Category Archives: Valero Crude By Rail

Editorial: Celebrate, but watch on the tracks!

By Roger Straw, December 22, 2016

Why did Valero decide not to go to court?


Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

On December 20, Benicia’s City Attorney announced that she had been advised by Valero’s attorney that the refinery is no longer planning to sue the City of Benicia over its failed Crude By Rail proposal.

While this is welcome news, worthy of celebration and thanksgiving, Valero’s decision surely was more nuanced than the simple reason given, that it wants to maintain good relations with the City.

Everyone in the city is happy about that – we all want good relations, and no one wanted the issue to drag on in the courts, at great expense in time and money.

But it must be noted that a Benicia lawsuit by Valero would have failed, on multiple grounds. Valero’s best legal advice must have been to quit, or risk additional losses. That advice would’ve been resisted if at all possible, not only for local refinery interests, but on behalf of the wider oil and rail industries.

Valero Benicia was a potential precedent-setting case, with implications for major corporate financial holdings all across the US and Canada. There must have been immense pressure on Valero to sue. The industries needed to win a case claiming that federal preemption laws are enough to overrule local land use regulatory authority.

But with immense activist opposition setting the pace; with California’s Attorney General weighing in and a dozen environmental attorneys, engineers and environmental analysts offering significant commentary during the review process; and with the Federal Surface Transportation Board denying Valero’s last-ditch petition, a lawsuit had little chance of success.

Valero lost that argument here, but no one should rest easy. The oil and rail industries will surely look for another situation where they can more successfully press their unlimited right to endanger health and welfare under federal preemption laws.

The growing movement against oil trains needs to remain active and alert.

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VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Valero won’t sue city of Benicia over rejection of crude-by-rail project

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Valero won’t sue city of Benicia over rejection of crude-by-rail project

By Katy St. Clair, 12/22/16, 4:06 PM PST

BENICIA >> The Valero Corporation announced it will not be suing the city of Benicia for rejecting its controversial crude-by-rail project, which would have allowed the company to transport thousands of gallons of crude oil into town.

The project would have moved up to 70,000 barrels of crude a day to Benicia, passing through places like downtown Sacramento and Davis.

Valero first submitted an application for the project to the city of Benicia in December of 2012, but the Planning Commission rejected the bid in March of this year. Valero then appealed to the Benicia City Council, which also rejected the plan in a unanimous vote in September, citing fears of derailment or spills as its main concern.

“The margin of error was just too small and the risk of catastrophic failure too great,” Councilman Tom Campbell said.

In the wake of the city’s veto, Valero seemed primed to fight the decision in court. Benicia City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin told the city council on Tuesday night that she had previously “heard word” from the Valero attorney that they were “thinking of filing suit.”

It’s been reported that Valero officials believed Benicia’s rejection of the plan was illegal.

It now appears that Valero is backing off talk of litigation. Mc Laughlin announced that Valero’s attorney contacted her and said they will not be going forward with a lawsuit, after all.

“It’s like the best Christmas present ever,” she said to the council. “Yesterday they called and said that they were not going to file suit against the city because they want to maintain positive relations with the city.”

Valero did not respond to requests for comment.

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson released a statement Wednesday saying she is “pleased” with Valero’s decision not to sue.

“They are a valuable business in our community,” she said. “I look forward to the promise of those good community relations now that we can put this ill-advised project behind us.”

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BREAKING: Valero gives notice that it will NOT sue Benicia

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

benicia_logoDuring 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

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