Responding to requests of Benicia residents and those from other communities that would be affected by Valero's proposed crude-by-rail project, the Benicia Planning Commission extended the public comment period on the project draft EIR to September 15th.
The proposed Valero Crude by Rail projection would enable the refinery to receive up to 70,000 barrels per day of crude oil by tank car. It involves the installation of rail spur tracks, a tank car unloading rack, pumps, pipelines and infrastructure.
The Planning Commission will meet again to hear public comment on Thursday, August 14th. A strong turnout of those who recognize the risks posed to the entire region by the approval of this proposal can help persuade the Commission to reject it.
Report by Kat Black, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community
On July 10th, the Benicia Planning Commission heard public comment on Valero's proposed project to expand the transportation crude by rail. Prior to the hearing, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community("BSHC") held a rally outside the City Council chambers. The rally was part of a week-long, nationwide action, Stop Oil by Rail, organized by ForestEthics, 350.0rg, the Sierra Club and Oil Change International in commemoration of the anniversary of the tragic explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec. Forty-seven members of the Sunflower Alliance were present at the rally, representing the 47 people killed in that tragedy. The group offered prayer to remember those who perished. It was very touching.
The agenda of the Benicia Planning Commission included 2 items:
1.) extension of time for public comment on the DEIR for the Valero crude by rail project, and
2.) public comment on the DEIR.
BSHC requested a 45-day extension, beyond the initial 45 days, for a total public comment period of 90 days. The Commissioners granted the extension. Public comment is now extended to September 15th.
Following presentations by Valero and city staff, the public commented on the DEIR. The meeting was extending well into the night. WIth only one hour left, members of the public suggested allowing out-of-area people to speak first so they didn't have to travel a long distance to Benicia for additional meetings. The Commissioners agreed and let them speak first. Public comments were very powerful, describing the project's impacts on the down-rail and upwind communities. The hearing was continued to August to hear the rest of the public comments.
The presence of members of the Sunflower Alliance at the hearing had a powerful effect. At one point, Ethan Buckner, of ForestEthics, asked the audience to raise the sunflowers in solidarity with the residents of Lac Megantic. Suddenly the audience took on the golden color of those many sunflowers. Beautiful. Overall, a good night! I was pretty proud.