KCRA TV3 ON BENICIA CITY COUNCIL HEARING: Residents remain concerned over crude oil trains in NorCal

Repost from KCRA TV3, Sacramento

Valero crude oil gets another shot at NorCal railways

Benicia City Council begins another week of public comment on new proposal

By Vickie Gonzalez, Apr 05, 2016, 12:41 AM PDT
KCRA 2016-04-05
[Link takes you offsite to KCRA’s video.]
BENICIA, Calif. (KCRA) —Crude oil traveling through Northern California is getting another chance of becoming a reality as an oil company offers a new proposal to the Benicia City Council.
Valero wants two 50-car trains to transport tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil daily to its refinery in Benicia, passing through cities like Davis, Sacramento and Roseville, a request that has met with stiff controversy.

The Benicia City Council began a week of public comment on the proposal Monday after the city’s planning commission voted down Valero’s request in February despite the city hall’s support, causing the oil refinery to appeal the decision.

Valero Health, Safety and Environment Director Chris Howe said if the permit is approved, the added energy supply could be up and running following six months of construction.

Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor said the oil would pass through Davis and Sacramento stations, which are the top two trafficked passenger rails from San Francisco to Chicago.

“Right across the rail you see low-income housing. Just feet from us is the downtown core and there is student housing,” he said.

Saylor serves on the board for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

He said of the 2.4-million residents in the six county region of Sutter, Yuba, Placer, Yolo, Sacramento and El Dorado counties, close to 500,000 are within a quarter-mile radius of a railway:

-260,000 are residents
-200,000 work in the area
-28,000 are students in the area

“That quarter-mile is relevant because that’s the blast zone,” Saylor said.

The supervisor appreciates the energy value this could bring, as well as the potential jobs, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of safety.

“If there is cost associated with improved safety, then that cost seems a reasonable factor for Valero,” Saylor said.

A major issue is railways are federally governed. Local jurisdictions are prohibited from imposing additional safety requirements and Valero maintains it has met every federal regulation.

However, Saylor wants the oil refinery to take added safety measures and bear the burden of risk as opposed to the community doing so, something Valero is not required to do.

Monday’s public comment at Benicia City Hall included groups of Davis and Sacramento residents who made the trek to Solano County.

“I think it’s often (that) decisions are made in favor of big money and power,” Davis resident Jean Jackman said.

A bus of dozens of Davis residents were among the organized groups.

“Those oil tanker cars are not certified for the highly flammable crude oil that they are planning to transport,” Davis resident Kathleen Williams-Fosseahl said.

Valero said that’s not true and will use higher-quality trains to transport crude oil, a much-needed staple in California regardless of the opposition.

A decision ultimately will be made by the city of Benicia. The city council is expected to vote later this month. Public hearings are scheduled to continue through the week.