Posts Tagged ‘DEIR for Valero project’

The draft EIR for the Valero rail terminal Project in Benicia (70,000 barrels of crude oil per day which equals 100 railcars over 1 mile long) was released for a 45-day public comment period on June 17, with a possible extension to 60 or 90 days.  Download the DEIR at u=e71f94d8547945fe29d370ef9&id=80d4ed4aa3&e=312967d6a3

Our city will submit written comments, and they have invited surrounding jurisdictions to join them. Other organizations and concerned individuals are also encouraged to make written comments during the review period. For information about the project and to begin thinking how to respond, some recommended resources follow.

Suggested Resources:

Overview: and were sent to Governor Brown and every CA legislator the week of the joint house hearings on Crude-oil-by-rail chaired by Fran Pavley and Beth Jackson. They summarize all the key reasons why Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community oppose the proposed Valero Rail terminal Project. The document serves as a summary of all the main developments in the case as well.

• Report minimizes risk from oil trains through Roseville, Sacramento By Tony Bizjak and Curtis Tate     Published: Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014 – 10:09 pm Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014 – 7:40 am Go to and search for “oil trains by Curtis Tate” for many more articles.

• Davis Enterprise op-ed from June 8 gives an overview on developments in Davis. The Exploding Threat of Crude by Rail in California with maps for cities at risk showing at risk areas including school sites and population numbers. New Report: Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude By Rail in North America is the first in a series, exposing North America’s booming crude-by-rail industry. It is published in conjunction with the launch of a unique interactive online map of crude-by-rail terminals and potential rail routes in North America. Charts and photographs that show what is happening in this industry at a glance. A must read! Forthcoming analysis on the safety and regulatory issues as well as the economics of crude-b-rail and its climate change implications.

• Pacific Northwest view: is also a terrific resource for the bigger picture of crude-by-rail and also coal and natural gas export. and

CA and Proposed Valero Project for a Rail Terminal in Benicia – Right-to-Know Find posts of all the official documents related to the proposed project as well as a progression of key articles to support any angle you might want to develop.

• Report: Oil by Rail Safety in California by California Office of Emergency Services. Findings of the Rail Safety Working Group convened by the Governor’s Office January, 2014 and published June 10, 2014. Focus is on getting more rail inspectors, being prepared for spills and accidents, and some prevention. Includes a map of hazmat team locations in CA. Worth opening for the breathtaking photograph of an oil train coming out of the Feather River Canyon.

• A letter of support for the OSPR changes including some recommendations

• A letter from NRDC supporting SB 1319 which expands Oil spill prevention and response program as a good first step, although much more needs to be done to protect public health and safety from the risky practice of transporting crude oil by rail.

Safety Matters
• Rachel Maddow’s May 2, 2014 broadcast, “Public Safety at risk by Oil Train Shipments” will give you an entertaining and comprehensive overview of this aspect of the trains at

• Natural Resources Defense Council letter on safety (20 pages) offers documentation to support many issues. You can quote from it freely! (security risk, preparedness, right-to-know act exemption, unsafe tank cars, hazmat category testing, positive train control, 2-person staffing)

• A short documented research report by Forest Ethics on the health impacts of refining tar sands bitumen, which is what both Valero in Benicia and Santa Maria in San Luis Obispo have in mind. Also visit for a report entitled Off the Rails.

• Document by Attorney General Kamala Harris on safety and health concerns. This can serve as one example of how to respond to the DEIR.

• An article on liability, possibly an angle that will not be addressed adequately in the DEIR.
Gov. Brown added $6.7 million to the Office of Spill Prevention & Response to handle accidents. It won’t go far in a catastrophe.

• More on risk assessment for railroads and who will be responsible for liability.

• Valero’s letter on its liability for rail accidents and spills.

Key areas for up-rail responses
public safety: There is still little coming out of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration or U.S. Federal Railroad Administration or Department of Transportation at the federal level, so states and cities are on their own. Subtopics regarding safety as trains pass along Second Street (businesses), through downtown, past Olive Drive and university residences, across Richard’s Blvd, and under I-80 include:

o Inspections:  Rail tracks and bridges need to be inspected regularly, particularly after extreme weather events, to be sure they are supporting the axel load of the more long, heavy, and frequent oil trains. There is some concern as the heavier updated tank cars with shielded hulls are put into service.
o  Unsafe tank cars:  The 78,000 old, unsafe DOT 111A tank cars are prone to rupture when they derail, and thus far the U.S. has made no ruling to phase them out promptly as Canada has, and even the 14,000 cars that meet the 2011 standards may be prone to rupture.
o The nature of the crude being transported: Bakken crude may be more combustible than most crude (the fire ball was 900 feet high in Casselton); the Alberta tar sands is toxic with high sulfur, high heavy metals, and it sinks in water, making it impossible to clean up a spill, plus the refining process produces the by-product “petcoke” which is worse than coal to burn in terms of particulate pollution and ghg emissions.
o Dangerous curve:  There is a 10mph left-handed cross-over between the main tracks several hundred feet east of the Amtrak station. All other crossovers on the line are rated for 45 mph. Several derailments elsewhere in North America have been caused by human error when a train proceeds through a low speed crossover between two higher speed tracks and failing to reduce speed; one near Chicago and one in Canada caused fatalities. The Davis cross over should be replaced with a cross over with a higher speed rating similar to others on the Capitol Corridor line.

the environmental hazards of spills: The water in the Yolo Bypass is the beginning of the Delta with implications for the whole state in terms of the rice crops, bird migrations, and drought.
• the industry exemption from the Right-to-know laws: This issue is up right now as our state is negotiating with UP and BNSF. They are willing to comply with the voluntary DOT emergency ruling to give emergency responders enough information to do their jobs, but they insist the information cannot be given to the public lest it reveal trade secrets or make us vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Link Right-to-know with the OSPR report. Resources: two letters from environmental groups, led by NRDC. CA decision to honor rail request to keep information secret. DOT statement that rail information is not a security issue.
conflicts of interest for the use of the rails (Capital Corridor commutes) (Curtis Tate projects 5-6 trains a day coming through Sacramento in near future.)
lack of adequate liability coverage for accidents and spills. Two articles and a response from Valero.
the impact on climate change; the focus in CA on spill prevention and response to spills/accidents misses the real danger of the entire process from removing the crude from the ground with the assistance of chemicals, transporting it through communities and sensitive habitats all across the country, refining the crude at enormous expense to meet air quality standards, and finally selling the refined crude on the international market so it can be burned, sending more ghg emissions into the atmosphere and slowing our necessary conversion to renewable energy and conservation efforts! We’re on entirely the wrong path! AB32 goals!

The City of Benicia has to respond to all comments in their final EIR, so the more specific, thoughtful and numerous our comments, the better. Different people can address different areas of concern.

Another opportunity for public response: The Draft EIR for the Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo County for a rail spur for daily oil trains of 80 cars per week may be released this summer or fall. The refinery says they don’t intend to import Bakken crude.

Contact Lynne Nittler at or 530-756-8110 for questions.