy oil terminal. Proposed for construction in Vancouver, Washington, along the Columbia River, it would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country.
Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) has been reviewing the project since 2013 — reportedly the longest review period ever for the council. However, its November 28 meeting and vote on the final recommendation for the Tesoro Savage–backed project only took 10 minutes.
“Given the reality of climate change, there is simply no reason to build new fossil fuel infrastructure, especially for the export of extreme oil,” said Matt Krogh of activist group Stand, one of many groups opposing the Vancouver Energy project. “The entire reason behind this proposal was to move crude oil from the middle of North America to overseas markets. Simply put, this oil is not for us — and the proposal would leave every single community along the rail lines with all of the risk and none of the reward.”
Proposed by Tesoro Savage Petroleum Terminal LLC (also known as Vancouver Energy), the facility is designed to handle 360,000 barrels of oil per day. Expectations are that the facility would receive both the highly volatile light Bakken oil as well as Canadian tar sands oil, with much of it traveling through the Columbia River Gorge. In 2016 an oil train derailed and caught fire in Mosier, Oregon, with some of the oil ending up in the Columbia River, which has already been suffering major declines of its once-historic salmon populations.
Despite lower oil prices, U.S. imports of Canadian tar sands oil reached record levels in 2017 and are currently at 3.3 million barrels per day. More of that oil has been moving by rail recently, and as overall tar sands production continues to rise, industry observers predict large potential increases in shipping more of it by rail over the next several years.
Rich Kruger, CEO of tar sands producer Imperial (the Canadian affiliate of ExxonMobil), recently commented on how rail was becoming more attractive as a way to get oil to America.
“Rail is increasingly competitive,” Kruger told Bloomberg. “There are times when we look at the pipeline alternative, [but] the variable cost aspect of rail is a more attractive means for us to get to the mid-Western or Gulf coast markets.”
West Coast Oil-by-Rail Plans
Should Washington Governor Inslee, who has 60 days to make a final decision, follow the recommendation to reject the Vancouver Energy oil terminal, it would throw a major wrench in oil industry plans for Canadian tar sands and Bakken oil in the West. As DeSmog reported in June, oil-by-rail remains part of the industry’s long-term plans to get oil to West Coast refineries.
Earlier this year the Washington Supreme Court voted unanimously to deny an oil-by-rail project in Grays Harbor because that project lacked a comprehensive environmental review that considered the Ocean Resources Management Act.
Growing awareness of the risks of oil train terminals has led many communities where they are proposed to back away from such projects.
Local Election Was Proxy Vote on Vancouver Oil Terminal
Because Vancouver Energy’s proposed oil-by-rail facility is sited in the Port of Vancouver, a recent electoral race for one of the port commission’s three seats became a proxy fight over the oil terminal.
The race was between Don Orange, owner of a local auto repair shop and opponent of the oil-by-rail project, and Kris Greene, an insurance agent who was backed by large amounts of money from oil and rail corporations. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Greene raised “nearly $600,000, with 87 percent coming from Vancouver Energy and backers of the project” and also received support from a PAC, funded in part by rail company BNSF and Tesoro, which spent $160,000.
However, Orange also raised close to $400,000, with considerable support coming from the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund.
Orange thought there was little question why so much money was pouring into a local election for a seat on a commission that pays around $10,000 a year.
“This is a choice of what our economy should look like,” said Orange. “It is a choice of having a vibrant small business economy or becoming a big oil town.”
The election’s results showed how the majority of the community felt about the oil-by-rail project: despite being outspent by Greene, Orange won over 64 percent of the vote.
Current port commissioner Eric LaBrant was shocked by the results, saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this in local politics … This election shows where the community wants to go and what kind of business the community wants to have there at the port.”
Still, the final decision on the oil terminal lies with the governor, and even then, the door remains open for either side to take legal action.
TOWN HALL MEETING TONIGHT!
An Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)
To learn more about ISO Benicia,
please attend a panel discussion with State Officials, and Contra Costa County experts on why and how Benicia can better protect our community.
Why: Currently, Benicia is the only refinery town in the Bay Area not protected by an ISO. In Contra Costa County, the county Hazardous Materials Division of the Health Department is responsible for enforcing an ISO that governs the three refineries in the county unincorporated areas – Shell, Tesoro and Phillips 66. The City of Richmond has an ordinance that mirrors the county’s and contracts with Contra Costa County for enforcement activities governing the Chevron refinery and other industries.
When:TODAY!Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 7pm.
Where: The Benicia Public Library in the Doña Benicia Room at 150 East L St. in Benicia.
Gregory Vlasek, Local Program Coordination and Emergency Response, California Environmental Protection Agency
Clyde Trombettas, Statewide Manager and Policy Advisor for California OSHA, Process Safety Management Unit
Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa County Chief Environmental Health and Hazardous Materials Officer
John Gioia, Contra Costa County Supervisor
Staff representatives from Solano County were invited to participate and declined the invitation.
You: There will also be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and make comments at the end of the presentations.
What is the purpose of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)? The main goal of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) is to prevent and/or minimize the effects of devastating accidents on the employees close to the accident and the surrounding communities.
Why does Benicia need this when the State has an ISO? After the near-catastrophic May 5th Valero Refinery emergency shutdown and major flaring incident, it was even more apparent that Benicia is at risk without an ISO. Benicia is the only jurisdiction in the East Bay with a refinery or chemical industry that does not have a local safety ordinance such as the City of Richmond and other refinery communities have. The City of Benicia is covered by Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA safety regulations. However, there are additional concerns not addressed by Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA, such as no direct safety reports filed at the City of Benicia, leaving Benicia in the dark. An ISO would correct this and other safety matters.
How would this improve communications between Valero and the community of Benicia? A local ISO would facilitate cooperation between industry, the City, the County, local fire departments, Cal/OSHA, Cal/EPA, other agencies that have oversight of businesses, and the public in the prevention and reduction of incidents at refineries like Valero. An ISO would also establish local air quality monitors for access to real time data.
Why is the Valero refinery the only Bay Area refinery not involved with a county or local ISO? In 1998 Contra Costa County adopted an ISO, and revised and updated it after the Chevron fire. The City of Richmond also has a local ISO. These ISOs require among other things, refineries and other chemical businesses to submit a safety plan, undergo safety audits, and have risk management plans, each of which would allow more community input and access. The Contra Costa ISO has been praised as the best safety ordinance in the country, so effective that Cal/OSHA and Cal/EPA adopted many elements for state regulation and oversight. Benicia is the only city in Solano County that is home to refinery and currently our County has no plans to develop an ISO. It is up to the City of Benicia to develop and implement its own.
How would the ISO be managed and can Benicia afford it? Contra Costa County’s ISO enables the county to collect fees from industrial facilities to pay for comprehensive public safety alerts and local information about environmental risks and exposure to toxins due to an “event”.
What are the next steps and how can I get involved? Because Benicia deserves to be properly protected and informed, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Progressive Democrats of Benicia, The Benicia Independent, Carquinez Patriotic Resistance, Communities For a Better Environment and additional community groups are urging the City Council to adopt and implement an Industrial Safety Ordinance for Benicia. To learn more and get involved, visit BeniciaIndependent.com. To write to Benicia city staff and council members, see below…
MAIL / PHONE / OFFICES: Mail to or visit City Hall: 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510
Phone numbers are listed on the City’s CONTACT PAGE
SEND YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE NEWS MEDIA: Benicia Herald, 820 First St, Benicia, CA 94510, or by email to the editor at email@example.com AND
Vallejo Times-Herald, P.O. Box 3188, Vallejo, CA 94590, Fax: 643-0128, or by email to Editor Jack Bungart at firstname.lastname@example.org.