Category Archives: Local Regulation

Campbell wanted to sue immediately over push poll; Largaespada defends himself

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[BenIndy Editor: I believe that no current Benicia City Council candidate was involved in nor favors push polls. But the reason for Valero to smear one candidate and lift another is clear. Valero can’t be unaware that Mr. Largaespada stood firm with Valero and against the will of the people during the controversial Crude by Rail debate in 2014-16. Planning Commissioner Kari Birdseye voted with the unanimous decision to stop Valero “in its tracks.” Valero has every reason – and every right – to openly and fairly voice its preference. But to secretly fund dirty tricks to achieve its goal is a tactic that should be soundly criticized by all candidates. I’ll vote for Birdseye, and hope that our next Council will include 3 women for the first time ever.  – RS]

Campbell sought tougher response to push poll incident

By John Glidden, October 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm
Tom Campbell

BENICIA — Days after the Benicia City Council met in closed session directing City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin to seek answers about a controversial polling incident, speculation swirled on which councilor voted against the move.

Councilman Tom Campbell confirmed he was the lone “no” vote in the Oct. 2 closed session decision.

“I wanted a stronger response than the rest of the council members wanted,” Campbell explained in an email to the Times-Herald.

The City Council authorized Mc Laughlin to contact Research America and EMC Research about their respective roles in a series of phone calls made to residents in September. Research America conducted the polling, which included questions about the city’s current council candidates.

The polling firm said EMC hired them, and just last week, Mc Laughlin confirmed that the Valero Benicia Refinery sponsored the entire polling.

Steve Young

Vice Mayor Steve Young, and other residents, have stated they received one of the survey calls which allegedly smeared council candidate Kari Birdseye while championing fellow council candidate Lionel Largaespada. Young called the survey a “push poll,” a type of survey meant to influence voters instead of gathering objective survey information from those called.

Councilors expressed concern that since the survey calls didn’t provide a “paid for by” disclaimer at the end of the phone calls the survey may have violated the city’s municipal code. A claim the polling firms have denied through their lawyer.

Campbell, who led the charge for the present campaigning ordinance in the municipal code, said he wanted immediate action in response to the poll.

“What I wanted was that the council authorize the city attorney to immediately go to Superior Court, file an injunction/lawsuit against the pollster and subpoena the records from EMC on who paid for it, how much, and what the exact questions were,” Campbell wrote in the same email. “The council took a little softer line than I wanted. I felt we had to act now to obtain the information as quickly as possible before the Nov. election.”

Lionel Largaespada

Largaespada issued a statement on Sunday in response to the news that Valero paid for the polling.

“I was very disappointed to learn that Valero sponsored the recent polling in Benicia,” he wrote in an email to this newspaper. “As I previously stated, I was not involved in any way with this polling effort, and I did not know who was conducting it.

“As I also stated, push polling, or any misrepresentation of a candidate’s stance or ideals is not something that I support in any way,” he added. “I hope that Valero will provide the content of the poll so that this issue can be resolved.”

Largaespada, who has expressed support in the past for the “crude by rail” initiative, also defended himself from comments made online by residents.

“To the commenters on Nextdoor that have suggested that I am in favor of this type of tactic, or that I am a ‘tool’ or ‘mouthpiece’ for Valero — these comments are completely false and without merit,” he wrote. “I understand that issues involving Valero are polarizing in our community, but to say that because someone believes differently than you do about an issue makes them a ‘tool’ for an entity is nothing more than name-calling.”

Mc Laughlin was also tasked by the council to obtaining a copy of the poll questions. In a letter she sent Research America, and EMC, last Friday, she gave them 72 hours to send a copy of the questions to her office.

Mc Laughlin said she didn’t have a copy of the poll questions as of Monday afternoon and was told she would get a response to her request on Wednesday.

    Washington governor nixes Vancouver oil train terminal

    Repost from The Oregonian – Oregon  Live / Oregon Business News

    Washington governor nixes Vancouver oil train terminal

    Updated Jan 29, 5:30 PM; Posted Jan 29, 5:28 PM
    By Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian/OregonLive
    The Port of Vancouver's rail loop was proposed to serve a 360,000-barrel-a-day oil train terminal under a proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos.  (Courtesy of Port of Vancouver)
    The Port of Vancouver’s rail loop was proposed to serve a 360,000-barrel-a-day oil train terminal under a proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. (Courtesy of Port of Vancouver) (Port of Vancouver)

    Washington’s governor on Monday put a presumed end to a proposed oil-by-rail export terminal at the Port of Vancouver, notifying state regulators that he agreed with their unanimous decision to reject the controversial project.

    The state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council voted in November to recommend that Gov. Jay Inslee deny the Tesoro-Savage proposal. In a letter announcing his decision, Inslee said he found ample support in the record for the council’s decision that the project was wrong for the proposed site, including risks posed by a large earthquake, an oil spill or an explosion or fire at the facility.

    Inslee said the facility posed potentially catastrophic risks to the public and there was no way to mitigate the impacts that that an oil spill would have on water quality, wetlands, fish and wildlife.

    “The Council found that emergency responders are unlikely to be able to successfully respond to a major incident at the facility,” Inslee wrote.

    Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of the Tesoro Corp, now known as Andeavor, and Savage Co.s, has 30 days to appeal the governor’s decision in Thurston County Superior Court. A spokesman for Savage said the company would have a statement, but had not issued one yet.

    The companies had proposed spending $210 million on a terminal at Port of Vancouver to transfer 360,000 barrels a day of Bakken crude from trains onto marine vessels for shipment to West Coast refineries. Supporters pointed to the jobs and property taxes that would be generated by the facility.

    Dan Serres, conservation director for the advocacy group Columbia Riverkeeper, said the proposal attracted unprecedented opposition from a cross-section of businesses, environmental groups and citizens. And while the company could appeal the decision, Serres said they’d be doing so without a lease as the Port of Vancouver has already signaled its intent to seek other options as of March 31.

    “The idea of putting five loaded oil trains a day down the Columbia River Gorge was irresponsible, and after Mosier, that became clear,” said Serres, referring to the fiery derailment of an oil train near the town of Mosier in June 2016.  “We’re just overjoyed to see them go away. This one’s over.”

    -Ted Sickinger

      Washington Agency Votes to Reject Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal

      Repost from DeSmogBlog

      Washington Agency Votes to Reject Vancouver Energy’s Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal

      By Justin Mikulka • Wednesday, November 29, 2017 – 10:29
      Portland, Oregon, bridge with banner reading 'Coal oil gas none shall pass'
      Portland, Oregon, bridge with banner reading ‘Coal oil gas none shall pass’

      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.”

      Vancouver Energy told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the council has “set an impossible standard” for new energy facilities in Washington.

      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.

      Map of proposed Vancouver Energy oil by rail terminal on the Columbia River
      A map of the proposed facility from its Final Environmental Impact Statement. Credit: Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal Facility

      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.

      If Governor Inslee stops this project, it will join the growing list of oil terminals in the West rejected after intense local opposition. Earlier this month a California court ruled that an oil refinery and rail project in Bakersfield could not proceed because its environmental review was inadequate.

      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.

      Also in 2017, a proposed Phillips 66 oil-by-rail project in California was voted down by the San Luis Obispo County planning commission. In 2016 the city council in Benicia, California, voted unanimously to reject Valero’s proposed oil-by-rail project.

      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.

      Main image: People’s Climate March PDX Credit: David SierralupeCC BY 2.0