Category Archives: Uprail communities

KCRA TV3 NEWS VIDEO: Valero’s oil train project halted by Benicia city leaders

Repost from KCRA TV3, Sacramento CA
[Editor: The video could not be embedded here on Benicia Indy, but it’s a good one – click the image to go to KCR3’s website for the video.  – RS]

Valero’s oil train project halted by Benicia city leaders

Crude oil train would have traveled through NorCal cities daily
Sep 21, 2016, 9:10 PM PDT

benicia_video_linkBENICIA, Calif. (KCRA) —Benicia City Councilmembers denied Valero’s plans Tuesday night to move forward on its crude-by-rail proposal, citing safety concerns.

The project would have had trains transporting tens of thousands of crude oil – daily — to Benicia through Sacramento-area communities.

In the city of Benicia, with a population just under 30,000, you can’t miss the large presence of Valero.

“They provide a lot of money to the city,” Benicia resident John Geels said.

The company is the largest employer, providing 20 percent to the general fund. So, it became a big deal last night when city council members told the company “No.”

“We denied the appeal that Valero put forward, after the planning commission unanimously denied their application for a permit,” Benicia Councilmember Christina Strawbridge said.

That permit would have paved the way for an expansive crude oil project impacting Northern California cities.

For years, the issue went beyond the borders of Benicia, as the public and other jurisdictions expressed concerns over safety.

“Right in the heart of Davis, we are in the blast zone right now,” Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor said. “And, that increased volume would increase the risk in our communities.”

Ultimately, Benicia councilmembers voted unanimously to reject the plan, many citing recent oil train emergencies.

“It gave me real pause,” Strawbridge said. “As far as rail safety, there’s been 13 different derailments since 2013.”

Valero issued a response to the decision:

“After nearly four years of review and analysis by independent experts and the city, we are disappointed that the city councilmembers have chosen to reject the crude by rail project. At this time, we are considering our options moving forward.”

The divisive issue still has some residents split on the outcome.

“I feel bad for Valero, and I’m sure it’s going to hurt them financially,” Geels said. “But, I’m glad they were turned down.”

Meanwhile, others said the small city is making big waves, setting a new precedent as the conversation over crude oil transport continues.

“So, it’s a milestone because this community stood up,” Saylor said.

On Thursday morning, the planning commission in San Luis Obispo County will be taking up a similar hearing — for an oil-by-rail project proposed by Phillips 66.

Candidates for Solano County supervisor weigh in on Valero crude-by-rail

Repost from the Fairfield Daily Republic
[Editor: Cheers to Supervisor candidates Mike Ioakimedes, Monica Brown and Denis Honeychurch for openly and directly stating opposition to crude by rail. The news article below fails to make clear that Mike Ioakimedes opposes Valero’s proposal and others like it.  Mike is the only Benicia voice in the race and points out the crucial importance of local control over health and safety issues. (See Mike’s Facebook page for more on his CBR position.)  The Benicia Independent ENDORSES Mike Ioakimedes for Solano County Supervisor.  – RS]

Candidates for county supervisor add voices to crude-by-rail plan

By Todd R. Hansen, May 15, 2016

FAIRFIELD — Candidates for the 2nd District Board of Supervisors office are split on the Valero proposal to ship crude-by-rail to its Benicia refinery, while the two 5th District candidates line up with at least conditional support.

The candidates were responding to a question sent by the Daily Republic: “What is your position on the Valero crude-by-rail proposal at its Benicia facility, and why? Also, what role do you believe the Solano County Board of Supervisors should be taking on this matter?”

Incumbent 5th District Skip Thomson said he would back transporting crude oil by rail if all possible safety measures, including the use of retrofitted train cars, are put in place. He said the economic necessity is clear.

He also said the county supervisors must take an active role of lobbying federal officials to make sure the precautions are implemented.

“Again, as a Board of Supervisors member, I must continue to engage our federal representatives to impress upon the U.S. Department of Transportation the importance of the new technology and the need to protect our citizens,” Thomson said.

Michael Reagan, a former 5th District supervisor, said many of the necessary safety measures are in place, that Valero has made promises to adhere to more-stringent safety standards than currently required and that there are economic and environmental benefits to transporting by train rather than ship.

“There is no realistic scenario that eliminates the rail movement of hazardous materials through our communities, which developed around the rail lines. The Valero-Benicia Refinery has long received and shipped petroleum products via this existing rail spur. These include shipments of highly volatile propane and butane produced at the refinery. Other refineries in the Bay Area do so as well,” Reagan said.

“Moving these products, and many other hazardous materials, by rail is efficient, safe and regulated, exclusively, by the federal government, for good public policy reasons.”

Michael Coan, a candidate for the 2nd District seat, also supports the proposal, while Monica Brown and Denis Honeychurch are adamantly opposed. Tamer Totah said his concerns over community safety are stronger than his support of Valero’s business needs.

Mike Ioakimedes, a former Benicia councilman, said the real issue for him is local control over the decision, and said it is a critical question that extends to issues other than Valero alone.

“My position on this question is that we must retain local control in fulfilling our primary responsibility of protecting the health and safety of our citizens and residents,” Ioakimedes said.

“Finally, local control over dangerous cargo transported through our county is not only a critical county issue, it is something that also needs to be addressed at the state level. The Board of Supervisors should have a very active role in protecting local authority over local issues,” he said.

Honeychurch touched on that issue as well.

“I oppose crude-by-rail unless and until public safety issues are completely solved. This matter is in the jurisdiction of the city of Benicia, which has, on a split vote chosen to delay a decision until another agency weighs in on the issue,” he said.

“The role of the Board of Supervisors is advisory only at this point. . . . Most importantly, the county must be prepared for a disaster should one or more of the tanker rail cars explode,” Honeychurch said.

Brown leaves little doubt about her opposition. She said the proposal is just far too dangerous.

“The benefits of this crude-by-rail do not outweigh the numerous significant and unavoidable impacts on up-rail communities’ air quality and hazards. These cities include Roseville, Sacramento, West Sacramento, Davis, Dixon, Vacaville, Fairfield and Suisun City,” Brown said.

“Oil train derailment and explosion have increased dramatically in recent years – including the July 2013 oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Canada, that killed 47 people,” Brown said. “The role of any government is to serve and protect its citizens. I see my job on the board as opposing this project because its impact has the potential to hurt many citizens and harm the environment in Solano County.”

Totah likewise expressed concerns about safety.

“I know Benicia has an active (Community Emergency Response Team). I would love to see what their protocol on an oil or chemical spill would be,” said Totah, adding the CERT he is part of specifically avoids such disasters as oil spills. “I am a strong supporter of oil by waterways. I want to be cautious that our cities, neighborhood and environment are safe and enjoyable to all, including businesses.”

Coan backs the plan and cites economic reasons for his decision.

“I support crude-by-rail,” Coan said. “It will help Valero maintain and create the kind of good-paying, local jobs with good benefits that we desperately need in Benicia and here in the county of Solano. Valero’s continued success and vitality affects this county as a whole.”

“In addition to being a major income source of the Benicia’s general fund, Valero employs the majority of its workers from all of Solano County. Most of its workers live in the city of Vacaville. Valero is a source of employment that goes beyond Valero employees in that they hire outside contractors to perform work at the plant all the time,” Coan said.

He added that federal and other safety requirements are in place.

“Crude-by-rail has become a necessity for Valero to be competitive in the California marketplace given all the restrictions that have been put in place,” he said.

The 2nd District includes Benicia, approximately half of Vallejo in the southern section, and the Cordelia, Cordelia Villages and Green Valley areas in and near Fairfield. The 5th District includes a portion of the eastern section of Suisun City, the northern section of Fairfield, a portion of the eastern part of Vacaville, the Elmira area and Rio Vista.

COUNCIL HEARINGS: List of 77 speakers – articulate, informed opposition to Valero Crude By Rail

By Roger Straw, April 8, 2016

Council Hearings this week: 77 informed, articulate and often passionate speakers critical of of Valero Crude By Rail

pubcommentOPENThis past week, the Benicia City Council heard public testimony for and against Valero’s Crude By Rail proposal – mostly against.  Video of these comments can be found on the City’s website.

On the two dates combined, Council heard 77 highly critical comments calling for outright rejection of Valero’s proposal or at the very least a much revised and recirculated environmental report. Only 16 speakers favored Valero’s proposal.

On Monday, April 4, Council heard from 52 speakers.  41 were highly critical or completely opposed to Valero’s proposal, and only 11 spoke in favor.  Of the 11 in favor, most either work for or provide services for Valero.

Here is a listing of the 41 who spoke in opposition on April 4, followed by a listing of 36 such speakers on April 6:

MONDAY, APRIL 4  (41 who spoke in opposition)

  • 8 elected and appointed officials from beyond Benicia
    • 1 State of California elected official: Alex Pater, representing Benicia’s State Senator Lois Wolk
    • 4 from uprail communities
      • Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor and Sacramento Area Council of Governments past Board chair
      • Matt Jones, Yolo Solano Air District, representing 7 air districts: Butte, Feather, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, and Yolo-Solano
      • Eric Lee, City of Davis planner
      • Laurie Lipman, representing Ellen Cochrane, Sacramento Unified School District Board
    • 3 from the East Bay
      • Linda Maio, Berkeley Vice Mayor
      • Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley City Councilmember
      • Alejandro Soto-Vigil, representing Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington
  • 18 residents from uprail communities of Sacramento, Davis and Dixon:
    • Chris Brown, Chris Brown Consulting, Sacramento, representing 30 who rode the bus from uprail communities tonight
    • Maura Metz, Davis
    • Jean Jackman, Davis
    • Maria Cornejo-Gutierrez, Dixon
    • Laurie Lipman, 350 Sacramento
    • JoEllen Arnold, Sacramento
    • Jan Rein, Sacramento
    • Rob Lain, Sacramento
    • Estevan Hernandez, South Sacramento
    • Kathleen Williams-Fossdahl, Davis
    • Jaime Gonzales, Sacramento, Board of Directors, California Student Sustainability Coalition
    • Carol Warren, Dixon, slides of her neighborhood along the tracks
    • Don Mooney, Davis, Environmental attorney
    • Samantha McCarthy, Davis, lives very near the tracks
    • Frances Burke, Davis, lives very near the tracks
    • Elizabeth Lasensky, Davis, powerpoint: From Davis to Benicia: Our Lives Are on the Line”
    • Lynne Nittler, Davis. Notes.  Powerpoint: Oil by Rail Safety in California Report by the state’s Interagency Rail Safety Working Group
    • Rodney Robinson, Davis
  •  3 residents from other communities:
    • Bill Pinkham, Richmond
    • Steven Hallett, Vallejo
    • Deborah Tallin, Lafayette
  • 12 residents of Benicia
    • Marilyn Bardet, Benicians for a Safe & Healthy Community
    • Petition Roll - copies of originals (600px)
      Demonstration roll of local petitions collected by Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

      Andrés Soto, Benicians for a Safe & Healthy Community (While Mr. Soto spoke, members of BSHC unfurled a demonstration “scroll” of original hand-signed petitions that stretched 4 times the length of the aisle in Council Chambers (see FACEBOOK video). As he concluded speaking, Mr. Soto submitted for the public record BSHC’s list of 4,081 signatures of opponents of the project.)

    • Madeline Koster
    • Teresa Ritz
    • Carol Thompson
    • Bart Sullivan
    • Rick Stierwalts
    • David Jenkins, Benicia Industrial Park business owner
    • Kathy Kerridge, Benicia Community Sustainability Commission member
    • June Mejias
    • Pat Toth-Smith
    • Kat Black, Chairperson, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6  (36 who spoke in opposition)

On Wednesday, April 6, Council heard from 41 speakers. 36 were highly critical or completely opposed to Valero’s proposal, and only 5 spoke in favor. Of the 5 in favor, most either work for or supply services for Valero.

Here is a listing of the 36 who spoke in opposition on April 6:

  • 7 experts, attorneys and organizers
    • Valerie Love, Clean Energy Campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity
    • Elly Benson, Attorney, Sierra Club
    • Ethan Buckner, Extreme Oil Campaigner, STAND (formerly ForestEthics)
    • Greg Karras, Senior Scientist, Communities for a Better Environment
    • Roger Lin, Attorney, Communities for a Better Environment
    • Diane Bailey, Executive Director, Menlo Spark (formerly Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council)
    • Rachael Koss, Attorney, Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, representing Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (SAFER)
  • 1 Benicia city official
  • 6 Benicia business  owners, including 3 from Benicia’s Industrial Park, 2 from the Arsenal District and 1 from downtown
    • Giovanna Sensi-Isolani, owner of Fiber-Frolics, downtown Benicia
    • Jack Ruszel, owner, Ruszel Woodworks, Benicia Industrial Park (adjacent to the tracks, no access if blocked in emergency)
    • Hadieh Elias, owner, principal and professional engineer, ESE Consulting Engineers, Inc., in Benicia’s Arsenal District
    • Amir Firouz, principal and structural enginner, ESE Consulting Engineers, Inc., in Benicia’s Arsenal District
    • Ed Ruszel, Ruszel Woodworks, Benicia Industrial Park (adjacent to the tracks, no access if blocked in emergency)
    • Jennifer Kalika Stanger, M.D., family physician in Vallejo, lifetime Benicia resident
  • 22 residents, including 20 from Benicia and 2 from other communities. (Note that 7 of the above listed April 6 speakers are also from Benicia, making a total of 29 Benicians.)
    • Allan Miller, Davis
    • Nancy Finley, Benicia
    • Constance Beutel, Benicia
    • Dona Rose, Benicia
    • Shiela Clyatt, Benicia
    • Larnie Fox, Benicia
    • Eric Ferry, El Sobrante
    • Charles Coleman, Benicia
    • Judi Sullivan, Benicia
    • Dan Smith, Benicia
    • Michelle Rowe-Shields, Benicia
    • Phyllis Ingerson, Benicia
    • Roger Straw, Benicia, The Benicia Independent
    • Jan Cox-Golovich, Benicia
    • Barbara Pillsbury, Benicia
    • Jenette Wolf, Benicia
    • Tom Ruszel, Benicia
    • Rebekah Ramos, Benicia
    • Lisa Reinertson, Benicia
    • Steve Jones, Benicia
    • Craig Snider, Benicia
    • Ruby Wallis, Benicia

LETTER OF OPPOSITION: Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna

By Roger Straw, March 31, 2016

This morning, Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna sent the Benicia City Council this letter of opposition to Valero’s oil trains project.


The EIR identifies that trains accessing the project would traverse Sacramento, including the heavily populated downtown area that I represent. It would cross numerous creeks and rivers, and run immediately adjacent to and through vulnerable residential neighborhoods. A rail accident resulting in oil spills, fire or a toxic explosion could have disastrous life safety, health, environmental and economic consequences. For these reasons, I believe an increase in oil train traffic from this project poses an unacceptable risk to Sacramento County residents and the environment.