Tag Archives: Revised Draft EIR

Federal, state and local officials gather in Davis California to discuss oil train safety legislation

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor:  Thanks to Rep. Garamendi for his sponsorship of HR1679 to require Bakken oil stabilization before it is loaded onto oil trains.  But you can add Garamendi’s name to the long list of officials who show little interest in stopping bomb trains, who operate under the illusion that “safer” is ok.  Quote: “He added that the push isn’t to stop transportation of oil by rail, but to make it safer….”  – RS]

Crude oil-by-rail safety focus of proposed bill

By Melissa Murphy, 04/08/15, 10:05 PM PDT
U.S. Congressman John Garamendi, D-Solano, pauses as a freight train passes during a press conference at the Davis Amtrak Depot on Wednesday to highlight the need for state and federal action to improve the safety of crude oil-by-rail transports. Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter
Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson expresses his concerns about rail safety as he participates in a press conference on the issue Wednesday in Davis. Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter

Transportation of crude oil by rail was a hot topic Wednesday as federal, state and local government officials gathered at the train depot in the city of Davis.

Congressman John Garamendi, D-Solano, addressed media during a press conference about his legislation, H.R. 1679, which would prohibit the transport of crude-by-rail unless authorities have reduced the volatile gases in the oil prior to transportation.

Specifically, maximum Reid vapor pressure of 9.5 psi, the maximum volatility permitted by the New York Mercantile Exchange for crude oil futures contracts.

“Further analysis and debate is warranted, and H.R. 1679 is intended to move debate forward and stress the urgency of action before more lives are needlessly lost,” Garamendi said. “It doesn’t have to be explosive.”

He added that the push isn’t to stop transportation of oil by rail, but to make it safer and that the federal government needs to get its “train in gear” to adopt regulations.

Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, said even though the issue is complicated, they’re working on a comprehensive approach.

She explained that there has been a 4,000 percent increase in the amount of crude by rail. It continues to be transported by rail, pipeline and truck.

While it will take a long time to create and pass new regulations and standards, interim steps have been taken, including additional emergency regulations, speed reductions, increased inspections and more emergency equipment.

“We’ll continue to do more,” she said.

Standing next to photos of two fiery oil car train explosion, one that occurred as recently as February in West Virginia, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk said the trains go through the heart of the city, and there is a high risk if crude-by-rail starts moving through the corridor.

“It could have catastrophic effects in our community,” he said. “Garamendi’s legislation is in perfect alignment with city objectives. Safety is the priority.”

Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson agreed and added that the legislation needs to be passed as soon as possible.

Other steps have been taken by the California Office of Emergency Services.

Eric Lamoureux, inland regional administrator for OES, said six hazardous materials vehicles stand ready to respond throughout the state and within the next few months local exercises will test the systems and procedures in place.

Lamoureaux also explained that explosions are a concern, but there also is a risk to water supply. He shared that a derailment in November sent eight train cars and loads of corn into Feather River Canyon near Lake Oroville.

He added that it could have been a bigger issue if it was crude oil.

Garamendi also explained that the process of removing volatile gases isn’t new, but a regular standard for refineries in Texas.

Meanwhile, the city of Benicia is considering an application that would allow Valero Refinery to receive and process more crude oil delivered by rail. The proposed crude by rail project would be a third means to deliver crude oil. So far, Valero receives the crude oil by marine deliveries and pipeline.

According to the city of Benicia website, the city has determined that sections of the Draft Environmental Impact Report, when it comes to the Valero project, will need to be updated and recirculated. The anticipated release of the Recirculated Draft EIR for public comment is June 30. The Recirculated Draft EIR will have a 45-day comment period. After the comment period on the Recirculated DEIR closes, the city will complete the Final EIR which will include responses to all comments on the original Draft EIR and the Recirculated Draft EIR.

Editor: Reflections on Benicia’s Recirculation announcement

By Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent, Feb. 6, 2015

Valero_Crude_by_Rail-Project_Description_March_2013_(cover_page)On Feb. 3, the City of Benicia released a significant announcement, further delaying Valero’s proposal to begin shipping North American (Bakken and tar sands) crude oil in railroad tank cars:

The City has reviewed all of the comments submitted on the Draft EIR and has determined that sections of the Draft EIR will need to be updated and recirculated.  The anticipated release of the Recirculated Draft EIR for public comment is June 30, 2015.  The Recirculated Draft EIR will have a 45-day comment period.  After the comment period on the Recirculated DEIR closes, the City will complete the Final EIR which will include responses to all comments on the original Draft EIR and the Recirculated Draft EIR.

This is a victory for those of us who have openly and passionately opposed Valero’s proposal – a vindication of what we have been advocating all along.  The local opposition group, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC), submitted a 132-page critique of the DEIR, disclosing multiple “fatal flaws” and calling for a revision and recirculation.  The City of Benicia seems to agree.

After the City’s failed attempt to rush the project’s approval in early 2013, it has been significantly slowed for critical analysis and public transparency.  The recirculation will further delay any possibility of approval.  Don’t hold your breath, but little “David” may just be winning a long and arduous battle with “Goliath.”

On the other hand, the decision to recirculate indicates that Valero and City staff are NOT backing off plans to seek a permit, as some had speculated they might.  The historic drop in crude oil prices; the resulting cutbacks in crude extraction in North Dakota; the uncertainty of impending new federal and state regulations and lawsuits surrounding those new regulations; vociferous local, regional and statewide opposition and severe critiques of the Draft EIR … none of these factors, nor all of them together seem enough to have backed Valero into a wait-and-see attitude.

Local conversation among Benicia residents following the recirculation announcement has been spirited with significant questions and concerns:

  • Many are questioning the City’s “selected” revision method–what sections of the DEIR are going to be revised, and what sections, if any, will go unchanged?  Is a “piecemeal” revision a wise approach?  Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC) and other government agencies & NGOs have found serious deficiencies in ALL sections of the DEIR (see highly critical reviews and the BSHC critique).  Surely the City should address ALL the concerns expressed by the California State Attorney General and the other government agencies and NGO’s.  The City must have a solid EIR with full, honest disclosure of impacts of this project.
  • Critics have raised serious concerns about the ability of the current consulting team to complete the task of revising a DEIR that can withstand legal scrutiny given the extremely poor original product.  Given the badly flawed analysis and obvious bias in favor of the project demonstrated by the consultants, it might be prudent for the City to hire a different consultant.
  • Many Benicians continue to believe that if the DEIR disclosed the true extent of the environmental impacts and safety risks of this project it could never be built.

So Benicians still have work to do.  Maybe take a bit of a break between now and June, but PLEASE don’t quit writing letters, gathering signatures, putting up yard signs, canvassing, petitioning, keeping informed, and supporting nearby Bay Area refinery communities and important uprail efforts.  Stay in touch!