Benicia city staff recommends approval of Valero oil trains

By Roger Straw, January 30, 2016
    • Staff dismisses comments by experts, residents, uprail communities
    • Staff recommends Planning Commission certify the EIR and approve the project
    • New procedures for speakers at public hearing on February 8 (See UPDATED version of Feb. 2 below.)
    • Your last chance to speak up – petition and hearing

On Thursday, January 28, 2016, Benicia staff released the agenda for the upcoming Planning Commission final hearings on Valero Crude by Rail.  Included along with the agenda was a 41-page staff report recommending approval of the project, and outlining a new sign-up procedure for those who want to comment at the public hearing.

Like the massive 3-volume Final Draft of the EIR, city staff chose to ignore critical input and to hide behind “federal preemption” in order to cater to the desires of our giant corporate neighbor, Valero.

Benicia residents are sorely disappointed with the decision of our city employees to disregard the health and safety of Benicians and others uprail in Davis, Sacramento and beyond.

The staff recommendation relies on the very same reasoning used by San Luis Obispo County staff to DENY a crude by rail project: what happens uprail can’t be controlled.  Because we can’t control Union Pacific, because only the Feds can have a say about rail shipping beyond local jurisdictions, we throw up our hands, while San Luis Obispo staff says, basically, ok, we’re not helpless, we can stop it HERE.

UPDATE: On Feb. 2, the City released a revised version of the procedures for signup, indicating that YOU MAY PHONE THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT AT 707-746-4280 IF IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO SIGN UP IN PERSON.  You may also sign up another person who is unable to sign up in person. 

This is SO discouraging.  It’s tempting to throw up our hands in defeat … but not yet.  We have two more opportunities to make our wishes known:

  1. PETITION – Over 1300 of you have already signed the Safe Benicia petition.  If you have not yet signed, please do so now.  Go to  Add your personal comments or just push the button.

2. THE FINAL PLANNING COMMISSION HEARING (Commissioners will VOTE after all are heard!)

Where:   Benicia City Council Chambers | 250 East L St. Benicia
When:     Feb. 8, gather at 5:00pm, hearings start 6:30pm
PETITION:  Over 1300 of you have already signed the Safe Benicia petition.  If you have not yet signed, please do so now.  Go to  Add your personal comments or just push the button.
AGENDA: click here
STAFF REPORT (with recommendation for APPROVAL): click here
Note also:  Additional meetings are scheduled to hear public comment on Tuesday, February 9, Wednesday, February 10, and Thursday, February 11, 2016. These meetings will be held only as needed. If all public comment is provided and the Planning Commission takes action, the agenda item will be closed and the additional meeting(s) will be cancelled.
IF YOU WISH TO COMMENT DURING THE HEARING: Due to the large amount of public interest with this project, the City will be instituting a sign up system in order to speak during the public hearings. Interested members of the public will be allowed to speak in order of sign up. Sign ups will be available on the day of the meeting(s) from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Community Development Department, 250 East L Street, Benicia. At the  hearing, please go to the sign up table just outside of the Council Chambers. Your name will be called in the order in which you signed up. You do not have to sign up in order to speak.  However, you will not be called on until those who have signed up have spoken. In order to accommodate the public, we have arranged for overflow rooms in City Hall with the hearing streaming for you to view and listen. You can also view the event live from the City’s website.{FD712CCF-B69D-4DE4-B704-CD9E825B3187}