Category Archives: Draft EIR

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Sacramento-area leaders concerned about crude-rail risks

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald

Sacramento-area leaders concerned about crude-rail risks

Uprail communities urge Benicia to address oil train safety hazards
By Tony Burchyns, 08/09/2014

Sacramento-area leaders are voicing concerns about Valero’s proposed crude-by-rail plan, accusing Benicia of paying too little attention to potential “very serious” hazards of increased oil train shipments through Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa counties.

In a draft comment letter on the project, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments last week sharply criticized a Benicia study that found that the crude oil trains rattling through cities and sensitive habitats would pose no “significant hazard” whatsoever.

“We believe that conclusion is fundamentally flawed, disregards the recent events demonstrating the very serious risk to life and property that these shipments pose, and contradicts the conclusions of the federal government, which is mobilizing to respond to these risks,” the letter states.

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that crude-by-rail shipments pose an “imminent hazard,” based on a recent pattern of fires and spills involving crude oil shipments from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

The letter urges the city to “substantially revise” the project’s draft environmental impact report “so that it will fully inform the public and the City Council of the full impacts.”

Valero is proposing daily shipments of up to 70,000 barrels of crude to its Benicia refinery. The tank cars would originate at unspecified North American sites and be shipped to the Union Pacific Railroad’s Roseville yard, where they would be assembled into two daily 50-car trains to Benicia.

Last month, Benicia officials extended the public comment period on the project’s draft environmental impact report to Sept. 15.

The council — which represents six counties and 22 cities in the Sacramento region — is set to approve its draft letter later this month. Meanwhile, the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, Yolo County Board of Supervisors and Caltrans separately have submitted comment letters to Benicia expressing concerns about the project.

Yolo County officials contend that Benicia’s project analysis “provides only a brief review of the environmental, safety, and noise effects on upstream communities.”

“All areas along the route will have the same trains traveling on them,” the Yolo County officials wrote. They added that potential risks to all communities along the rail line should be studied.

The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District recommended that the city offset increased air emissions from locomotives by supporting clean-tech programs in the region. The district also faulted the city for not studying the project’s cumulative air pollution effects throughout Sacramento and Yolo counties, as well as parts of Placer, El Dorado, Solano and Sutter counties.

Caltrans focussed its concerns on how oil train deliveries would impact Interstate 680 near the Bayshore Road off-ramp. They recommend safety measures — including rail signals — at the Bayshore Road crossing to prevent freeway backups during peak commute hours.

The agency also requested that a mechanism be put in place to advise Caltrans directly of any accidents affecting the freeway.

Benicia Senior Planner Amy Million said the city would respond to all valid project concerns following the close of the public comment period. The next public hearing on the project is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 250 E. L St.

Yolo County Supervisors send letter to Benicia critical of Draft EIR

Repost from The Sacramento Bee
[Editor: This story is also covered on the Woodland Daily Democrat.  – RS]

Yolo supervisors challenge Benicia on crude oil train plans

By Tony Bizjak, Jul. 15, 2014
Steve Helber / The Associated Press | Several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire along the James River near downtown Lynchburg, Va., in May. Emergency officials are pressing railroads for more information on oil train schedules and routes so they can be prepared.
ad more here:

In a letter to be sent this week, Yolo County officials accuse the city of Benicia of failing to adequately review the potential for oil spills and fires resulting from a plan by the Valero Refining Co. to run two daily trains carrying crude oil through the Sacramento region to its Bay Area refinery.

A recently published environmental report by Benicia concludes the project will not cause any significant negative impact to cities and habitat up the rail line. That finding was based on an Illinois professor’s analysis saying a train incident causing an oil spill might happen only once every 111 years between Roseville and Benicia.

The Yolo letter, approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, calls that analysis inaccurate and irrelevant because it doesn’t explore the potential magnitude of oil spills. A crude oil train crash and explosion last year in Lac Mégantic, Canada, killed 47 people and leveled several blocks of downtown.

“A catastrophic explosion and spill in a populated area is different from a 100-gallon spill in a shipyard that is quickly cleaned up,” the Yolo letter states. “Without considering the second half of the risk analysis, the (report) cannot conclude that the risk of a spill is insignificant.”

The Yolo board was split, 3-2, on sending the letter. Yolo Supervisor Matt Rexroad opposed the letter, saying he believes the risk of a spill is small and the county should focus its time on issues where it will have more impact. “There is only so much we can have an impact on,” he said. “You allocate resources (based on) how big you think risks are. I don’t know this one is worth fighting.”

Board Chairman Don Saylor took the opposite tack, saying the issue presents clear safety concerns for communities, businesses and people alongside the railways. “The fact is that a single spill or fire in Yolo County in areas such as downtown Davis, the campus of UC Davis or the many other communities in our region could result in significant property damage and injuries,” Saylor wrote in an email to The Sacramento Bee.

Other local cities and counties are expected to issue comments challenging the Benicia rail plan environmental analysis, which was published last month. Benicia officials have set a Sept. 15 deadline for receiving reactions. If its plans are approved, Valero officials have said they plan to begin train shipments early next year. The transports are among the first of what California officials say is an expected boom in crude-by-rail shipments through the state, prompted by the lower cost of North Dakota and Canadian crude.

KPFA: Benicians oppose crude-by-rail ‘bomb trains’

Repost from

Benicians win first victory in opposition to crude-by-rail ‘bomb trains’

KPFA Weekend News, 07.12.2014

On Thursday, Citizens of Benicia, California won a 45-day extension of the public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Report regarding Valero’s plan for bringing tar sands and shale oil to its Benicia Refinery. Activists opposing the shipments began calling them “bomb trains” after explosions around the U.S. and in Canada.

KPFA Evening News Anchor Cameron Jones:This week the Benicia Planning Commission voted, 4 to 2, for the 45 day public comment period extenion on Valero Oil’s crude by oil The town of Lac Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, burned for four days after a crude-by-rail train derailment and explosion. Forty-seven people died and some of their bodies were never even found. plan. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Andrés Soto, KPFA host, Benicia resident, and organizer with Communities for a Better Environment. 

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Andrés Soto, could you tell us what happened at the Benicia Planning Commission meeting on Thursday evening? 

Andrés Soto: Yeah, two things occurred. One was that the local group Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community held a rally that was designed to commemorate the 47 people who lost their lives at Lac Mégantic a year ago. It was part of a national campaign along with Forest Ethics, as well as a rally before going into the meeting. 

KPFA: Regarding Lac Mégantic, that’s the community in Quebec where 47 people died after a crude by rail car blew up?
Soto: Crude by rail train.
KPFA: Train.Soto: A crude-by-trail train derailed, and a number of cars exploded, and the town burned for four days, and 47 people were essentially incinerated. Some of their bodies were never found.

KPFA: OK, what happened when you got into the Planning Commission meeting, in Benicia.Soto: Once in the meeting, the Planning Commission had to deal with a couple of ideas. One was whether or not to extend the public comment period from the 45 days it is now to 90 days, and that occurred on a 4 to 2 vote, so the public was allowed to have a longer public comment period.

Before the Benicia Planning Commission meeting on July 10, Benicia residents commemorated the 47 lives just over a year ago, when a crude-by-rail train derailed and cars carrying Bakken shale oil exploded in Lac Mégantic, Quebec. And the other action was, they started to take comment from the public on the Draft Environmental Impact Report on Valero’s crude-by-rail project. They only were able to listen to about five or six people by the time they got around to that at 11:30 pm, so the meeting is going to be continued, and the public will be allowed to give more testimony at their next meeting in August. The crowd was overwhelmingly anti crude-by-rail. The Valero forces were able to turn out a few folks, mostly from the building trades unions, but the bulk of the people who were there were opposed to it. There was also an opportunity for people who live uprail, in Roseville and Davis and Vacaville and places like that. They allowed those folks to actually offer their commentary first, before the Benicia residents, because they had come from such a long way.

So we think we’re in a good place right now and looking forward to the next meeting.

KPFA: If you’re opposing crude by rail, then you’re basically opposing the transport of shale oil and tar sands oil from the middle of the country, right?

Soto: Correct. Valero and Union Pacific have teamed up to begin to try to deliver Bakken crude and tar sands crude, Bakken crude from North Dakota, and tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada by rail down here since there is no Keystone pipeline to the West Coast. And in the city of Benicia, Valero wants to shift from getting all of its oil delivered by ships, at their port, and converting to getting it all by rail. And we believe this puts the CIty of Benicia and the surrounding communities and the Suisun Marsh at an unnecessary risk. And our position is that they ought to leave that stuff in the ground, that just because they can get it out doesn’t mean we want it. What we support is a just transition from a fossil fuel based economy to one based on the expansion of renewable energies.

KPFA: And that was Andrés Soto, Benicia resident and organizer with Communities for a Better Environment. In Berkeley, for Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Letter to the Editor by Kathy Kerridge

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald, LETTERS

Kathy Kerridge: You make the call in Benicia

Vallejo Times-Herald, Letters, 06/26/2014  

Benicia is being asked to make a huge decision regarding our health and safety by approving Valero’s Crude by Rail project, which would bring 100 carloads of crude oil into Benicia each day.

This crude could be the same that has been involved in explosive derailments all over the United States and Canada, including one incident that caused the death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. It could also be from the Canadian tar sands, which has proved impossible to clean up in a spill.

Our planning commission wisely determined that an Environmental Impact Report be done to evaluate this project. It is now our turn to weigh in on this important document. That seems a bit daunting since most of us have never heard of or read an environmental impact report. Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community will be holding a workshop on how the average person can read at comment on this report. The workshop runs on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Benicia Library.

This project has enormous implications for our city, county and state. You have the opportunity to shape the decision.

Kathy Kerridge
Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

For safe and healthy communities…