Category Archives: Final Draft Environmental Impact Report (FEIR)

Everything you need to know for TODAY’S Planning Commission meeting

By Roger Straw, February 11, 2016
[Editor:  Well, ALMOST everything.  For more details, see EVENTS.  – RS]
A FOURTH PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING has been called for TONIGHT, THURSDAY, FEB. 11, 6:30pm.  Public comment is now closed, but it will be just as important to fill the chamber with concerned residents and regional support.  Be there if you can!  Arrive early to get a seat in Council Chambers.

Tonight, the first portion of the meeting will be given over to City staff and consultants.  According to Community Development Director Christina Ratcliffe, City staff will begin by discussing new materials given to Commissioners last night.  City Attorney Heather McLaughlin, notably absent during Commission procedings to date, was observed midway through the evening Wednesday delivering a huge stack of documents, presumably for Commissioners’ review.  It stands to reason that these documents will have further comments and instructions having to do with federal “preemption.”

City staff will also take time in the opening portion of tonight’s meeting to answer questions put to staff previously during the hearings, to which staff had responded that they would need to “look into it.”

Commissioners will no doubt interact with staff with further questions and clarifications, so it is likely Commissioners will not move into their final deliberations until – anybody’s guess – an hour or two (or three or four) go by.  Those deliberations and final statements are likely to take some time as well.  Director Ratcliffe advised Commissioners to bring their calendars to Thursday’s meeting, in case they need to schedule yet another continuation at a “date certain.”


Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community has been waging a critical fossil-fuel expansion battle virtually alone. Now it’s crunch time! We MUST stand with them!

On Monday and Tuesday nights, we witnessed history in the making. In an act of citizen heroism, Benicia Planning Commissioners directed pointed question after pointed question to City Staff, contract attorneys, paid consultants and Valero executives.  At critical moments, consultants couldn’t even defend their own report and some in the audience were heard to whisper “shame on you.” The hearing will continue tonight and quite possibly Thursday night.

Valero’s control over the city of Benicia is pervasive and pernicious. This battle has national and global ramifications. We need to turn out in force to encourage the Planning Commission to vote down Valero’s dirty crude proposal.

Sure, attending a meeting at Benicia City Hall at 6pm is inconvenient. But really, is this about us and our comfort level? We’re in a war for the soul of our community, our country and our planet.

Are you in?

Where: Benicia City Council Chambers | 250 East L St. Benicia
When: Arrive by 5:00 if you want a seat in the CC Chambers.
More info:

Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community is calling for a big turnout at the Monday Feb. 8 meeting of Benicia’s Planning Commission.  I join them in a sense of urgency.  See their call to action here.

This IS a critical moment for our city.  We have signed petitions, planted our yard signs, written letters to the city and the local newspapers, shown up at previous hearings … and now it all comes down to next week.

After yet another a final flood of letters by uprail agencies and environmental and legal experts; after we and Valero supporters jam City Hall and make our case on Monday, Tuesday and perhaps Wednesday and Thursday … our hard-working Planning Commissioners will close their massive 3-volume studies, ask some questions, make their own final comments, and vote.

Commissioners will vote first on whether to “certify” the Final Draft Environmental Impact Report (FEIR).  This will determine whether the report is adequate under California law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).   If they decline to certify the report, Valero will have to decide whether to 1) revise the report again and go through another set of hearings, 2) drop the project, or 3) appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Benicia City Council.

If on the other hand Commissioners vote to certify the report, then they will have a second vote: whether to approve or deny issuing a permit for Valero to proceed with its project.  If they vote to deny the permit, Valero will have to decide whether to start all over with a new proposal, drop the project, or appeal the decision to the City Council.  If our Commission decides to issue a permit for the project, Valero will get out the shovels and hardhats, but some among us might consider further action to stop the project, including an appeal to City Council.

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community has a News & Events page with all you need to know about Monday’s Planning Commission hearing.  Please come.  Plan to attend on Monday AND Tuesday.  Your presence is powerful.BSHC

Evite_Tell_BeniciaRSVP – Yes, I will attend the Feb. 8 Commission Hearing.  Click here.

Sign here!

Over 1300 have already signed the Safe Benicia petition.  Let’s hit 2000 today! Click the image above, or email us at



Adams Broadwell attorneys on behalf of SAFER California: critical review of Valero FEIR

By Roger Straw, February 10, 2016
[See also the update section below for exhibits added later today.  – RS]

On February 8, 2016, the law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo sent the City of Benicia of lengthy and detailed review, highly critical of the City’s Final EIR on Valero Crude By Rail(Warning – this is a 10 MB download.)

The letter is written on behalf of “Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (‘SAFER California’) and individuals who reside and work in the City of Benicia.”  It features individual reviews by well-known environmental experts Dr. Phyllis Fox and Dr. Petra Pless.

The Benicia Independent has created an INDEX to the document which is lengthy and is followed by extensive supporting attachments (see text version below).

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – INDEX
PDF Page # Description
1 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cordozo comments, cover letter
2 I. Interest of Commenters
3 II. The City’s responses to comments are inadequate
5 III. The City’s application of federal preemption is overbroad & conflicts with the constitutional exercise of traditional police powers
12 IV. The city still lacks substantial evidence to support its conclusions in the FEIR regarding the project’s significant impacts and still fails to incorporate all feasible mitigation measures necessary to reduce such impacts to a less than significant level
36 V. The FEIR still fails to analyze all feasible alternatives
38 VI. The FEIR fails to disclose the project’s inconsistencies with the City’s general plan
40 VII. The FEIR fails to disclose the project’s inconsistencies with the general plans of uprail cities and counties
43 VIII. Conclusion
44 Attachment A: Findings for denial (Exhibit C)
57 Attachment B: Responses to Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cordozo comments
60 Attachment C: Dr. Phillis Fox, Comments on FEIR
62 I. Summary & Conclusions
65 II. Failures to analyze air quality impacts on different types of crude
71 III. Underestimate of ROG estimates
85 IV. Southern route not  analyzed
97 V. Alternatives to the project
98 VI. Mitigations not required
106 Attachment D: Dr. Petra Pless, Review of FEIR
107 Cover letter
108 I. Inadequacies of project description & EIR analyses not adequately supported
112 II. Failures to mitigate air quality impacts – construction
119 III. Failures to mitigate air quality impacts – operations
164 IV. The EIR’s Health Risk Assessments Are Substantially Flawed and Fail to Identify Significant Impacts
181 V. Recommendation
182 Attachment F-1, REVISED ASSUMPTIONS FOR Year 2014 Daily Line Haul Locomotive Criteria Pollutant Emissions -100 Railcars per Day per EIR Methodology
185 Attachment F-2 Project characteristics, assumptions, and locomotive emissions according to Phillips 66 SMR CBR FEIR and Valero Benicia CBR FEIR
187 Locomotive Emissions


On Feb. 10, the City of Benicia posted extensive additional Exhibits to the SAFER California Letter of February 8, 2016.  See below, or go to the City’s page.  [#53 and #62 are broken links.  I will fix if/when I get better information.  – RS]

Ex._1_SJVAPCD_Authority_to_Construct_Application_ Review_Bakersfield_Terminal_2012-07-25
10. Phillips Rail Spur Project FEIR December 2015
14. Impl_doc
17.(2) Tec_development_doc_final_2000
17. Impl_doc
18. ep724-stb-data-spreadsheet
22. (b)_4185_Field_Guide_To_Tank_Cars1-opt
22. CH2ThresholdsTables5-2015
26._H51A Executive Summary
36. (1)2014_crude_by_
36. (2)2015_crude_by_
36. (3)2013_crude_by_
36. (4)2012_crude_by_
36. (5)2011_crude_by_
36. (6)2010_crude_by_
36. (7)2009_crude_by_
45. Phillips Rail Spur Project FEIR December 2015
52. __102634-west-coast-seein
59. (1)ethylene-oxide-4pg-brochure
59. (2)ethylene-oxide-4pg-brochure
62. tsocorpsite.files.wor…tesoro-dot-120-fact-sheet
66. RAR1201

KCRA: Residents voice concerns over proposed rail transport in Benicia

Repost from KCRA News, Sacramento
[Editor:  This report suffers from a few errors of fact, but is a welcome bit of coverage.  Very few news reports have surfaced following last night’s important hearing.  I wasn’t able to embed the video of reporter Tom Miller.  Go to KCRA to watch.  – RS]

Residents voice concerns over proposed rail transport in Benicia

Two 50-car trains would move through cities like Sac, Davis

By Tom Miller, Feb 08, 2016 11:58 PM PST

KCRA 2016-02-08BENICIA, Calif. (KCRA) —A push to bring crude oil on trains through Northern California to the Bay Area has many residents in the towns and cities it would pass through worried about the environmental and safety risks that go with it.

Valero Energy Corporation is asking the Benicia Planning Commission to approve $55 million in upgrades to its local refinery.

The project would allow two 50-car trains, each carrying 35,000 barrels of crude oil, to unload at the refinery each day.

The crude would come from all over the continent and would be carried through major urban centers like Sacramento, Roseville and Davis.

“We are not confident that the cars that are being used for this transport will safely transport them through our communities, our sensitive habitat, along the rivers and streams in our region,” Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor said.

According to Saylor, 500,000 people live within a half-mile of the tracks in El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.

An environmental impact report found eight “potentially significant impacts” that could be addressed with mitigation measures and 11 “significant and unavoidable impacts.”

Both categories include environmental effects on air quality and biological resources.

However, in the unavoidable impacts section, the report lists greenhouse gas emissions in addition to hazards and hazardous materials.

The report states the project could pose a significant threat to the public or environment in an accident involving a spill.

The report goes on to say, “Although the risk of such an occurrence is extremely low, the potential consequences of such an event could be extremely high.”

In 2013, 47 people were killed in Quebec, Canada, after a crude oil train derailed there.

Saylor is worried a similar incident could happen in Northern California.

“The highly volatile substances included within this transport could be very damaging to our communities, to our businesses (and) to our homeowners,” he said.

Valero insists that’s unlikely in Northern California. The company plans to use upgraded train cars and said its crude oil is less volatile.

“Some of the early concerns about rail safety are based on scenarios that wouldn’t exist in our project,” Valero’s Heath, Safety and Environment Director Chris Howe said.

The company, which contributes 20 percent of the money in Benicia’s general fund, currently employs 500 people within the city.

Howe said the upgrades at the refinery would create 120 temporary jobs during the anticipated five months of construction and 20 new, permanent jobs.

However, Howe said ultimately it is not Valero’s responsibility when it comes to assuring the public a disaster would not occur in Northern California.

“We look to the railroad to safely deliver that material to our refinery, but I point out that marine deliveries in the bay, much larger volumes, will be reduced in risk through the delivery of crude by rail,” he said.

Despite the environmental concerns, Benicia city staff recommended the planning commission approve the Valero project.

On Monday, Benicia City Hall was filled with more than a 100 people, hoping to weigh in on the proposal.

Elizabeth Lasensky carpooled from Davis with nearly a dozen others, hoping her anti crude-by-rail stance would be heard by the commissioners.

“Every time a train goes through, our probability is increased, and that’s just for an explosion,” Lasensky said. “We still have to deal with the air pollutants and the noise pollution.”

Because of the number of residents hoping to voice their concerns, the planning commission has scheduled public comment sessions every day through Thursday, when it’s expected to vote on the project.

Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) highly critical of Valero oil train EIR

By Roger Straw, February 5, 2016

BREAKING: Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) highly critical of Valero oil train EIR

SACOGThe Benicia Independent is in receipt of a Sacramento Area Council of Government letter sent on February 4, 2016 to the City of Benicia, but not as yet posted on the City’s website. The letter is severely critical of the City’s Final EIR, and calls for the Benicia Planning Commission to “provide full and adequate responses to our comment letters,” and “to fully evaluate all measures to mitigate the significant environmental impacts that this Project will inevitably have on our communities and our residents.”

The letter is signed by SACOG Immediate Past Chair Don Saylor.  SACOG represents 22 cities and 6 counties in the Sacramento area.

The letter begins by summarizing  two previous letters sent to Benicia, one in 2014 commenting on the original Draft EIR, and another in 2015 commenting on the Revised DEIR.  The 2015 letter claimed that the City did not adequately respond to their first letter.  “…we submitted a second comment letter citing the mandate in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to describe all mitigation measures that could, if implemented, minimize significant environmental effects. (CEQA Guidelines, §§ 15 I26(c), 15126.1 (a).) We urged the City to adopt all feasible mitigation measures that will protect our communities before the catastrophic events forecast by the RDEIR occur. We noted that nearly one quarter of our region’s population lives within one-half mile of the crude oil shipments.”

This new 2016 letter continues with criticism of the Final Draft EIR, “…we appreciate that the City finally acknowledges the substantial risk to our region resulting from the crude oil shipments. However, the FEIR still fails to adopt a single mitigation measure to address the impacts of the Project and the FEIR fails to adequately respond to our letters.”

The letter concludes with five detailed examples of “the inadequacies and misstatements in the Responses to our comment letters.”

Taken together, these inadequacies point out what may be understood as “fatal flaws,” indicating that the EIR should be revised and recirculated yet again, or thrown out for a fresh start.

Or … as in my opinion, the project should simply be dropped.