Nancy Price’s Testimony to the Benicia Planning Commission on Feb. 10, 2016

Posted: February 12, 2016 in Rail Transport of Oil
Tags: , ,
Nancy Price broadened the discussion to possible future sale of crude for direct transport overseas.

Nancy Price broadened the discussion to possible future sale of crude for direct transport overseas.

Good evening Commissioners,

Thank you for this opportunity as an up-rail Davis resident to speak.

As the final speaker among of Davis residents numbered 91-99 and a former City of Davis Planning Commissioner during the early 1990s, I have the utmost respect for the immense time, energy and attention to detail on a broad range of critical issues you have already spent on the EIR process for the Valero Benicia Crude-by-Rail project (the Project).


Your due diligence, combined with that of concerned Benicians, up-rail communities and counties, and local, regional and state agencies and authorities, as well as members of Congress, has consistently exposed the scope of problems to be addressed, researched and debated.

And still, there are serious issues to be addressed as laid out in the February 8 letter from the National Resources Defense Council. Most significantly, that the EIR does not meet the requirements of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and does not resolve the contested claim of pre-emption under the U.S. Commerce Clause by the railroads and Valero.

This broad claim of pre-emption exposes the extent to which community rights and local democracy are trumped by corporate rights and the failure of Federal regulatory agencies, for whatever reason, to protect communities from harm, while, in effect, protecting corporate profits at all cost to people and the planet.

The Significant and Unavoidable Impacts (impacts without Mitigation Measures) should not be the price to pay for certification of this Final EIR.

First, I would like to express my support for the statements by my Davis colleagues.

Second, I would like to place the Valero project into a wider context recognizing that the Paris COP 21 UN Climate Agreement was signed and that we are in the midst of debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement.

 In brief:  First:  The Climate Agreement: headlines from Paris were celebratory, mainly because 195 countries managed at all to come to any kind of agreement.

Many analyses of the Paris Agreement, however, point out that the main text of the agreement was long on rhetoric and short on action. Keep in mind, the agreement does not take effect until 2020 and is not legally binding — it is entirely voluntary.

In regard to the Valero project, we are told that marine tanker shipment is being replaced by railroad transport.  Two questions: Is marine shipment, even from foreign suppliers of oil to the refinery, being entirely replaced?   And, what is to prevent Valero from increasing marine shipment in the future specifically to export oil and gas to the Pacific?

I call to your attention to the fact that carbon pollution from international shipping doesn’t count as greenhouse gas emissions according to the Paris Agreement. What does this mean in terms of Bay Area and state ghg calculations, air quality and local and state climate action plans?  (You may read a good analysis, “Seven Wrinkles in the Paris Climate Deal,” by Oscar Reyes, Institute of Policy Studies: .)

 Second, let’s be clear about the impact of the TransPacific Partnership trade agreement recently signed by Pres. Obama that must still be ratified by Congress.

First: The TPP text fails to mention the words “climate change” or the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change the international treaty that all TPP countries are party to.

Second:  At the end of 2015, the 40-year ban of most U.S. crude oil export was lifted.  Should the TPP pass, nothing will prevent acceleration of fossil fuel development in the U.S. for export to the Pacific TPP countries.

I remind you that the TPP has a “docking provision” allowing any country to join the TPP, whether in the Pacific area or not, thus expanding the number of countries globally and the extent of ocean transport for export.

Remember, as I mentioned above, carbon pollution from shipping doesn’t count as ghg emissions and shipping emissions are calculated to quadruple by 2050 – at a time when 80% of all fossil fuels should be left in the ground.

Third: There is nothing to prevent foreign fossil fuel corporations in TPP countries, such as a foreign Valero subsidiary, from challenging climate and environmental safeguards in a secret international tribunal that by-passes our national court system: the so-called International Settlement Dispute System. Either the law, rule or regulation must be overturned or a huge fine paid to the corporation using taxpayer dollars. As you may know, TransCanada is suing the US under NAFTA for $15 billion for failure to approve the KXL pipeline and therefore as claimed denying TransCanada of present and future profits. An excellent Sierra Club analysis, The TPP Would Increase Risks to Our Air, Water, and Climate, may be read at:

In conclusion, I would like to point out the City Council of Richmond, your neighbor, has passed two resolutions (Feb. and Nov. 2015) against the TPP with emphasis on the impact on climate and the cost of adaptation and mitigation on the city budget as well as the cost of extreme weather events, and on local democratic rule-making and community rights (available to read at  and ).

In the context of the non-binding Paris Climate Agreement and the legally-binding TransPacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement that can be used by foreign multi-national corporations and subsidiaries of U.S. corporations to pre-empt local, state and federal laws that protect communities and the environment, it is crucial that Benicia preserve and carry out its duty to protect Benicia’s public health, safety and welfare and the environment and the rights of up-rail communities.

The issue of the scope of pre-emption must be resolved to clarify the extent to which the city can regulate this project. The adequacy of the CEQA analysis and the deficiencies raised in the NRDC, as well as other letters submitted, must be addressed.

I urge you to not certify the EIR and to not approve the Valero project.


Nancy Price

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