Benicia CA: City Council adopts letter encouraging rail safety

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor:  UPDATE: On Tuesday, 4/7/15, the Benicia City Council approved sending the League of California Cities letter by unanimous vote.  See original documents on the City of Benicia’s website:
      – Staff’s Agenda Report
      – Mayor Patterson’s draft letter of support (not approved)
      – League of Cities letter requesting letters of support & sample letter (sample letter approved)
– RS]

Benicia mayor to request council to send letter encouraging rail safety

By Irma Widjojo, 04/06/15, 7:58 PM PDT
Benicia, California
Benicia, California

Benicia >> Mayor Elizabeth Patterson on Tuesday night will be asking the rest of the city council to consider sending a letter to the Federal Office of Management and Budget in support of several rail safety recommendations.

League-of-CA-Cities-LogoBenicia is a member of the League of Cities, which has adopted 10 recommendation as official policy to “increase rail safety in the transport of hazardous materials.”

The recommendations include mandating speed limits and electronically controlled braking systems, increasing the federal funding for training and equipment purchases for first responders, regulating the parking and storage of tank cars and others.

The League Executive Director has requested that cities send letters to the appropriate federal rail safety rule making authority requesting that these measures be implemented, Patterson said.

Patterson — an outspoken advocate of tougher crude-by-rail safety measures — said she has asked the city attorney to “determine whether sending a letter requesting rail safety improvements would in any way create a due process issue for the city,” since Benicia is currently processing the use permit and Environmental Impact Report for the Valero Crude by Rail project.

However, the city attorney determined that there would not be an issue since “the letter does not oppose the Valero project or take any position on adequacy of the environmental review for the project.”

In November, the city attorney released a legal opinion that states that Patterson should not participate in any decision concerning the project because “the appearance of bias” could result in a legal challenge against the city.

However, the mayor, who has hired her own attorney, at that time indicated she doesn’t intend to follow the city’s advice.

The council is set to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 250 E. L St. Agendas and staff reports can be found on the City’s website.