Valero CBR top Benicia news story in 2013

Letter to the editor, The Benicia Herald
Friday, February 07, 2014
By Sabina Yates

In your Jan. 30 edition of the Benicia Herald, the top 13 stories of 2013 starts with No. 13, “Community pitches in to save beaten dog,” and ends with No. 1, on page 5, ”Valero Crude-by-Rail project delayed.”

You should put the top story on page one.

First things first! The Valero-Crude-by-Rail project is something that will affect Benicia far more than a beaten dog. There has been an increased number of derailments and fires around the country because of the huge increase in rail transport of crude. Union Pacific, which would be hauling the Valero crude, has not been involved in any of these fiery rail accidents – but have their older tank cars been upgraded to new safety standards proposed by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board many times over the past years?

These measures would include requiring double-hulled cars that are more puncture resistant. However, the companies that actually would be responsible for most of the costs associated with improving rail car safety are the oil companies themselves.

In a recent New York Times article, the American Petroleum Institute states that ”the first step is to prevent derailments by addressing track defects and other causes of all rail accidents.” Sounds like “buck-passing” to me. And what about local and regional emergency response plans to alleviate the risk to public safety? There are a lot of reasons why the Valero Crude-by-Rail project rightfully deserved the top priority of the Benicia news of 2013, but isn’t this where there could have been more “inches” of type? And not on page 5.

-Sabina Yates