Fairfield Daily Republic: Valero faces deadline for filing appeal to Benicia council

Repost from the Fairfield Daily Republic

Valero faces deadline for filing appeal to Benicia council

By Kevin W. Green, February 17, 2016
The Valero refinery is shown in Benicia. The company has until Feb. 29 to appeal a decision by the Benicia Planning Commission to deny its crude by rail plan. (Steve Reczkowski/Daily Republic file)

FAIRFIELD — Valero faces a Feb. 29 deadline for filing an appeal after having its crude-by-rail project derailed last week by the Benicia Planning Commission.

The commission voted unanimously Thursday to deny the controversial project after holding a public hearing last week that involved meetings over four consecutive days.

Valero has until the end of the month to decide if it wants to appeal the decision to the Benicia City Council, according to Amy Million, principal planner. City staff had recommended approval of the project.

The company has not indicated what it will do.

“We are disappointed that the Planning Commission did not agree with the staff recommendation to certify the project EIR and approve the use permit,” Valero said in a prepared statement after the commission vote.

“At this point we will evaluate our options for appeal with our management,” the statement said.

The project, which was before the city for three years, would have allowed Valero to transport crude oil to its Benicia refinery on two 50-car freight trains daily on Union Pacific tracks that traverse Solano County – passing through Fairfield, Suisun City and Dixon.

The rail shipments would have replaced up to 70,000 barrels per day of crude oil currently transported to the refinery by ship, according to the plan. The Valero refinery would have continued to also receive crude by pipeline, the plan said.

The project sparked plenty of reaction, with much of the concern focused on a need for increased safety and possible mitigation measures.

The city received 20 letters from government agencies with substantive comments on the draft environmental document, 11 letters from organizations, four letters from planning commissioners and 135 letters from individuals, according to the final report. In addition, comments were received orally at three Planning Commission meetings.

Of the approximately 1,800 substantive comments received on the draft environmental document, about 550 discussed hazards, 260 focused on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, 80 dealt with transportation, 60 discussed biological resources, 50 focused on hydrology and geology, and 40 discussed noise, the report said.