On Tuesday, Oct. 28th, the Richmond City Council approved a resolution stating its strongest disagreement with the staff of the Bay Area Air Quality District for issuing a ministerial permit, without public notification or review, to Kinder Morgan for the off-loading of Bakken crude oil and Alberta tar sands crude oil at the BNSF rail yard in Richmond. The resolution requests that the BAAQMD Board of Directors revoke the Kinder Morgan permit, if possible, and subject the project to complete CEQA process.
The resolution also instructs the City Attorney to research options for restricting the use of tanker trucks carrying Bakken crude oil through city streets, and report back to the Council.
The Council's vote was unanimous (5-0). Councilmembers Bates and Boozé, though present at the meeting, did not cast vows on the resolution because they left the room prior to the vote.
Contra Costa Times has reported that Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay sent a letter to the Air District, critical of its decision to permit the transfers at the Kinder Morgan facility without public review, and without advising first responders. The article also cites replies by Air District staff Ralph Borrmann. Read article here.
This is significant victory for the residents of Richmond. The Council action was preceded by a presentation on crude-by-rail created by Andrés Soto and Katherine Black, on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment. Charles Davidson was present to help address technical questions posed by council members. Many members of public spoke in support, including representatives of the Sunflower Alliance and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Richmond is hardly alone in its struggle to stop these "bomb trains' rolling through its neighborhoods. A San Francisco Chronicle editorial puts the crude-by-rail issue in the context of all of northern California. "What’s really crazy," the Chron's editorial board asserts, "is the federal law that allows pre-emption of municipal and state law when it comes to critical decisions on rail safety. Affected communities deserve a say over what rolls through their towns."