Repost from Safe Benicia.org (KGO News Radio 810AM)
Andres Soto interviewed by KGO Radio on Valero’s dangerous Crude by Rail project in Benicia.
Repost from the East Bay Express
[Editor: Many thanks to the East Bay Express for excellent coverage of this colorful and important event (below). Benicia old timers were heard to say that sleepy little Benicia has probably NEVER seen a protest demonstration like this. Check out two facebook pages for great photos of the day: facebook.com/stopcrudebyrail AND facebook.com/events/220829548127114/?ref=22. – RS]
Accompanied by a four-kayak flotilla and a fifth-generation Martinez resident on horseback, about one hundred environmental activists marched seven miles from Martinez to Benicia on Saturday to protest the local toxic pollution and global climate impact of Bay Area oil refineries. The march was spearheaded by a Bay Area group affiliated with Idle No More, an organization of Canadian First Nations people fighting development of the tar sands oil fields in Alberta and other environmentally destructive projects on their traditional lands.
Specific targets of the protest were proposed expansion projects at the Chevron (Richmond), Valero (Benicia), and Phillips 66 (Rodeo) refineries, a crude oil transportation terminal in Pittsburg planned by energy infrastructure company WesPac, and the major investment of Shell (Martinez) in the Canadian tar sands mines. The Saturday march was the second of four planned Refinery Corridor Healing Walks — the first, from Pittsburg to Martinez, was held in April, and future walks are planned for June and July, ending up at Chevron in Richmond. The series of walks aims to “connect the dots” to “bring awareness to the refinery communities, invite community members to get to know one another, and to show support for a just transition beyond fossil fuels,” according to the group’s website.
At a gathering at the Martinez Regional Shoreline before the march, a winner of this year’s Goldman environmental prize, South African Desmond D’Sa, described the high rates of leukemia, cancer, and asthma in his home town of Durban and the community’s struggles against Shell Oil there, urging the crowd to “fight them (refineries) wherever they are.” Penny Opal Plant, of the East Bay Idle No More group, said she only recently began to conceive of the refinery corridor as a total area suffering from the “immense devastation” caused by oil refineries.
Richmond residents have long protested pollution from Chevron, most recently the toxic explosion that sent 15,000 seeking medical treatment in August 2012. Benicia residents have also organized to oppose environmental hazards. In the last year, local groups have also formed in Pittsburg, Crockett-Rodeo, and Martinez to protest refinery expansion and transportation plans, including major increases in the amount of crude oil to be carried by rail through the Bay Area and beyond.
Describing the dangers of mining, refining, and transporting oil, and looking ahead to a future free from fossil fuel, Opal Plant said, “We are Mother Earth’s immune response awakening. We’re born at this time to do this thing.”
The group’s route first went through the Shell refinery, then over the bridge to Benicia, with a view of the Valero refinery there. From a hilltop vista point next to Carquinez Strait, Benicia activist Marilyn Bardet pointed out refineries and planned oil industry project sites, as well as the environmentally Suisun Marsh. Railroad tracks leading to the Valero refinery, she said, go right through the marsh. A spill of tar sands crude oil, she added, would be impossible to clean up because the oil is so heavy it would sink and cause irreparable damage.
The next Refinery Corridor Healing walk is scheduled to go from Benicia to the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo on June 14.
Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
BENICIA – For the first time the public attended an informational meeting Monday about Valero Benicia Refinery’s proposed crude-by-rail infrastructure improvement project.
About 150 people packed the Ironworkers Union Local 378 hall to have questions answered about the controversial project. The meeting was hosted by the Valero’s Community Advisory Panel.
The project was unveiled early last year, but has been delayed pending city’s environmental impact report.
The project seeks to add three rail tracks and an off-loading track on Valero’s property to allow crude oil to be transported into the refinery. Currently, crude oil is delivered into Valero Benicia through pipeline and ships.
During the meeting, officials presented the project to the audience and answered submitted questions.
Many residents have expressed rail-safety and environmental concerns about the project. Company officials contend that the railroad traffic — up to 100 tank cars per day — would not affect the region’s air quality, and safety standards would be met.
Officials also said that the railroad addition would make the refinery more competitive by allowing it to process more discounted North American crude oil.
“It would not increase crude delivery, just make it more flexible,” John Hill, vice president and general manager of the refinery, told the crowd.
Another point of contention was the type of crude oil that would be transported into Benicia by rail.
An opposition group, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, said the project will allow the delivery of the highly flammable Bakken crude from North Dakota. Concerns also have been raised about the possible use of Canadian tar sands oil, regarded as more polluting than other crudes.
However, officials said there will be no change in the delivered type of crude. They said the refinery can, and will be able to, handle any blend of crude oil as long as it meets density and sulfur requirements for its facility. They did not disqualify Bakken crude as a possible part of a blend.
The California Environmental Quality Act review finds there are a few factors that need mitigation to eliminate impacts, according to the presentation. For example dirt control during construction, avoiding construction during nesting season, storm management plans, and prohibition of crude rail crossing during lunch hour and peak hours.
The city’s draft environmental impact report is due to be released to the public next month. Following that, Valero will invite the public to another meeting.
Monday’s informational meeting left a few people unsatisfied.
Diana Walsh, a Benicia resident since 1998, said she came to the session, “hoping to be reassured.”
However, she said she didn’t find any new information.
“I’m very afraid (of the project),” Walsh said. “All we need is a tiny explosion. … I don’t want to live near that.”
“I wanted to feel relieved. But I think they were dismissing, or minimizing our concerns,” she added.
Jan Cox Golovich, of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, said she was hoping the company would “acknowledge that there are things up in the air.”
The group has launched a website, SafeBenicia.org, and organized events to voice concerns over the project.
Like Walsh, Cox Golovich said the officials did not answer questions to her satisfaction.
“They’re just pushing through the project,” she said. “Have some respect for the community.”
Whatever their sentiment might be, many said they are looking forward to participating in the next meeting after the release of the report draft.
For more information on the project, contact Valero at 707-654-9745, or info@beniciaCBR.com.