Carol Warren’s Testimony to Benicia Planning Commission on Feb. 10, 2016

Posted: February 12, 2016 in Rail Transport of Oil
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Carol Warren testified on the impacts of living very close to the train tracks in Dixon.

Carol Warren testified on the impacts of living very close to the train tracks in Dixon.

Dear Planning Commissioners,

My name is Carol Warren, and I am representing the Yolano group of Sierra Club. But mostly, I’m representing myself, because I live in Dixon, perhaps 50 yards from the tracks that carry the oil trains. There are 100 senior citizens living in my apartment complex. There is a trade school across the street, and an elementary school a block away. The tracks go right through downtown Dixon, where there are stores, businesses, a fairground, and churches. We are all in the blast zone for any accident in the Dixon city area.


In our power point, we have tried to show how vulnerable towns like Davis and Dixon are to the oil trains coming through. The slides are focused on the possibility of spill or explosion, and the underlying fear that those of us near the tracks will carry all day, every day. I understand from the scientific presentations at the San Luis Obispo hearings that even the returning cars with residual gas and fumes are hazardous and potentially explosive. Our fears are very well founded.

Many people choose to live in places like Davis and Dixon to avoid the downtown Sacramento or Bay Area air pollution, so anything that increases the cumulative pollution is noticed. All our local government agencies – the city of Davis, Yolo County, the seven local Air Quality Management Districts, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (22 cities and 6 counties) – believe there are reasonable mitigations possible that are not preempted. This is heartening.

I am inclined to believe their position rather than that of those writing the EIR. In this EIR, every suggestion for mitigation in the municipal and agency letters is acknowledged and then dismissed because of the presumption of preemption. None of the mitigation suggestions is even examined by this EIR.  The Sacramento Municipal Air Quality Management District specifically offered staff to work with Valero to develop a mitigation plan to address the air quality issues. The offer was not accepted.

The people like me who live in the blast area feel very vulnerable. Suppose that, God forbid, there is an accident uprail in which hundreds, or even thousands of people are killed. I trust you realize that every single one of those people’s families will sue the City of Benicia, Valero, the railroad, and anyone else they can find to blame. Perhaps the hundreds or thousands of suits would eventually be dismissed, but the city could be placed in serious financial jeopardy, if not bankrupted, by having to hire attorneys to respond even minimally to the suits. And you know now there are risks that cry for mitigation–in the EIR you list and acknowledge them all.

However, reading your staff report, it seems as if the city feels it need not address the concerns of uprail communities because of the federal preemption of the railroads. You assert that the uprail communities are not your sphere of concern. Instead, you wish to focus on the tax revenue and the small number of jobs this project will bring to Benicia. But I urge you to think not just about Benicia, but about the uprail communities that will be absorbing the risks of the trains going through populated areas, as well as the health impacts of the air pollution being generated. We all share the quality of life in our state. Even if you decide you have no legal responsibility toward us, your uprail neighbors, do you not have a moral one?

Thank you for listening with your hearts as well as your desire for the economic well-being of Benicia. There are many paths to economic security, and I believe it is always wisest to remain congruent with your higher values.


Carol Warren

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