Benicia city council to send letter supporting safer rail measures

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor:  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)
For a local news report that fails to describe the City’s recommendations in the letter, see The Benicia Herald.  (The Herald previously detailed these recommendations.)  – RS]

Benicia council to send letter supporting safer rail measures

By Irma Widjojo, 04/08/15, 8:36 PM PDT

Benicia >> The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to send a letter in support of several rail safety recommendations to the Federal Office of Management and Budget.

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson asked the council to consider sending the letter as requested by the League of Cities, of which Benicia is a member.

The league 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.

Patterson on Tuesday said sending such a letter usually doesn’t require it to be presented in a city council meeting, however City Councilman Tom Campbell has voiced his concerns due to the pending Valero Crude by Rail project.

“I wanted the city attorney to give an opinion if we are going to run into an issue of possibly prejudicing ourselves,” Campbell said Tuesday.

The city is currently processing the use permit and Environmental Impact Report for the project.

City Attorney Heather McLaughlin said there would not be an issue of bias, since the letter only states that “we just want the oil transported safely.”

Though the council voted unanimously to send the letter, they opted for the version that was provided by the league, instead of the one that was slightly edited by Patterson.

“I would go along with the language of the league as provided for consistency,” Vice Mayor Mark Hughes said.

A Benicia resident and environmental activist spoke during the public comment period stating that the letter will not have any effect on the Valero project.

“The letter is not going to make much impact as much as I appreciate the spirit of it,” Marilyn Bardet said. “The rail will be built before any policy is put in place.”

Patterson has also has been an outspoken advocate of tougher crude-by-rail safety measures.