Solano County

Report out on Valero crude-by-rail proposal

By From page A1 | June 19, 2014

FAIRFIELD — A draft environmental impact report for Valero’s plans to transport crude oil by rail finds that the danger posed to public safety is “less than significant.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council remains unconvinced. It put out a press release saying four million Californians could be at risk from a crude-by-rail accident possibly resulting in an explosion. It looked not only at the Valero proposal in Benicia, but other proposals in the state.

Under the Valero proposal, two 50-car trains could deliver up to 70,000 barrels of North American crude oil to the Benicia refinery each day. The route along Union Pacific tracks passes through Fairfield and Suisun City and continues south through Suisun Marsh.

People and agencies have through Aug. 1 to comment on a draft environmental impact report. The Benicia Planning Commission will conduct a hearing at 7 p.m. July 10 at Benicia City Hall, 250 E. L St.

Union Pacific would transport the oil in compliance with federal laws and industry standards, the draft report says. Union Pacific does such things as daily inspects tracks, locomotives and cars carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials, it says.

The probability of a train derailment resulting in crude oil release from at least one train car on the 69-mile route from Roseville to Benicia is once every 111 years, according to a study in the appendix. The probability for a release into Suisun Marsh wetlands is once every 262 years. But the conservative approach taken probably overestimates the risk, it says.

Solano County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Linda Seifert said county staff has looked at the crude-by-rail issue. She noted other hazardous materials pass through the area by rail and that crude oil may pass through the county by rail to refineries in other areas, regardless of what happens with the Valero proposal.

“There’s a certain amount of risk that we recognize as a result of crude-by-rail coming through the area,” Seifert said. “The county’s job is to make sure we’re ready to fend off any disaster, to respond to any incident that may occur.”

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will weigh in on proposed state legislation addressing crude-by-rail shipments. Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, has introduced a measure to provide funding for local emergency response.

“California needs to keep in step with the significant increase in shipments of these dangerous materials in order to respond to the growing risk to California’s citizens . . . . (A)s things stand, local governments along these transport corridors don’t have sufficient funding to protect their communities,” Wolk said in a press release.

The state Office of Emergency Services last week released a report calling for such things as more rail inspectors and for railroads to provide real-time shipment information to emergency responders.

Go to the Benicia website at www.ci.benicia.ca.us to see the draft environmental report.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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