Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
Valero addresses Benicia concerns about crude-by-rail projectBy Irma Widjojo/Times-Herald staff writer
Published By Times Herald, 03/25/2014
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.