Category Archives: Legal action

Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson comments on Valero decision not to sue

By Roger Straw, December 23, 2016

Benicia Mayor on Valero’s decision not to sue

In an email sent yesterday, Benicia’s recently re-elected Mayor Elizabeth Patterson offered the following statement on Valero Energy Corporation’s reversal of its plan to take the City to court:

Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson
Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

I am pleased that Valero called to say that they would not sue on the crude by rail project in order to maintain good community relations. They are a valuable business in our community.

I look forward to the promise of those good community relations now that we can put this ill advised project behind us.

There are many opportunities for us to work together such as the locations and operations of the local air monitoring that the BAAQMD [Bay Area Air Quality Management District] will be implementing.

We share Valero’s concerns of new residential development on the so-called Seeno site to avoid conflicts.

And lastly I look forward to Valero’s continued proactive participation on our Community Sustainability Commission.

Elizabeth Patterson
Mayor, City of Benicia

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Valero won’t sue city of Benicia over rejection of crude-by-rail project

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Valero won’t sue city of Benicia over rejection of crude-by-rail project

By Katy St. Clair, 12/22/16, 4:06 PM PST

BENICIA >> The Valero Corporation announced it will not be suing the city of Benicia for rejecting its controversial crude-by-rail project, which would have allowed the company to transport thousands of gallons of crude oil into town.

The project would have moved up to 70,000 barrels of crude a day to Benicia, passing through places like downtown Sacramento and Davis.

Valero first submitted an application for the project to the city of Benicia in December of 2012, but the Planning Commission rejected the bid in March of this year. Valero then appealed to the Benicia City Council, which also rejected the plan in a unanimous vote in September, citing fears of derailment or spills as its main concern.

“The margin of error was just too small and the risk of catastrophic failure too great,” Councilman Tom Campbell said.

In the wake of the city’s veto, Valero seemed primed to fight the decision in court. Benicia City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin told the city council on Tuesday night that she had previously “heard word” from the Valero attorney that they were “thinking of filing suit.”

It’s been reported that Valero officials believed Benicia’s rejection of the plan was illegal.

It now appears that Valero is backing off talk of litigation. Mc Laughlin announced that Valero’s attorney contacted her and said they will not be going forward with a lawsuit, after all.

“It’s like the best Christmas present ever,” she said to the council. “Yesterday they called and said that they were not going to file suit against the city because they want to maintain positive relations with the city.”

Valero did not respond to requests for comment.

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson released a statement Wednesday saying she is “pleased” with Valero’s decision not to sue.

“They are a valuable business in our community,” she said. “I look forward to the promise of those good community relations now that we can put this ill-advised project behind us.”

BREAKING: Valero gives notice that it will NOT sue Benicia

By Roger Straw, December 21, 2016
[Later: see also, the Sacramento Bee story.  – RS]

Benicia City Attorney announces that Valero Refinery will not sue over the City’s decision to deny Crude by Rail proposal

benicia_logoDuring announcements early in the Benicia City Council meeting last night, City Attorney Heather McLaughlin announced that Valero Refinery’s attorney has advised that the refinery does not intend to take the City to court over its decision to deny Crude by Rail.

Below is a 1½ minute video clip of City Manager McLaughlin’s four announcements on December 20.  The Valero announcement comes 4th, the final announcement.  (Note that Google Chrome viewing of City video is spotty – best viewed on Internet Explorer.)  A transcript of McLaughlin’s announcement follows below.

Transcript of Benicia City Attorney Heather McLaughlin’s Dec. 20 announcement regarding Valero’s notice that they would not file suit against the City of Benicia:

On the final item,”CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL- ANTICIPATED LITIGATION” – on the Valero case.  I put this one on here because I had word from the Valero attorney that they were thinking about filing suit against us on the Crude by Rail project.  But … I’m so happy, it’s like a best Christmas present ever…  yesterday, that Diane Sinclair called and said that they were not going to file suit against the City because they want to maintain positive relations with the City.  So I thanked them for their courtesy, in letting us know ahead of time that they were planning on it, and also letting us know ahead of time that they weren’t going to do it.  So that really eases up the work load on staff.  So thank you.

Video of the entire Council meeting may be viewed on the City’s website at

Valero attorney claims that Benicia APPROVED Crude by Rail on Sept. 20!!

By Roger Straw, October 3, 2016

Incredible: “The permit is therefore approved by operation of law.”

In yet another bizarre legal maneuver, Valero’s attorney John Flynn sent a letter to the Mayor and members of the City Council on October 3, claiming that by various acts of commission and omission, the City Council on September 20 failed to properly deny Valero’s permit, and that therefore the permit is “approved by operation of law.”

The logic is twisted, but stick with me.

Flynn is claiming that “the City Council’s action of September 20 violated both state and federal law” on a variety of grounds:

  • Timing – Valero claims that a decision with proper findings in support of denial was required by September 20, but the Council sent staff back to revise the findings in the draft resolution of denial.
  • Council members’ statements – Valero claims that Council members were required to verbally state the grounds upon which they voted to deny the project, and that they ONLY stated concerns about rail-related impacts, which Valero continues to claim are preempted from consideration under federal law.  Note here that Valero re-states its failed argument that even ON-SITE rail impacts are preempted.
  • Reliance on a letter received on September 20 – Valero claims that the City may not rely on information in a letter from the law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo in framing its arguments for denial. Poor Valero states that it (and the public) didn’t have a chance to rebut the letter. This from the company which sent two last-minute unrebuttable letters which City staff included in the Council’s agenda packet!
  • Reliance on the Surface Transportation Board letter – Valero claims that Council relied on the STB’s dismissal of Valero’s petition in its decision, and that Valero and the public never had an opportunity to comment on the STB’s decision. Valero demands that the City not refer to anything in the federal agency’s decision when drafting findings for denial.
  • Council’s request for staff to edit its draft resolution of denial – Valero claims that any editing of the draft resolution would amount to “post hoc rationalizations.”  Baloney. It’s done all the time.
  • The letter goes on and on, but I will leave it to the City Attorney and others to flesh out Valero’s twisted bullying tactics.

IMPORTANT: The letter concludes by foreshadowing a lawsuit against the City:

“The transcript of the September 20 hearing will no doubt clearly establish for a Court that the only grounds invoked by the Council for denying Valero’s application were rail-related grounds, and that any other grounds invoked in the written findings proposed by staff and by Adams Broadwell are no more than baseless afterthoughts, in a desperate bid to deny Valero’s permit application, despite the lack of any legal or factual bases for such a denial.”