Tag Archives: Guy Cooper

Guy Cooper of Martinez: Denying for dollars

Repost from The Martinez Gazette
[Editor: Friend of Benicia and Martinez Gazette columnist Guy Cooper has written a 2-part series on global warming and the deniers.  Well done!  – RS]

Martinez Environmental Group: Denying for dollars (part 1)

By Guy Cooper, October 21, 2014

Just finished reading “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. An exhaustively researched and compelling read. I’m trying to get my head around the whole global warming and greenhouse gas (GHG) production issue as prompted by, amongst other things, consideration of Shell’s proposed “greenhouse gas reduction project” here in Martinez. (…continued)

Martinez Environmental Group: Denying for dollars (part 2)

By Guy Cooper, November 16, 2014

I left off last time (Oct. 21) illuminating a pattern of deliberate denial that has pervaded public discourse on a number of health and environmental issues over the years.

The authors of “Merchants of Doubt” identify Ben Santer, a renowned atmospheric scientist working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory investigating and modeling global warming, as first recognizing the pattern of denial that victimized himself and others.

The cause of global warming has been the subject of much scientific debate. Fossil fuel contributions to global warming have been suggested since the ‘60s, and understanding refined by the mid-‘90s as computer atmospheric modeling prowess evolved. What about “natural variability”? Volcanic activity? Scientists peer reviewed, debated, vetted each others hypothesis’, as scientists are wont to do, and clarified the science corroborating the human activity cause. But non-scientists or politically and ideologically motivated scientists without climate expertise deliberately barraged the public with deflections, denials and personal attacks aimed at undermining the credibility of the climate scientists and their science.(…continued)


Martinez Gazette op ed: Wait a minute

Repost from The Martinez Gazette

Martinez Environmental Group: Wait a minute

By Guy Cooper | June 5, 2014

Several local refinery permits and associated Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) are currently pending approval. For instance, Westpac in Pittsburg wants to receive, store and distribute explosive Bakken and toxic tar sands crude-by-rail at an old PG&E tank farm right next to homes and schools.

The Valero refinery in Benicia wants to bring to town daily 100 car unit trains of the same. Phillips 66 seeks to increase their volatiles storage and transportation in Rodeo and also enormously expand crude-by-rail traffic through our rail corridor to feed their San Luis Obispo facility. Finally, Shell wants to revamp the Martinez refinery to process lighter, sweeter crudes like Bakken. They will ship crude by rail from North Dakota to Bakersfield then by pipeline to Martinez, or by rail from North Dakota to a Washington State marine terminal that will load tankers bound for Martinez. Other plans are in the works.

So the debates ensue. I’d like to frame the discussions in a different context.

A common way to compare corporate apples to country oranges is by looking at corporate revenues as compared to national gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Fortune 500, the combined parent corporate revenues of the five major refiners in this area – Valero, Chevron, Shell, Phillips 66 and Tesoro – was $1.1 trillion in 2013. That ranked them 16th of 187 countries in the world in GDP according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). If California was a country it would be 8th in the world, at over $2 trillion. You might imagine that the economic power of Contra Costa County and Martinez ranked somewhat lower.

So, Mr. Big Oil, would you say we have a level playing field?

  • At public hearings, you have Power Point presentations. We have pieces of paper.
  • You meet in corporate back rooms. We meet in neighborhood back yards.
  • You have professional political operatives. We operate with volunteer political naiveté.
  • You sponsor political junkets and infomercials. We do flyers and lawn signs.
  • You have a PR budget. We pass the hat for printing.
  • You have PACs. We have potlucks.

According to Citizens United and the Supreme Court, we are equal. I think not.

The EIR process, despite the original best of intentions, is skewed in your favor.

You get to frame the discussion with the help of consultants, lobbyists and lawyers. Fly in whomever you need. Your political relationships are built on bucks, your policies on billions.

Your vast assets steer the political discourse, whether through direct political contributions, lobbying to de-fund government oversight and regulation, or by endowing non-think-tanks and pseudo-public forums that aim to skew legitimate science towards your view.

Our interests are more than what you narrowly consider to be of public concern. We value social, ethical, moral, esthetic, environmental, family, property, public health and safety issues that go beyond your narrow economic focus.

We live here.

So who gets to call the shots?

The trains, or the towns the trains run through? The refiners and oil producers, or the communities in their midst?

Who should pay for oil industry impacts? The locals that bear the brunt, or the producers that reap the billions?

I’m sorry, but if we don’t like your proposals, as local residents/citizens, we have a right to reject them. We have to work hard to overcome your advantage, but … the Supreme Court has spoken, Mr. Citizens United. You get your vote, we get the rest.

(If you want to stay updated on these issues and learn how to get involved, please go to http://mrtenvgrp.com/category/meetings).

Request to Martinez City Council: moratorium on crude by rail

Repost from The Martinez Gazette

Martinez Environmental Group: Martinez moratorium resolution, facts to consider

May 11, 2014 | by GUY COOPER,  Special to the Gazette

The Martinez Environmental Group presented a resolution to the City Council May 7, proposing opposition to increased crude-by-rail (CBR) traffic through our city, mirroring similar resolutions and expressions of concern already proffered by Berkeley, Richmond, Davis, Benicia, and many other communities along the tracks. The following is what I wish I would have said in support at that meeting if I hadn’t chickened out.

A major attraction of Martinez is its status as a transportation hub. People commute and travel via Amtrak. There are connections to BART and bus destinations north, south, east and west. The train brings people to our town, sometimes for the first time. They stop, stroll, eat, drink, shop. I’ve talked to many of them. They like what they see, are amazed by the friendliness of the locals. Many are surprised such a town even exists huddled beside those hulking refineries. Basically, they come and go with a good impression that can’t hurt.

Personally, I love being able to jump on the train, catch a Giants game, make a trip to the City or Jack London Square for an event, or head towards Davis, Sacramento, or Truckee for a weekend. Naturally, money is spent on tickets, restaurants, hotels, etc.

If WestPac, Tesoro, Valero, Kinder Morgan, Chevron and Phillips 66 have their way, we could see five to six oil trains a day pass through. Each train consists of about 100 tanker cars. Each car holds about 30,000 gallons of crude. So each train contains about 3 million gallons, is over a mile long, and weighs about 28 million pounds.

A major consideration: How much can our 85-year-old rusty Benicia/Martinez rail trestle tolerate? Has it ever had to endure that kind of traffic before? What’s the frequency of inspections and maintenance of that span? None of this info is easily accessible. The Coast Guard and rail companies have haggled over a bridge refurb for years. How can it be done without contaminating the water, and who’s going to pay for it? Meanwhile, nothing happens. A few years back Channel 4 did a piece on the trestle, noting the heavy rust, separated metal and bent bolts. I guess it was stoutly built way back when, but how long can we expect our elderly bridge to endure an onslaught not seen since WWII? If the rail bridge failed under the load of one of these trains … well, I don’t even want to contemplate that disaster.

These oil trains would use the same tracks used by the California Zephyr, the Capital Corridor commuters, the Coast Starlight.

Farmers, industrial customers, and rail passengers in the heartland of this country are already complaining about train delays and freight delivery impacts due to oil train traffic kludging up the system. What exactly will the local economic impact be if passenger rail schedules are severely disrupted?

Have you noticed the increase in delays lately just trying to get across the tracks to the waterfront as oil trains are built, rolling back and forth, attaching more cars, blocking traffic?

Exactly what economic impact do the local refineries have? Taxes, wages … I’d like to see the details. And please, not the contributions to local causes. For them, that’s just a drop in the PR bucket. What about the health effects of the carcinogens and other toxics spewed into our local environment? We rate amongst the worst in the country in that regard, because of the refineries. What are those costs? The more trains, the more detrimental health impacts. These trains out-gas toxic stuff while unloading or just sitting. Has that been factored into the cost/benefit mix? How about emergency response costs? Not just in responding to a sudden emergency, but in equipping and staffing for the eventuality. Are the oil producers and refiners offering to cover those costs?

Here’s some more math. These so-called “Bakken Bombers” carry a crude that has been likened to gasoline in volatility. One gallon of gas is equivalent to the explosive power of 63 sticks of dynamite. A Bakken Bomber contains about 3 million gallons, or the equivalent of 189,000,000 sticks of dynamite. You know, I’ve been to Hiroshima, Japan. A sobering experience. The power of the bomb that flattened that city was rated at 12 kilotons, or equivalent to 4.8 million sticks of TNT. So one Bakken Bomber train could potentially contain the explosive power of 39 Hiroshimas.

My point is, there is very little benefit to our city hosting this exponential increase in oil train traffic. And much at risk. Any one of these trains could annihilate our town or indelibly poison our water front. It’s just not worth it.

I believe the City of Martinez should be acutely concerned about this issue and wish to join our neighboring municipalities in conveying that concern to the powers at the state and federal levels that can do something about it. So I ask that the City Council call for a moratorium on crude-by-rail until all safety and health concerns are remedied. Vote to pass our resolution.