Tag Archives: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

Appeals Court Doesn’t Stop Crude Oil Rail Shipments Through Richmond CA

Repost from CBS San Francisco (5KPIX, 740AM, 106.9FM)

Appeals Court Doesn’t Stop Crude Oil Rail Shipments Through Richmond

July 19, 2016 9:22 PM
Protesters against fracked oil trains held a demonstration outside the Kinder-Morgan rail yard in Richmond on September 4, 2014. (CBS)
Protesters against fracked oil trains held a demonstration outside the Kinder-Morgan rail yard in Richmond on September 4, 2014. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A state appeals court upheld dismissal of a lawsuit in which environmentalists sought to challenge crude oil rail shipments through Richmond.

A trial judge’s dismissal of the lawsuit was upheld in court Tuesday in San Francisco. The court said Communities for a Better Environment, known as CBE, and other groups missed a state law’s six-month deadline for challenging a lack of environmental review for the shipments.

A three-judge panel said the California Environmental Quality Act didn’t allow an exception to the deadline even though the groups said they couldn’t have discovered the project sooner.

“Ultimately, CBE’s arguments about the proper balance between the interests of public participation and of timely litigation are better directed to the Legislature, not this court,” Court of Appeal Justice Jim Humes wrote for the court.

The panel unanimously upheld a similar ruling in which San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch dismissed the lawsuit in 2014.

The crude oil is carried by the Texas-based Kinder Morgan energy company in railroad tanker cars from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation to Kinder Morgan’s Richmond terminal, where it is transferred to tanker trucks.

The shale oil is extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling.

The environmental groups contend that shale crude oil, which is lighter than other types of crude oil, is dangerous because it is more explosive in the event of a derailment. They also say fumes emitted during the oil transfers harm human health.

The groups sued the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in March 2014 after discovering that the agency had quietly issued a permit for the project in July 2013 without requiring an environmental impact report.

The permit allowed Kinder Morgan to change its previous ethanol facility to the crude oil facility.

In addition to CBE, the plaintiffs were the Natural Resources Defense Council, Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Sierra Club. They were represented by the Earthjustice law firm.

They argued that a report should have been required under the CEQA law, while the air district and Kinder Morgan contended no report was needed because granting the permit was a ministerial rather than discretionary decision.

But the issue of whether there should have been an environmental report was never reached in court because Busch ruled, and the appeals court agreed, that the lawsuit was filed too late.

The appeals court said, “We acknowledge that if there were any situation in which it would be warranted to delay the triggering of a limitations period in the manner CBE urges, it would be one in which no public notice of the project was given and the project’s commencement was not readily apparent to the public.”

But the panel said that case law set by the California Supreme Court and other courts established that the Legislature made a “clear determination” that CEQA challenges must be filed within the deadline.

LETTER OF OPPOSITION: Five environmental attorneys and others

By Roger Straw, March 31, 2016

On March 31, five environmental attorneys and a host of experts and others (including Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community) sent the Benicia City Council this strong 3-page letter of opposition to Valero’s oil trains proposal.  (For a much longer download, see the Letter with Attachments [13 MB, 214 pages].)

Attorney signatories:

    • Jackie Prange, Staff Attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council;
    • Roger Lin, Staff Attorney for Communities for a Better Environment;
    • George Torgun, Managing Attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper;
    • Clare Lakewood, Staff Attorney for Center for Biological Diversity;
    • Elly Benson, Staff Attorney for Sierra Club.

Others signing the letter:

    • Ethan Buckner, ForestEthics;
    • Katherine Black, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community;
    • Janet Johnson, Richmond Progressive Alliance;
    • David McCoard, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter;
    • Jessica Hendricks, Global Community Monitor;
    • Colin Miller, Bay Localize;
    • Denny Larson, Community Science Institute;
    • Nancy Rieser, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment;
    • Steve Nadel, Sunflower Alliance;
    • Kalli Graham, Pittsburg Defense Council;
    • Richard Gray, 350 Bay Area and 350 Marin;
    • Bradley Angel, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice;
    • Sandy Saeturn, Asian Pacific Environmental Network


The City Council can, and must, uphold the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision to deny the use permit for the Valero crude-by-rail project. Federal law does not preempt the City from denying the permit for this project. Furthermore, the City should not tolerate Valero’ s delay tactic of seeking a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board (STB). As explained below, the STB does not have jurisdiction over this project and will almost certainly decline to hear Valero’ s petition for the very same reason that preemption does not apply. Finally, even if preemption were to apply here, the project’s on-site impacts, especially the increases in refinery pollution, require the City to deny the permit.

Four arrested after midair oil-train protest at Benicia Bridge

Repost from SFGate.com
[Editor:  Finally the names of those arrested: Janine Carmona, Charles Furman, Emily Heffling, and our friend Ethan Buckner.  See also Ethan Buckner’s personal account.  – RS]

4 arrested after midair oil-train protest at Benicia Bridge

By Jenna Lyons, July 6, 2015, 6:55 pm
Emily Heffling, of Oakland, was arrested during a protest at the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge on July 6, 2015.
Emily Heffling, of Oakland, was arrested during a protest at the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge on July 6, 2015.

Police arrested four Bay Area activists Monday morning after they suspended themselves from the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge to hang a banner protesting oil trains, the California Highway Patrol said.

Emily Heffling, of Oakland, was arrested during a protest at the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge on July 6, 2015. Photo: Courtesy Of Jasmin Vargas
Emily Heffling, of Oakland, was arrested during a protest at the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge on July 6, 2015. Photo: Courtesy Of Jasmin Vargas

About 7:50 a.m., some of the activists suspended themselves from the bridge with cords as they tried to display a banner that read, “Stop Oil Trains Now: Are You in the Blast-Zone.org.”

Jasmin Vargas, associate director of the nonprofit Communities for a Better Environment, said the activists were protesting in affiliation with her organization as well as ForestEthics and APEN, all environmental groups fighting the oil industry.

“We’re calling out and asking for an end to oil trains in our communities,” she said. “We don’t deserve to live in a blast zone.”

Vargas said the activists chose the Benicia bridge because it crosses the Carquinez Strait near several oil refineries and is a potential site for derailments and explosions as oil is transported on the tracks.

Officers arrested Oakland residents Janine Carmona, 29, and Charles Furman, 27, on suspicion of maintaining public nuisance and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Emily Heffling, 25, of Oakland and Ethan Buckner, 24, of Berkeley were arrested on suspicion of the same crimes as well as climbing or trespassing on a bridge and resisting or obstructing a peace officer.


Activists Detained Hanging “Stop Oil Trains Now” Banner to Kick off Week of Action

Press Release from Communities for a Better Environment and ForestEthics
[Editor:  UPDATE… see later news coverage and photos on KRON4 TV News and a later report with names of those arrested.  – RS]

Activists Detained Hanging “Stop Oil Trains Now” Banner to Kick off Week of Action


Megan Zapanta, APEN, megan@apen4ej.org, 619-322-1696
Jasmin Vargas, CBE, jasmin.vargas@cbecal.org, 323-807-3234
Eddie Scher, ForestEthics, eddie@forestethics.org, 415-815-7027

For Immediate Release: Monday, July 6, 2015. 7:00AM
[Richmond, CA] Activists protesting the threat of oil trains were detained this morning as they attempted to hang a 60-foot banner in front of the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge. The banner reads “Stop Oil Trains Now: Are You in the Blast-Zone.org.” The railroad bridge, which runs between the RT680 bridges, crosses the Carquinez Strait near refineries operated by Valero, Tesoro, Shell and Chevron. The Benicia-Martinez bridge is identified by the rail industry and on the blast-zone.org map as the route for oil trains moving through the Bay Area.

This action coincides with the second anniversary of the fatal oil train fire in Lac Megantic, Quebec, and the Stop Oil Trains week of action with more than 80 planned events opposing oil trains across the US and Canada. Climbers, who are risking arrest to drop the banner, are representing three groups: Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, and ForestEthics. Baykeeper also provided support for the action.

The groups cite the threat of fatal accidents, increased air pollution near railways and refineries, and carbon pollution from the high-carbon crude oil carried by oil trains. Oil trains have derailed and exploded five times in 2015, including high-profile events in West Virginia, Illinois, North Dakota and Canada.

“Richmond has been my home my entire life. My family, friends, and neighbors are here, and we refuse to live in fear of these bomb trains blowing up our neighborhoods, and we’re tired of living in the shadow of the Chevron Refinery and the oil industry,” said Laiseng Saechao, APEN Member and Summer of Our Power Fellow. “That’s why I’m speaking up, not just to revoke Kinder Morgan’s permit to bring oil trains into Richmond, but also to build community-led alternatives to dirty oil through the Summer of Our Power Campaign.”

“We are facing a triple threat. Oil trains dangerously roll though to burn filthy crude in refineries from Richmond to LA and Wilmington, all contributing to toxic pollution and global climate catastrophe,” says Jasmin Vargas, CBE, associate director. “Communities for a Better Environment is working in communities challenging the worst cases of environmental racism in CA.”

“I am risking arrest today because crude oil trains are too dangerous for the rails,” says Ethan Buckner, ForestEthics, California campaigner. “We don’t need this dirty crude oil and we can’t wait for the next oil train catastrophe to act. Our railways will play a huge part in our new, just clean energy economy, but oil trains have no part in that future.”

On June 30 ForestEthics and CBE released the report: Crude Injustice on the Rails: Race and the Disparate Risk from Oil Trains in California. The report maps the threat to oil trains to environmental justice communities in California, including Oakland and Richmond.

APEN advances environmental justice campaigns and policy with the leadership of low-income Asian Pacific American families in Richmond, Oakland, and across California. www.apen4ej.org

CBE works to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low-income communities to achieve environmental health and justice by preventing and reducing pollution and building green, healthy and sustainable communities and environments. www.cbecal.org

ForestEthics demands environmental responsibility from government and the biggest companies in the world. Visit Blast-Zone.org to see if you are one of the 25 million Americans who live in the dangerous one-mile oil train evacuation zone. www.ForestEthics.org