Yolano Climate Action: Crude-by-Rail Transport through Davis Update
By Lynne Nittler
Yolano Climate Action is a go-to place for climate activists where members of groups like Move-on, Sierra Club, Citizen’s Climate Lobby and Cool Davis can bring their active concerns. It is a working group of the Cool Davis Coalition Partners. See below for an introduction to the group.
Following is an update on our city’s actions related to the crude-by-rail transport through Davis and our region, updates on the two projects “down-rail” that will impact us, and references to several Sacramento Bee articles on crude oil trains that may be of interest.
Davis Resolutions: At the April 22nd meeting, the City Council will have a resolution opposing oil-by-rail on the agenda for their consideration. The agenda packet is posted at: http://city-council.cityofdavis.org/council-meetings where you can access the cover report and proposed resolution. It is item 4b on the agenda. Two other resolutions are important as well.
• Opposing Oil by Rail Resolution: Look 04B-Opposing-Oil-By-Rail resolution to read the proposed city Opposing Oil by Rail Resolution. As you can see, the agenda is very full for April 22, and the city council already has 3 and probably all 5 votes in favor of this resolution which is modeled on the resolutions recently passed in the cities of Berkeley and Seattle. Look at SeattleCityCouncilResolution_Rail and
There is no need for public comment to convince them of the importance of the issue, nor of the need for continuing efforts.
• Earth Day Resolution and May is Bike Month Resolution: Both of these come before the Crude Oil Resolution. Look 01C-Proclamation-Davis-Earth-Day and 01B-Proclamation-May-Is-Bike-Month . If you come at 6:30 you can hear the Earth Day Resolution and even say a congratulatory sentence or two to our city council and staff for trying so hard in these areas. This is your moment to encourage the direction of sustainability, renewable energy, biking, getting off fossil fuels, etc. We’ll get a lot more done by working with our city!
SACOG involvement. Our city brought the issue to the attention to surrounding jurisdictions and called for a meeting. A SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) group of city and county staff members met Thursday, April 17 to begin their discussion of rail through our cities and environmental areas, and Mike Webb will share some of the details of that possibly at the city council meeting. The topic of crude transport by rail will come to the full SACOG meeting soon.
Update on Benicia’s Valero Project and San Luis Obispo’s Phillips 66 Santa Maria expansion. As you will read in the resolution, our city has invited surrounding jurisdictions to join in our responses to the two draft EIR statements that will be released in the coming months.
•The Valero rail terminal proposal in Benicia draft EIR is expected any time. It asks for a terminal to allow deliveries of 100 cars of crude oil per day. At least initially the crude will be the highly volatile light Bakken crude from North Dakota. The Valero refinery is completing a multi-year project to upgrade its facilities to handle heavy crude such as tar sands, which is likely what it is planning for the future. Valero says the terminal proposal is to replace crude that is presently brought in by boat, rather than an increase in crude deliveries. Refineries geared for heavy crude can process some light crude, but the reverse is not true. Right now Bakken light crude is very cheap, and refineries are eager to take advantage of the current low price.
o When the DEIR is released, any individual or party will have 45 days (possibly 60 days) to respond in writing to the draft. Our city will respond with willing partners in the region. Yolano Climate Action can respond, and we each individually need to be ready to respond thoughtfully, with strong arguments that apply to Davis and our region, most likely having to do with safety and spill concerns. There may be other areas to address when we see the DEIR.
• The Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery in Nipomo, San Luis Obispo County has requested a rail spur to allow 5 oil trains a week with 80 cars each. Santa Maria is a small refinery. They received 800 comments on their EIR which had already been accepted. Given the thoughtful quality of the comments, SLO County officials decided to rescind its decision and instead send the EIR back to the draft stage. A draft will be released perhaps this summer incorporating the comments so far.
o Again, once the DEIR is released sometime this summer, our city will be responding to the DEIR along with those in the region who wish to join in. Yolano Climate Action and individuals will have the same opportunity to respond. Many of the same arguments/concerns will arise regarding public safety and spills.
At the National level:
• Congressman Garamendi is well aware of the many serious problems with the transport of crude by rail, and from his position in Washington DC he is putting pressure when he can. It’s always helpful to let him know your concerns.
• Senator Barbara Boxer is pushing for a full study of the health effects of tar sands before the Keystone pipeline approval is considered. In delaying that decision this week, Obama promised to consider health concerns (he did not say “study” them). But there is a lot coming out about serious health concerns for those who deal with tar sands. All five Bay Area refineries want tar sands crude, and our “oil train” pipelines will be bringing it to them. Spills of tar sands will be a toxic mess to clean up, and our health could possibly be endangered in an accident. The Commission had expected 2-3 million barrels for 2013, but posted 6 million barrels after the last quarter. The increase was in crude from Canada – tar sands. The CA Energy Commission posted a huge surge in tar sands into CA via rail in Oct. – December. The rail imports for first quarter 2014 have not yet been posted at http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/petroleum/statistics/2013_crude_by_rail.html
Sacramento Bee articles: Thanks to some excellent reporting by Curtis Tate of the McClatchy Washington Bureau who has now published 4-5 articles on the oil trains (see URLs below) in the Sacramento Bee and other McClatchy papers, the story is getting out in our region. Most recently, he and our local Bee reporter Tony Bizjak brought out the story of trains coming to McClellan Air Force Base and unloading the crude into trucks bound for refineries without any permits, not unlike the trains that were coming into the Kinder-Morgan terminal in Richmond and unloading into trucks that carried the crude to Tesoro refinery in Martinez. There is now a law-suit against Kinder-Morgan for operating without a permit.
State braces for risk posed by boost in oil-laden trains
As CA prepares to increase rail deliveries of crude oil from 3 million barrels/year to 150 million (1/4 of our oil consumption) by 2016, the governor increased the budget to the Office of Spill Prevention and Response in anticipation of the new dangers we face of explosions and spills.
McClatchy article by Curtis Tate Canadian crude finds smoother path by rail 3-6-14 in Bee
Crude by rail is flexible, easy, cost-effective, and likely to continue!
Sacramento officials kept in dark about crude oil transfers at rail facility
By Curtis Tate and Tony Bizjak McClatchy Washington Bureau
Published: Friday, Mar. 28, 2014 – 9:00 pm Last Modified: Saturday, Mar. 29, 2014 – 12:06 am
Curtis Tate and Tony Bizjak March 31. 2014
If you want to be involved in a working group responding to the DEIRs for Benicia or San Luis Obispo County, please contact Lynne Nittler email@example.com or 530-756-8110
More about Yolano Climate Action. The group’s purpose is to bring together representatives of local groups and individuals working on mitigation of the climate crisis in order to amplify the effectiveness of all our advocacy efforts through improved communication, coordination, and support. Our goal is to make this site a go-to place for information about climate action activity in the region. By working together, we will to improve the effectiveness, communication, and coordination of all our members. We support each other’s work, help each other learn, and grow our total number of active community participants. We maintain a list serve and send out monthly digest of announcements plus the agenda for the monthly meeting at the Davis branch library on the third Thursday at 7:00. If you wish to join the list serve, contact Lynne at firstname.lastname@example.org.