Tag Archives: Cool Davis

Davis, California: Brave the blast zone to make a point – Saturday, July 11

Repost from The Davis Enterprise
[Editor:  Details at CoolDavis and Yolano Climate Action.  – RS]

Brave the blast zone to make a point

By Lynne Nittler, July 08, 2015
Lac Megantic
Protesters in Portland carry placards bearing the names of 47 people who died two years ago when an oil train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Courtesy photo

There is no safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude oil. Two years after Lac-Mégantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising. Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety and our climate.

On Saturday, July 11, Davis residents will remember the 2013 oil derailment that took 47 lives in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Davis faces the threat of a similar accident. Currently, at least one oil train per week passes through Davis headed to the Bay Area.

Two more 100-car trains per day are planned for the near future for the Valero Refinery in Benicia and the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo … unless citizens stop them.

The ForestEthics map at www.Blast-Zone.org shows endangered homes and businesses along Second Street in Davis, including the police station, Carlton Plaza senior community and Rancho Yolo. The entire Davis downtown is vulnerable, along with parts of UC Davis campus and apartments complexes along Olive Drive.

Saturday’s vigil and rally highlight public opposition to oil trains passing through Davis. Too many residents live in the oil train blast zone, the 1-mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.

“My home is in the oil train blast zone,” says Frances Burke, a downtown resident and oil train activist. “I have to breathe the extra particulates in the air from each additional daily train. Meanwhile, the new federal regulations do little to protect me.

“In the event of an accident, first responders can only evacuate people from fireballs that happen despite trains moving at slower speeds in the supposedly safer tank cars. Oil trains are too dangerous for communities.”

Wearing fiery red, yellow and orange shirts, Davisites are invited to meet at the train station and walk through the Davis blast zone downtown to the Rotary Stage in Central Park.

“Five times in the first five months of 2015 we’ve watched oil trains derail and explode into toxic fireballs,” said Elizabeth Lasensky of Yolo MoveOn, as she made her sign for Saturday’s event. “The Department of Transportation reported in July 2014 that we can expect 10 to 12 derailments a year! It’s only a matter of time before an oil train derails in a major urban area, and the railroads don’t carry sufficient liability for such a disaster!”

After rousing songs by the Raging Grannies, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk will speak of the City Council’s resolution opposing oil by rail, available at http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20140422/04B-Opposing-Oil-By-Rail.pdf followed by Councilman Lucas Frerichs, speaking about the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ nearly unanimous decision to confront the issue: http://www.sacog.org/calendar/2014/08/rail/pdf/2-Valero%20EIR%20Comments.pdf. SACOG is made up of 22 cities and six counties.

At the state level, Sen. Lois Wolk will share the legislative response to the sudden surge of crude-by-rail transport into California, which is aimed at protecting the public as well as sensitive habitat and waterways.

Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza and Damien Luzzo will focus on the extraction side of the issue in Yolo County. Luzzo offers his story about how he came to oppose fracking at http://tinyurl.com/CAFrackWars and the Pledge of Resistance at http://tinyurl.com/FrackingPledgeOfResistance.

“With well over 100 pledges signed on and 500 visitors online, this fracking pledge of resistance is starting to take off,” Luzzo says of his plan to make California fracking-free. “My article explaining the origins of the pledge has attracted over 1,000 people. The word is definitely getting out there.”

Information on oil trains and the proposed ban on fracking in Yolo County will be available at the Cool Davis booth at the Farmers Market in Central Park.

“The truth is, we don’t need any of the extreme oil,” says Reeda Palmer of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. “The explosive Bakken and the toxic tar sands crude that moves by rail is a small percent of total U.S. oil consumption.

“As we move our economy to clean energy, we can’t allow oil companies to bring Bakken, tar sands and other fracked oil — the dirtiest, most dangerous sources of oil — onto the market to pollute the atmosphere when we have clean alternatives.”

Given the unresolved dangers of crude oil transport by rail and the overload of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere, a more prudent path is to leave all extreme crude in the ground, transition to clean, renewable energy and practice energy conservation in an effort to live sustainably on a finite planet.

— Lynne Nittler is a Davis resident, the founder of Yolano Climate Action Central and an active member of Cool Davis.

Benicia Valero Crude-by-Rail comment period closes with a landslide of criticism

By Roger Straw

The Benicia Independent makes it easier for you to read comments of INDIVIDUAL state and regional agencies and organizations. See our updated Project Review page (or just see below).

Something UNUSUAL happened in Benicia on September 15, the final day of the public comment period on the Draft EIR on Valero’s Crude By Rail proposal. I understand that opponents of a project will almost always wait until the last day to submit public comments. But not only did a remarkable NUMBER of critical comments arrive in the City of Benicia’s inbox on September 15 – there was a dramatic landslide of comments from significant governmental agencies and environmental organizations, including…

Also highly significant on September 15 were written comments from four of Benicia’s Planning Commissioners: Steve Young, George Oakes, Susan Cohen Grossman and Belinda Smith.

Prior to September 15, the City also received critical comments from the

These documents are also downloadable from Project Review.

Cool Davis: a final landslide of important letters on Valero DEIR

Repost from Cool Davis

Valero DEIR Comments are Successful

By Lynne Nittler

Lynne Nittler led the Davis effort to send comment letters on the Valero DEIR.
Lynne Nittler led the Davis effort to send comment letters on the Valero DEIR.

The DEIR comments for the Valero Crude-by-Rail Project in Benicia closed on September 15, with a final landslide of important letters critical of the project arriving on the last day. Attorneys and others who have looked at the quality and quantity of the comments submitted believe at the very least the DEIR will have to be significantly revised to address the many serious issues raised, and then recirculated. They expect the analysis to take many months.

This is an example of an entire region coming together to respond to a serious threat to our safety and taking advantage of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process to voice our many concerns before the project proceeds. The process is respectful and orderly, and allows governmental agencies, environmental organizations, and individuals all to respond. The responses range from detailed technical analysis of many pages according to the expertise of the agency, often relying on expert scientists and sometimes policy, to more personal or general concerns from the public at large. In addition, public testimony was taken at three lengthy Planning Commission meetings in July, August, and September, all of which can be accessed at the city site below. Finally, the Benicia Planning Commissioners themselves submitted written comments.

CEQA is a stunning example of democracy in action, and in the case of the Valero Crude-by-Rail Project, all concerned parties utilized the channel available to them to look closely at the short and long-term impacts of Bakken Crude and tar sands bitumen entering the state of California via rail.

All comments are added to the public legal record and incorporated as part of the review of the DEIR, and thus all concerns must be addressed in the final EIR. Furthermore, any item entered in the record can be used in future litigation.

The comments can all be read by order of the dates they were submitted at here   In each batch posted, the organizations are listed first, followed by letters from individuals. Be patient, as the large files are slow to open.  An easier, faster site to view the submissions can be found here

A few highlights of the hundreds of pages of commentary follow.

Governmental Agencies:
In the Sacramento region, our governmental agencies stepped forward on our behalf. Yolo County addressed the concern of the magnitude of an accident should one occur, among a range of other considerations about transport over the causeway. Read them here.

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) on behalf of 22 cities and 6 counties raised a series of concerns including advance notification to emergency operations offices of crude oil shipments, limitations on storage of crude oil tank cars in urbanized areas, funding for training and outfitting emergency response crews, installing the best brakes to minimize risks, funding for rail safety projects, installing Positive Tran Controls to prevent accidents, and prohibiting shipments of unstabilized crude oil that has not been stripped of the most volatile elements (including flammable natural gas liquids). Read the full letter here.

The City of Davis concurred with the SACOG and County of Yolo letter concerns and added some specific considerations for trains passing through Davis. In particular, the letter states that the DEIR’s Project description is incomplete and misleading as written, given information about the use of 1232 tank cars and assumptions about “just-in-time” supply chain and the significant sidings that could be used for storage.

The letter also states that the DEIR inadequately describes the project setting as it gives no details about all the uprail cities the trains must pass through with their crude oil loads. Next, the DEIR improperly truncates its description of the project setting by ending the description at Roseville, when at the least the route should be studied to the California borders or better yet to the source of extraction. Clearly the source of the crude does pose a significant hazard to uprail communities that must be addressed in the DEIR.

The Project’s Significant Hazard Risk Requires Feasible Mitigation Measures which are not explored in the present version, and the Davis letter presents a list of possible mitigations. Finally, the City insists that the DEIR fails to analyze the cumulative impacts of the Project given the imminent plans for more daily crude oil trains. Read the full letter here.

The California Public Utilities Commission in conjunction with the Office of Spill Prevention and Response also commented at some length on the DEIR, submitting their letter on Governor Brown’s letterhead. Read the full letter here. The letter addresses issues about the length of track analyzed, the derailment and accident calculations, the legal enforceability of the Valero commitment to use CPC- 1232 tank cars, the total derailments attributable to the project, insufficient attention paid to potential consequences, assumption regarding the number of cars expected to derail and other areas.

Many other governmental agencies including several Air Quality Management Districts wrote letters examining aspects of the DEIR. Just browse the commentary postings.

Environmental Groups
The Natural Resources Defense Council Document is a must read for the environmental group letters submitted! It clearly lays out so many of the flaws with the DEIR! Rather than a summary, go right to the document here!

For a technical review, check in to Communities for a Better Environment or read the San Francisco Baykeeper’s review, or technical reviews by other experts here.

Last but not least, read the letters from Cool Davis on Greenhouse Gas emissions and from 350 Sacramento at the link above.

Individual comments
Finally, many dozens of residents did their best to add their voices commenting on their personal concerns, whether or not they attended the five workshops offered. Some wrote of living close to the railroad tracks and their worries of a derailment and explosion. Others pointed out the noise and vibrations of the daily mile-long trains of heavy tank cars. Others wrote about the potential danger of crude oil trains on tracks that run through areas with earthquake fault lines, and many asked probing questions about the liability and who would cover the costs of accidents and spills. Many were concerned about our water supply as trains cross the mountains and our major rivers. A few raised questions about the cumulative impact of the Valero daily trains in the context of the proposed daily train to Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo County whose DEIR is to be released this month.

Next Steps
The review period for the federal Department of Transportation proposed safety rules remains open to public comment through September 30. A petition from ForestEthics is available for signatures through September 21.

The DEIR for the proposed recirculated DEIR for the Phillips 66 Rail Spur Project for the Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo that will bring 80 tank cars of crude oil through Davis each day will be released mid-September for a 60-day review period. Watch Cooldavis.org and Yolanoclimateaction.org for ways to respond during the comment period.

Highly critical reviews at close of public comment period: Valero DEIR fatally flawed

Check out these AMAZING critiques of Valero’s Draft EIR.

Here in Benicia on Friday, September 15, the final day of the public comment period, we congratulated Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community’s DEIR subcommittee for their extraordinary effort – it’s long, but you have to at least scan through it a bit.  Incredible detail and thoroughness, representing untold hours of expert volunteer labor!

If that wasn’t enough, as the day went by we were astounded when we received copies of critical comments from nearby environmental groups.  In light of these studies, no one will be surprised if the City and Valero choose to re-write and recirculate the document.  Some are saying Valero might simply withdraw the proposal.  These highly technical reviews are overwhelming, and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Valero’s DEIR is fatally flawed.  See below…  (note: many of these are very large downloads – please be patient!)

A number of individuals also submitted comments and questions at the close of the comment period.  These will be made available on our Project Review page when they are collated and published by the City.