Category Archives: WesPac Midstream LLC

Oil Train Victory in California’s East Bay – Wespac Application Withdrawn

PittsburgDC.org

Repost from the Contra Costa Times
[Editor:  A huge victory for our friends across the water!  Congratulations to the Pittsburg Defense Council and everyone who worked so hard to STOP WesPac.  See also: Reuters coverage.  – RS]

Pittsburg: Proposed WesPac oil-by-rail shipping terminal is dead

By Sam Richards, 12/09/2015 06:37:16 AM PST

PITTSBURG — Plans to convert a moribund PG&E tank farm into a regional oil storage facility appear dead after the company proposing the project backed out, according to a city report.

WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed Pittsburg Terminal Project had been in development on and off for the past four years.

WesPac on Nov. 16 “submitted a formal request to withdraw their application completely and terminate all work on the project,” according to the city report released Tuesday afternoon. No explanation was given for the Houston-based company’s decision.

In a voice mail, City Manager Joe Sbranti said Tuesday, “They didn’t give us a reason; they just withdrew it.”

Art Diefenbach, WesPac’s Pittsburg project manager, could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

In April, WesPac eliminated a proposed element of its project, withdrawing plans for loading as many as five 104-car oil trainloads a week at the Pittsburg facility. Diefenbach said at the time that the “regulatory environment” surrounding rail shipments of crude oil made it impractical to launch such trains.

The city report made no mention of oil prices, or whether they had an effect on WesPac’s decision. But at $37.51 a barrel Tuesday, prices are at their lowest since February 2009, down from almost $108 a barrel on June 14. The low oil prices have rocked the stock markets in recent days.

He also said then that protests against the crude oil trains, locally and nationally, factored in to the decision to abandon the rail proposal.

The old tanks are less than a half-mile from hundreds of houses and apartments on West 10th Street and in the downtown area between Eighth Street and the waterfront.

The project drew staunch opposition from various area environmentalists, as well as the Pittsburg Defense Council group. Reasons for opposition were myriad, critics said, ranging from the threat of an explosion at the terminal to prospective ground pollution issues to the vapors from the storage tanks.

Kalli Graham said the local group Pittsburg Defense Council, to which she belongs, had been fighting the oil terminal proposal since its inception, collecting more than 5,000 signatures against it in the process and even getting state Attorney General Kamala Harris to weigh in against it.

“WesPac had a big fight on its hands; there is pretty much no one in Pittsburg that wanted this,” said Graham, whose group was spreading the news among its followers Tuesday afternoon. “We don’t have to be worried about it anymore.”

City Council members Pete Longmire and Will Casey said Tuesday the council never received enough details about the project to make informed decisions on the worth of the project; even after four years of start-and-stop proposals, it was still early in the planning process.

“I was neutral on the project,” Longmire said. “I know this (WesPac) decision will make a lot of people in our city happy. But there are people in our city who wanted it to come, with the jobs it would have provided.

“The knife cuts both ways,” Longmire said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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    Pittsburg CA: Critics blast proposed oil terminal, even without Bakken crude trains

    Repost from The Contra Costa Times
    [Editor:  Significant quote: “WesPac officials said they dropped inbound crude oil shipments by rail from their plans for several reasons, including public sentiment against it, an unstable regulatory environment surrounding those shipments, and drops in crude oil prices that have made such shipments less economically viable.”  – RS]

    Pittsburg: Critics blast proposed oil terminal, even without Bakken crude trains

    By Sam Richards, 04/07/2015 12:31:04 PM PDT

    PITTSBURG — Train loads of Bakken crude oil are no longer in the plans for a proposed oil storage terminal near the waterfront, but that does not mean the project is being welcomed to town with open arms.

    The City Council voted 5-0 Monday night to approve amending the environmental report for WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed Pittsburg Terminal Project, which would renovate and modernize a long-dormant PG&E tank farm between West 10th Street and the Sacramento River waterfront.

    The key change is that the five previously planned 104-car trains of domestic oil, mostly the volatile Bakken crude, are no longer part of the project. The new EIR will reflect that.

    Councilman Sal Evola stressed that the vote reflected the council’s desire for “the process” to play out and fully vet the proposal.

    “Every project at least deserves its fair process,” Evola said. “I’m all for preserving our industrial base, but we have to do it safely, and fair process is needed.”

    Others were less interested in process, saying the WesPac proposal to bring an average of 242,000 barrels of crude or partially refined crude oil to be unloaded daily from ships and from pipelines, and stored in 16 tanks on 125 acres, is a problem for various reasons.

    Speakers told the council that vapors from the storage tanks, the possibility of spills into the Sacramento Delta and the danger of the tanks exploding — all near hundreds of downtown homes — are potential issues, and that the project should simply be rejected.

    “The only way you can mitigate this project is not do it,” said Willie Mims, representing the NAACP and the Black Political Association.

    And though some at the meeting Monday night are grateful that WesPac that no longer plans to bring crude oil to the terminal by rail, others told the council that leaving out rail shipments doesn’t come close to salvaging the project. Some 30 people holding up “No WesPac” signs or wearing similar T-shirts crowded the council meeting.

    Without the trains, the Pittsburg Terminal Project would now take oil from ships and a pipeline from the Central Valley and store it for later processing by refineries in Martinez, Benicia, Rodeo and Richmond.

    Pamela Aranz of Antioch, representing the group Global Community Monitor, was one of several speakers who criticized the WesPac proposal as a dinosaur — old-fashioned, with increasingly outmoded technology. Others said the oil terminal would be at cross purposes with a nicely developing downtown area. Developing wind and/or solar power on that land, Aranz and others said, would make better sense.

    Plans for the Pittsburg Terminal Project, first proposed in 2011, had been dormant for the past year, after local groups like Pittsburg Defense Council had protested the prospect of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude oil rolling in to the city. Communities across the United States — including Pittsburg, Richmond and Berkeley — have come out in opposed to crude by rail shipments through their cities after several high-profile derailments, including one in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, in 2013 killed 47 people and destroyed part of that city.

    The new environmental report, to be paid for by WesPac, will replace an earlier one that was criticized in 2014 by the state Attorney General’s office because it did not suitably analyze air pollution impacts, address the risks of accidents involving storing and moving oil, consider the project’s climate change impacts, and consider a “reasonable range of alternatives” that could reduce impacts. WesPac officials said they dropped inbound crude oil shipments by rail from their plans for several reasons, including public sentiment against it, an unstable regulatory environment surrounding those shipments, and drops in crude oil prices that have made such shipments less economically viable.

    If the needed approvals come at a typical pace, renovation work at the old PG&E tanks could begin in early 2016, and likely would take between 18 and 24 months.

    Representatives from several area labor union locals supported moving ahead with the environmental study. Some said Monday night they wanted the jobs, both to rebuild the terminal and to operate it. Others said they favored the environmental process determining whether the terminal would be a safe place for union workers to be.

    That, Evola said, is one benefit of continuing the process. “We want to be overly transparent,” he said.

    That is fine with Lisa Graham and other members of Pittsburg Defense Council.

    “We’ll be shining a bright spotlight on the project in the coming months,” she said.

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      Pittsburg CA: WesPac oil storage project no longer includes Bakken crude trains

      Repost from the San Jose Mercury News
      [Editor: For original project documents and the recent announcement, see the City of Pittsburg’s WesPac Pittsburg Energy Infrastructure Project.  – RS]

      Pittsburg: WesPac oil storage project no longer includes Bakken crude trains

      By Sam Richards, 04/01/2015 11:40:04 AM PDT

      PITTSBURG — Amid the growing national debate over the safety of transporting crude oil by trains, an energy firm has dropped the rail component from a controversial proposal to transform an old PG&E tank farm into a regional oil storage facility here.

      WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed Pittsburg Terminal Project, which had been attacked by local activists as posing a serious safety threat, is back on the table after a year of dormancy.

      But the elimination of the crude-by-rail element doesn’t mean critics are satisfied that a revived oil storage and shipping operation would be safe for the community. The dormant tanks are less than a half-mile from hundreds of houses and apartments on West 10th Street and in the downtown area between Eighth Street and the waterfront.

      “There are still environmental issues … having the stored oil in those tanks so close to homes, ground pollution issues, vapors from the big tanks,” said Frank Gordon of Pittsburg, a vocal opponent of the project in the past.

      The City Council on Monday is expected to approve another review of the proposed oil storage facility’s environmental impact reports — this time excluding the prospect of rail deliveries.

      The WesPac plan, as presented in October 2013, included facilities just north of Parkside Avenue — south of the tank farm — to handle as many as five 104-car oil trainloads a week.

      Art Diefenbach, WesPac’s Pittsburg project manager then and now, said this week that the “regulatory environment” surrounding rail shipments of crude oil — in particular, the more volatile Bakken crude from an area covering parts of North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan in Canada — isn’t stable enough to plan a major project around.

      “We just can’t proceed with that uncertainty floating out there,” said Diefenbach, also noting that falling crude prices help make shipping oil by rail a less attractive alternative, at least in the short term.

      He said protests against the crude oil trains — in Pittsburg, the East Bay and the nation — were a factor in the plan change, too. Such decisions, he said, “are always a combination of factors.”

      Oil trains, he said, are out of the picture for the foreseeable future.

      Several communities in the East Bay have expressed alarm in recent months about the transport of crude by rail through the region in the wake of several high-profile derailments and accidents in North America in recent years, including one in Quebec in 2013 that killed 47 people and destroyed part of a town. At a meeting in Crockett last week, residents raised concerns about plans to ship oil by rail through Contra Costa County and other parts of the Bay Area to a refinery in Central California.

      Without trains, all oil arriving at the WesPac facility would be via either ship or a pipeline from the southern reaches of the Central Valley.

      Pittsburg Mayor Pete Longmire said removing the trains from the WesPac equation should result in a safer project for the community. “And it’s probably less controversial than before,” he said.

      Although the council will decide Monday night on only an amendment to one of the project’s environmental studies, Longmire expects a large crowd to turn out to discuss what many still likely see as a polluting facility that could present a health danger to the hundreds of people who live near the old tanks.

      WesPac Energy, as the company was called then, first applied in March 2011 for needed permits to renovate and restart the former PG&E oil storage and transfer facilities off West 10th Street on the city’s northwestern edge. The $200 million project calls for an average of 242,000 barrels of crude or partially refined crude oil to be unloaded daily from ships on the nearby Sacramento River, and from pipelines, and stored in 16 tanks on 125 acres.

      The oil would then be moved to Contra Costa County refineries, and the Valero refinery in Benicia, via pipeline for processing.

      The Pittsburg Defense Council, a group of opponents to the WesPac project in general, had decried the prospect of Bakken crude oil coming into town for unloading. Some already has rolled through Pittsburg on BNSF rails, destined for a Kinder-Morgan facility in Richmond.

      Diefenbach said that, assuming various approvals come at a typical pace, construction could begin in early 2016, and likely would take from 18 to 24 months.

      Longmire said he doesn’t have strong feelings about WesPac either way at this point but insists that the project — with its jobs and its boost to the local economy — must be safe. Gordon said he is still leaning against it. They agree, though, the formal permitting process must be allowed to play out.

      Said Gordon, “We’ll have to see what they do with the new” environmental impact report.

      If you go…

      The Pittsburg City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall council chamber, 65 Civic Ave. in Pittsburg. The public is welcome.

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