Category Archives: Valero Benicia Refinery

Vallejo Times-Herald: Why the rush on crude?

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald, Letters

Why the rush on crude?

By Kathy Kerridge, Vallejo Times-Herald, 07/08/2014

The Benicia Planning commission will take public comments tonight at City Hall on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for Valero’s Crude by Rail project. Written comments are due by Aug. 1. This project would bring 100 rail cars a day over the Donner Pass or through the Feather River Canyon, over rivers, through Truckee, Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, the Suisun Marsh and into Benicia.

These trains could be carrying the same Bakken Crude that exploded in Canada, killing 47 people and Canadian Tar Sands, which have proved impossible to clean up when it has spilled in waterways. Some have claimed this is safe. Everyone should be aware that the National Transportation Safety Board in January said that trains carrying crude oil should “where technically feasible require rerouting to avoid transportation of such hazardous materials through populated and other sensitive areas.” At this point in time it is feasible to keep these dangerous materials from going through populated areas by not approving the project. Otherwise it will not be feasible.

The new railcars that Valero says it will use are the same ones that ruptured and spilled April 30, 2014 in Lynchburg, Virginia, threatening Richmond’s water supply. The Department of Transportation is in the process of crafting new rules for rail cars carrying crude, but there is no time line for when they will be issued and it will be some time before any new cars are available. There have been two train derailments in Benicia’s Industrial Park in recent months.

Why the rush? Is Valero running out of crude oil? No. The reason Valero wants to bring in this dangerous crude, in rail cars that split and rupture in a derailment, is that this crude oil is on sale right now. The oil isn’t going anywhere. It isn’t safe to transport through populated areas and all of the communities that this crude goes through will be at risk.

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NPR: First Responders Unprepared For Another Train Disaster

Repost from National Public Radio
[Editor: I remember with horror the breaking news last July of the catastrophic derailment and explosion in Lac-Mégantic.  Here in Benicia, we were preparing for a public forum to help residents understand the environmental impacts associated with our Valero Refinery’s bid to begin shipping crude oil by rail.  Lac-Mégantic was a shock, and a wake-up call.  Ever since that day, our concerns have expanded – crude by rail brings environmental disaster, and piles on catastrophic risk for everyone along the rails from the Midwestern provinces and states to the refinery.  – RS]

First Responders Unprepared For Another Train Disaster

By David Schaper, July 6, 2014

One year after an oil train derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, some firemen and first responders say they still don’t have the training or manpower to handle a similar disaster.



Ever since that Canadian train derailment, first responders all across North America wonder, what if it happens here? And as NPR’s David Schaper reports from this side of the border, many say they don’t have the training, the equipment or the manpower necessary to respond to an oil train disaster in their cities and towns.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The images of that fiery blast that incinerated much of Lac-Mégantic’s downtown last summer still haunt many first responders.

GREGG CLEVELAND: It’s one of those things that certainly keeps me up at night.

SCHAPER: La Crosse, Wisconsin, fire chief Gregg Cleveland is watching one of the dozens of freight trains that rumble through the heart of the city of about 52,000 people every day. Many of the trains are hauling crude oil, some stretching more than a mile long, tank car after tank car full of volatile Bakken crude.

CLEVELAND: I think anytime that you have the railroad with the amount of hazardous materials in Bakken crude oil, the question is not if, but when.

SCHAPER: La Crosse is a long and narrow city nestled between the Mississippi River to the west and towering sandstone bluffs to the east, which presents unique challenges. An oil train could derail in the river or in a large environmentally sensitive marshland or in bluff-side neighborhoods that would be cut off from the only escape route over the tracks. Gregg Cleveland says, his professional firefighting force has a hazmat response team, but…

CLEVELAND: We really need more people trained in response to railroad incidents. We have virtually no foam, and the equipment that we have cannot apply the large volumes of foam that we would need in a railroad emergency.

SCHAPER: Furthermore, La Crosse has the only hazmat response team in west central Wisconsin. So along hundreds of miles of railroad track, the fire chief says, it could be up to small-town volunteer departments to initially try to contain an oil train spill and fire.

CLEVELAND: They’re not going to have the resources to do that. I think that’s a pretty safe assumption.

SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP: If we are going to do this right, we need to have a nationwide evaluation of the readiness.

SCHAPER: That’s Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Her state is producing most of the oil that is shipped by rail, and the amount has increased more than 6,000 percent over the last five years. She’s sponsoring a bill that would identify best practices for first responder training and equipment.

HEITKAMP: And then we need to figure out how do we get the resources to the local firefighters, how we get the training to the local firefighters and how do we institutionalize this because crude oil is not going to go off the trains anytime in the future.

SCHAPER: Heitkamp is also pushing for extra funding for first responder training, which the railroad industry is also stepping up to provide.

HEITKAMP: And it’s our goal with the training that those first responders have as realistic an experience as possible.

SCHAPER: Lisa Stabler is president of the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado, which is part of the American Association of Railroads. Under an agreement with the federal Department of Transportation, the center is providing enhanced crude by rail disaster training for firefighters from around the country, free of charge. Stabler says the program will include hands-on training with real derailed tank cars going up in flames.

LISA STABLER: And that allows them to learn and, if necessary, to make mistakes in a very safe environment so that they don’t mistake make mistakes when they’re out trying to take care of an incident with the public.

SCHAPER: Back in La Crosse, Wisconsin, fire chief Greg Cleveland applauds the increased training efforts. But he wonders why this didn’t happen sooner, given that dozens of trains carrying explosive crude already roll through his city every week.

CLEVELAND: Quite honestly, we’re playing catch up very quickly here.

SCHAPER: And Cleveland notes that costly training and equipment needs will be with his community, just like the oil trains, for quite some time to come.

David Schaper, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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FOX40 News: Valero Tries to Sway Public Opinion at Crude by Rail Meeting

Repost from FOX40 News, Sacramento / Stockton / Modesto
[Editor: Video coverage of Valero’s meeting, including background footage of crude by rail explosions and an interview with Andrés Soto, spokesperson for Benicians For a Safe & Healthy Community.  – RS]

Valero Tries to Sway Public Opinion at Crude by Rail Meeting

By Doug Johnson, 6/30/14

BENICIA – Valero Energy is building its case to transport highly flammable crude oil through northern California, and held a public meeting Monday night in Benicia.

Critics of the plan are worried about the worst-case scenario of a derailment and potential explosion, much like incidents in North Daktoa, Virginia and a deadly disaster in Quebec in 2013.

More than a hundred people came to Monday’s meeting. Valero says the benefits outweigh the risks, but others aren’t sure.

“We believe that there’s sufficient flaws with this draft instrument impact report,” Andres Soto, with Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, said.

Valero’s plan is to transport crude oil through Roseville, Sacramento and Davis to its refinery in Benicia. Soto says Valero isn’t saying how ready first responders would be if a derailment were to happen.

“There’s no real response to the question about the insufficient  capacity of the Benicia Fire Department,” Soto said.

The energy company argues that its own, private fire department will train other departments in cities the trains pass through.

Valero said only four trains a day would pass through Benicia, 20 new, local jobs would be created and there’s an environmental benefit to using trains.

“Having crude delivered by rail versus marine deliveries today will result in lower emissions in the Bay Area and California,” Valero’s Benicia Refinery Safety Director Chris Howe said.

The company also wants rail inspections increased and speeds through populated areas to be lowered.

Soto says that’s not enough.

“Their window looked at a 40 year period when this stuff has only been on the rail for the past two years,” he said.

The City of Benicia will hold a vote once a 45-day public comment  period is up on Aug. 1.

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