Category Archives: Benicia Planning Commission

Editor’s update, January, 2014

By Roger Straw

Valero_Crude_by_Rail-Project_Description_March_2013_(cover_page)The City of Benicia has tentatively scheduled the release of the Valero Crude by Rail DRAFT EIR for “January, 2014.”  Watch here for news of its release.  Click here to send me an email if you would like to be on the Benicia Independent mailing list.  I will let you know as soon as it breaks.

Meanwhile, study up and be prepared to make your views known about the prospect of tanker trains rolling over the tracks from North Dakota, through communities uprail from here, over the protected waters of the Suisun Marsh and into Benicia.

You can learn a lot here on Benicia Independent – see Recent Posts and Archives at left.  And here are a few encouraging links I discovered this morning:

  • Railroad town battles train crude cars
    LAMY, NM (KRQE) – The railroad has been running through Lamy, New Mexico for more than a century. Since 1880, rail cars have hauled people and freight through the tiny town. But while the town is tied to its tracks, many here feel like something is barreling down on them: train cars hauling crude oil.  MORE
  • Oil-by-Rail: Crude oil shipments poised to take over Northwest railways
    CENTER FOR JUSTICE / ADVOCATES & ATTORNEYS/RIVERKEEPER: Washington state is becoming ground zero in transportation of oil, putting Spokane, surrounding communities and the Spokane River once again in the cross hairs of dirty energy.  MORE
  • Grays Harbor Crude-By-Rail Terminals Blocked – State board to halt oil projects.
    EARTHJUSTICE:   OLYMPIA, WA — The Washington State Shorelines Hearings Board stated that it will reverse the permits issued to two major crude-by-rail shipping terminals in a letter to interested parties. The decision will send the proposals back to the City of Hoquiam and the Washington Department of Ecology to conduct a complete review of the environmental risks and harms of transforming Grays Harbor into an industrial crude oil zone.  MORE

You can also study the original documents on the City’s “Valero Crude by Rail” page.   Many of those documents are also posted here in searchable form – click on Documents above.

You must make up your own mind, of course, but as for me, after months of study, I will oppose the proposal on grounds of public safety, air quality, inadequate emergency planning and inadequate federal regulation of rail transport of hazardous materials.  It is unlikely that any mitigations proposed in the DEIR will be sufficient to change my mind.  Let’s hope that our Planning Commissioners will deny the permit on these and other grounds, and that our City Council will stand firm if/when Valero appeals.

Roger Straw
Editor and Publisher
The Benicia Independent

Packed Council Chambers – Planning Commission delays vote

Detailed testimony calling for an EIR

Valero’s proposed rail terminal came before Benicia’s Planning Commission on July 11. The public hearing was a critical moment for citizen concerns to be heard, and heard they were. Many Benicians and Bay Area experts asked for a more thorough process of review than the current “Initial Study” and “Mitigated Negative Declaration” prepared by City staff and an outside consultant. Over and over again, the Commission heard requests that they require the project to undergo a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Valero supporters were present and gave their green light to the project, citing the many ways that the company serves their interests and those of Benicia.

Commissioners raised excellent questions, but Valero and City staff chose to delay any attempts at giving answers until they have had more time to prepare carefully studied responses. Staff responses are promised by Friday, August 2.

At the end of the meeting, City staff assured Commissioners and the public that additional comments on the project would be welcome, but then indicated that comments on the Initial Study and Negative Declaration were now closed. I was a bit confused by this. For now, if you want to comment, send a letter or email anytime prior to the next Commission meeting on August 8. Your PRESENCE at the meeting will speak even more loudly. Please plan to attend.

Written comments may be sent to City Manager Brad Kilger by email with a copy to the Community Development Department at