YOLANO CLIMATE ACTION: Update on Valero Crude-by-Rail and Next Steps

Repost from Yolano Climate Action

Update on Valero Crude-by-Rail and Next Steps

Posted: March 26, 2016 in Rail Transport of Oil

Linda Maio, Vice Mayor of Berkeley, spoke to the Planning commission.
Linda Maio, Vice Mayor of Berkeley, spoke to the Planning commission.

After three years of study, the Benicia Planning Commission voted not to certify the final EIR and denied the Valero Crude-by-Rail on February 11, 2016.    Read about the Planning Commission Resolution here.

Listen to the Chairman’s report to the City Council here.

Valero appealed the decision to the Benicia city council who began their hearing on March 15 and will take public testimony on April 4, 6 and 19.   There are two steps residents can take now.

A. Write letters:

The public may send letters for the city council members to:

Amy Million, Principal Planner, Benicia Community Development Department, by email: amillion@ci.benicia.ca.us.
You may also send your letter Amy Million by mail to 250 East L Street, Benicia, CA 94510, or by Fax: (707) 747-1637.  Please include a request that the letter be added to the record for the Valero Crude-by-Rail Project.

Suggestions for letters:

  1. Write your first letter.  If you have not commented during the last three years, here is your chance to comment on your concern, such as the risk of spill or explosion in the event of a derailment with reference to the habitat of city of Davis or even the proximity to your home, the added air pollution, the additional ghg emissions, the lack of proof of liability coverage, the location of the tracks through downtown Davis, etc.
  2. Past letters – yes! Do not assume the city council has read what you wrote in the past three years.  They have access to those documents, but that does not mean they’ve put in the hours and hours to read the thousands of pages of testimony!    So by all means use ideas and language from past letters.  Refer them to past letters for more details if you summarize, if those points are still the ones you want to emphasize.  It’s good to refer to past documents and ask that they be included in the record.
  3. Photographs are excellent. If you have any photos showing how near the tracks are to where you live or work, include them.  Better yet, email high resolution photos to lnittler@sbcglobal.net with information about the location and subject of the photo.  We may be able to use the photo in a powerpoint of Davis.
  4. New arguments are ok! It’s also fine to introduce new thoughts and concerns in your letters and spoken testimony now.
  5. Critique of EIR process ok. It’s a great idea to mention whether we felt our letters were carefully considered and the responses to them were thorough and taken seriously.  If we were disappointed by the responses, describe why.  (Hint:  Scanning through the pages, they scarcely replied to any of the letter comments to the Revised EIR; they just acknowledged the comments, or dismissed them as unrelated, etc.)  We’re critiquing the company who conducted the EIR.

B. Ride the bus to the Public Hearing on April 4th in Benicia

  1. Ride the bus so we have a Davis contingent on April 4th. Please see the Yolano Climate Action post for bus sign-ups.  There will be a Davis pick-up at Caffe Italia at approximately 5:15.  You do not need to speak.  Your silent presence is very helpful.  We have a group of 7-8 of us who will speak.
  2. April 4 agenda available after March 28. The content of the April 4 meeting is not yet announced. It will most likely address two issues:  1) the Valero proposal to refer the federal preemption decision to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB has pros and cons), and 2) the beginning of testimony from the public on whether to certify the FEIR and/or approve the project.  Staff will make recommendations on March 28 and an agenda will be posted before Ap. 4 so we’ll at least know the order.  We will not know any protocol about speaking, although there will not be sign-ups like last time.  So…on  April 4 & 6 & 19
    1. We each will get only a given number of minutes to speak (not more than 5, maybe less) and only one time to speak during this 3-day testimony period. I think.
    2. Davis residents may not want to address the Valero proposal to refer the federal preemption decision to the Surface Transportation Board.
    3. We may prefer to save our time to stay with what concerns us most directly: Crude-by-rail is too dangerous to go through our neighbors every day or any time.
    4. It’s impossible to tell at this point and probably until Ap. 4 and maybe not even then, when we’ll get to testify. Maybe no time for testimony on the FEIR and project on April 4?  But we  have to be prepared and present just in case.