BENICIA HERALD: Crude by Rail opponents cite large opposition list

Appearing as the front page headline story in today’s Benicia Herald
(no online version, so no link)

Crude by Rail opponents cite large opposition list

By Elizabeth Warnimont, April 6, 2016

At the first of the current round of scheduled hearings regarding Valero Benicia Refinery’s Crude by Rail project at City Hall Monday, a number of government agencies and other groups came forward to express their opposition to the project, adding to a growing list of individuals, government entities and private groups to register their objections. A few individuals and groups also spoke in favor of the project.

During the public comment period, Catherine Black, chairwoman for Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, recited a partial list of groups currently opposing the project. Organizations, public agencies and public officials who have either had major concerns or have spoken out directly against the project, she stated, include, in no particular order:

  • Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community
  • Solano County
  • Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD) including Bay Area, Butte County, Feather River, Sacramento Metropolitan, County of Shasta and Yolo/Solano AQMDs
  • Placer County Air Pollution Control District
  • UC Davis
  • California Office of Spill Prevention and Response
  • The California Utilities Commission
  • The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
  • Amtrak
  • The California Department of Transportation
  • San Francisco Bay Keepers
  • Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California
  • Cool Davis
  • 350 Sacramento
  • 350 Bay Area
  • 350 Marin
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • National Resources Defense Council
  • Phil Serna, Sacramento County supervisor
  • Ironworkers 378
  • Sierra Club
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), an association of local governments in the six-county Sacramento region including El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Yolo and Yerba counties
  • The Yolo County Board of Supervisors
  • Martinez Environmental Group
  • Richmond Progressive Alliance
  • Global Community Monitor
  • the city of Albany
  • the city of Briggs and its fire department
  • the city of Gridley and its fire department
  • County of Nevada Community Development Agency
  • the town of Truckee
  • the city of West Sacramento
  • the Shasta County Department of Resource Management
  • Community Science Institute
  • Rodeo United to Defend the Environment
  • City of Davis Foundation
  • Sunflower Alliance
  • City of Pittsburg Defense Council
  • Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
  • Attorney General Kamala Harris
  • Yolo Climate Action
  • Berkeley City Council
  • State Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis)
  • Berkeley Vice Mayor Linda Maio
  • The Sacramento School District Board and the Benicia Planning Commission

Numerous supporting documents were also submitted Monday, including examples of court rulings relevant to the question of federal pre-emption.

“We acknowledge that there is a key value for domestic energy production,” Don Saylor, a representative of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and Sacramento Area Council’s board of directors, said. “That we depend on installations like the Valero refinery here in Benicia to power our economy. We also understand the federal role in railroad regulation. However, we have provided you with legal framework that we hope you consider, that points out your competing authority as a local, land use decision-making body.”

“The bodies that I represent are asking that you uphold the Planning Commission’s decision and deny the appeal before you,” he added.

Many of the concerns voiced at the hearing echoed those of previous hearings, including worn train tracks and heavy (over 150 tons each) crude-carrying trains, populations and environmentally sensitive areas within the “blast zone” that would be destroyed in the event of a derailment involving fire, air pollution from train exhaust, and traffic back-ups from Bayshore Road extending onto Interstate 680.

Concerns that stood out more Monday than they had at previous hearings, in the view of this reporter, included the long-term and widespread impact the Council’s decision will have for the state of California in general, and some particularly vulnerable populations lying in close vicinity to the tracks that would carry the crude-containing rail cars, including schools, homes and downtown areas.

The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) is the document that contains reference to all of these concerns, along with the applicant’s (Valero’s) responses to most of them. It is a three-volume work that does not number its pages but adds up to a total of 5.25 inches of paper, printed on both sides.   The document, as well as written and video documentation of City Council and Planning Commission meetings and hearings on the subject, are available to view online at the City of Benicia website, or by request at the City Clerk’s office at City Hall, located at 250 East L St.