Category Archives: Sierra Club

LETTER SERIES: Pat Toth-Smith – Vote for the Environment (Sierra Club endorsements)

[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald. But the Herald doesn’t publish letters in its online editions – and many Benician’s don’t subscribe. We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution. – RS]

A Vote for the Environment, Sierra Club endorses Elizabeth Patterson for Mayor, Steve Young & Tom Campbell for City Council

By Pat Toth-Smith
October 16, 2016

The election is upon us and it’s been a complete disappointment where global climate change is concerned. After having signed three petitions to have a question about climate change specifically put to the presidential and vice presidential candidates during their debates, it sadly did not happen. To my disappointment in researching the candidates’ positions on climate change I discovered that Donald Trump doesn’t believe in the science of climate change and went so far as to say, “that it is a hoax put out by the Chinese Government”, in one of his tweets. Mike Pence, as I understand, won’t accept climate change as real. I feel it is important if you’re a believer in the science of climate change and want to move the United States to a clean energy future, to be aware of which candidates are most committed to that.

Thankfully, the Sierra Club has completed a list of environmental endorsements, which I want to share, starting with our local city government election.

The Sierra Club endorses:

• Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson,
• Benicia City Council Steve Young and Tom Campbell
• District 2 Supervisor Mike Ioakimedes
• Assembly District 14 Mae Torlakson
• Fairfield City Council Pam Bertani
• Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan
• Vallejo City Council Liat Metzenheimer
• President Hillary Clinton
• Senator Kamala Harris
• Congressman Mike Thompson

The state propositions that the Sierra club endorses are as follows:

• Prop 56, cigarette tax: YES
• Prop 58, multilingual education: YES
• Prop 59, oppose Citizens United: YES
• Prop 67, plastic bag ban: YES

As a Benicia resident, I’ve had the unique opportunity of seeing Mayor Elizabeth Patterson in action. She was tireless in her effort to keep the public informed about the Valero Crude By Rail permit process as it progressed, whereas her opponent, publically attacked her for it. She is also a big proponent of the Community Sustainability Commission which promoted Marin Clean Energy (MCE) and gave a grant to study any risk to our city. My family and I are grateful because we now pay to power our home with 100% renewable energy from MCE. MCE also gave a check for over $100,000 to the city this year for net energy from the city’s solar panels.

During my three year process of participating to stop the Valero crude by rail project, I was able to observe Planning Commissioner Steve Young’s outstanding commitment to doing his due diligence in researching all aspects for the permit request. He did a very thorough job of questioning all concerned and it made me content in his abilities to protect Benicia from all future dangerous projects. I am also grateful to Mayor Patterson and council member Campbell for publicly stating their rejection of this dangerous project the day the city council was supposed to vote on it. In my estimation, they were putting our community’s safety first, regardless of the Surface Transportation Boards ruling.

Pat Toth-Smith
Sierra Club link:
Local Sierra Club Chapter link:

    U.S. Sued Over Refusal to Ban Older Rail Cars for Crude

    Repost from Bloomberg News
    [Editor: See also the Earthjustice press release, “Groups Bring New Legal Action for Federal Ban of Dangerous Oil Tank Rail Cars”.  Here is the December 2 Petition.   Here is the original July 15 Petition.  – RS]

    U.S. Sued Over Refusal to Ban Older Rail Cars for Crude

    By Andrew Zajac, Dec 2, 2014
    Crude by Rail California
    A train with DOT-111 tanker cars. Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

    Earthjustice and other environmental groups asked a federal court to force the U.S. Transportation Department to reconsider its rejection of an immediate ban on the use of rail tank cars lacking updated safety features for shipping Bakken crude oil.

    The tank cars’ safety was questioned after a July 2013 explosion that killed 47 people when an unattended, runaway train hauling 72 carloads of Bakken crude derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

    The transportation department is managing tank car safety issues through a series of directives, short of a ban, and rules are being drafted to phase out the older rolling stock, the agency said in November, declining the groups’ request for an emergency ban.

    That response fails to consider the risks posed by the cars, including “past findings that the surge in crude-by-rail shipments of Bakken crude in dangerous tank cars poses imminent hazards and emergency unsafe conditions,” according to the complaint, filed today in federal appeals court in San Francisco.

    The rail vessels in question are older models, collectively referred to as DOT-111 tank cars, that lack safeguards needed to improve crashworthiness, according the environmentalists’ original request for a ban, filed in July.

    Oil from the Bakken shale region of North Dakota tends to be more volatile and flammable than other crude, according to a Transportation Department study released in July.

    Production of Bakken crude is soaring beyond the capacity of pipelines, leading to an increased use of trains.

    The Sierra Club and ForestEthics joined Earthjustice in the lawsuit.

    The case is Sierra Club v. U.S. Department of Transportation, 14-73682, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, (San Francisco).

      Central Valley Business Times: Oil company abandons plans to handle Bakken crude in Sacramento

      Repost from Central Valley Business Times

      Oil company abandons plans to handle Bakken crude in Sacramento

      SACRAMENTO, October 22, 2014

      •  Cites lawsuit filed by environmentalists
      •  “This is a victory for the health and safety of the people of Sacramento”

      InterState Oil Company says it is surrendering its air pollution permit that lets it transfer highly volatile Bakken crude oil from railcars to trucks at its transloading facility located at 4545 Dudley Boulevard in the McClellan industrial park in Sacramento.

      The decision comes a month after Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sierra Club challenging the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District for issuing permits allowing the project without public or environmental review.

      Now the air agency says the permit was “issued in error because it failed to meet District Best Available Control Technology requirements.”

      The agency and the company have agreed that the transfers will stop by Nov. 14.

      “This is the first crude transport project that has been stopped dead in its tracks in California,” says Suma Peesapati, Earthjustice attorney. “This is a victory for the health and safety of the people of Sacramento, for communities along the path of the trucks hauling this dangerous product to the Bay Area, and for the refinery communities where the crude is eventually processed.”

      Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club on Sept. 23, holding the air district and InterState Oil accountable for neglecting to consider the risk to public health and safety of the project. The lawsuit also challenged the air district for deliberately avoiding its obligations for review under the California Environmental Quality Act despite the fact that the project would have significant increases in air pollutants, including toxic air contaminants.

      The air district first issued a permit to InterState to trans-load crude from rail to truck on March 27, however according to an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, the company had been trans-loading crude without a permit as early as six months before that date. No notice was given to local fire and emergency responders or other officials about the handling of the highly flammable substance just seven miles north of the California state capital.

      “This is a huge victory for Sacramento residents and communities across California who are put in harms way by trains carrying volatile, hazardous crude that are known to derail and explode,” says Devorah Ancel, Sierra Club staff attorney. “Local, state and federal governments must take further immediate action to notify the public when hazardous crude is railed through their communities and to ban the use of unsafe DOT 111 tank cars.”

      As a result of today’s decision, Sacramento Superior Court is expected to dismiss the lawsuit, Earthjustice says.

      Bakken crude, a type of shale oil, is more volatile than other kinds of crude oil. It has been blamed for some spectacular — and tragic — accidents, the worst of which was the July 2013 derailment of a train of oil cars carrying Bakken crude in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic. The explosion and fire killed nearly 50 townspeople and leveled more than 30 buildings.