By Roger Straw, December 21, 2016
[Later: see also, the Sacramento Bee story. - RS]
Benicia City Attorney announces that Valero Refinery will not sue over the City’s decision to deny Crude by Rail proposal
During announcements early in the Benicia City Council meeting last night, City Attorney Heather McLaughlin announced that Valero Refinery’s attorney has advised that the refinery does not intend to take the City to court over its decision to deny Crude by Rail.
Below is a 1½ minute video clip of City Manager McLaughlin’s four announcements on December 20. The Valero announcement comes 4th, the final announcement. (Note that Google Chrome viewing of City video is spotty - best viewed on Internet Explorer.) A transcript of McLaughlin’s announcement follows below.
Transcript of Benicia City Attorney Heather McLaughlin’s Dec. 20 announcement regarding Valero’s notice that they would not file suit against the City of Benicia:
On the final item,”CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL- ANTICIPATED LITIGATION” – on the Valero case. I put this one on here because I had word from the Valero attorney that they were thinking about filing suit against us on the Crude by Rail project. But … I’m so happy, it’s like a best Christmas present ever… yesterday, that Diane Sinclair called and said that they were not going to file suit against the City because they want to maintain positive relations with the City. So I thanked them for their courtesy, in letting us know ahead of time that they were planning on it, and also letting us know ahead of time that they weren’t going to do it. So that really eases up the work load on staff. So thank you.
Video of the entire Council meeting may be viewed on the City’s website at http://benicia.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=829.
By Roger Straw, October 13, 2016
Today the City of Benicia released the final draft of the City Council’s Resolution No. 16-150, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BENICIA DENYING A USE PERMIT FOR THE VALERO CRUDE BY RAIL PROJECT AT 3400 EAST SECOND STREET (12PLN-00063)
This document represents the “wordsmithed” version created during the City Council’s October 4 meeting. This final version has not been previously seen by the public.
At the October 4 meeting, Council members insisted on strengthening the section (now numbered 1. on page 4) that describes the Surface Transportation Board’s decision, clarifying its opinion “that the City has the police power to protect public health and safety so long as it does ‘not discriminate against rail carriers or unreasonably burden interstate commerce.’”
The Council also directed staff to make substantial changes in the format of the staff’s draft version, moving all references to rail-related impacts to a single “informational” item (now numbered 2A-2F on pages 4-6).
The heart of the revised document – findings for denial – are numbered 3-6 on pages 6-9.
NOTE: The 10-page PDF document linked above is large (4.8MB) and slow to download from the City’s website, so be patient. A smaller unofficial version can be downloaded here or you can download the original from Google Drive here.
By Roger Straw, October 5, 2016
After lengthy discussion and significant tweaking on Tuesday night Oct 4, the Benicia City Council unanimously approved a Resolution to Deny Valero’s proposal to build an offloading facility for oil trains. After a long list of whereases, the document indicates “findings” that back up the Council’s unanimous September 20 vote to deny Valero’s permit.
Anticipating litigation, Council members spent hours reworking the findings submitted by City Attorney Heather McLaughlin, making every effort to approve a document that would be “bullet-proof” in a court of law.
In the draft submitted to Council by staff, a number of the findings pointed out serious impacts both uprail and onsite. Council wordsmithed the document to move suggested “findings” that relate to OFFSITE rail impacts to a section of the document that was “for information only.” That section is included only to alert State and Federal governmental officials and regulators that more needs to be done at those levels to reign in unsafe and polluting transport of North American crude oil by rail.
The remaining findings relating to ONSITE impacts are extensive, and should be more than adequate to stand up in any possible court challenge.
The edited version of Council’s Resolution is not yet available as of this writing. The draft copy is available here. Minutes of the Council meeting have not yet been posted, but VIDEO of the Oct 4 meeting is available on the City’s website, here. The Council’s discussion begins at 2:19:10 on the video and goes for an hour and a half, until the end of the meeting, at 3:49:34.