Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Final crude-by-rail report available for review

(Originally published in the 1/6/16 edition)

   The Final Environmental Impact Report of Valero’s proposed Crude-By-Rail project was released yesterday and is currently available to the public. The hefty three-volume document directly responds to comments made on the Draft Environmental Impact Report and the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report. 
   In 2013, Valero Oil Refinery announced to the public its Crude-By-Rail project, which aims to extend three Union Pacific Railroad tracks onto the refinery’s property so that up to 70,000 barrels per day of North American crude oil would be delivered by railroad tank cars instead of by boat. Residents and environmental groups raised concerns over the project’s potential environmental impacts, and per the California Environmental Quality Act, the DEIR was released in June 2014. The document was criticized for its small scope- 69 miles of rail between Roseville and Benicia-, so the RDEIR was released in August of last year. Following the release of both documents, the city opened up a public comment period, where people submitted their opinions through emails and physical letters and voiced their views at special Planning Commission meetings.
   Both the DEIR and the RDEIR yielded thousands of letters from individuals, public agencies, organizations and planning commissioners alike. The comments addressed topics like hazards, air quality, transportation, biological resources, hydrology and geology and noise. Many of the submitted letters were responded to in the FEIR through footnotes, although the document noted that insubstantial comments did not warrant responses.
   “Comments that do not address the adequacy or accuracy of the environmental analysis do not raise a significant environmental issue requiring a response,” the document stated. “Examples of such comments include those that are directed toward the perceived merits or demerits of the project, those that merely express support for or opposition to the project and those that express an opinion without providing facts, reasonable assumptions predicated upon facts, expert opinion, or other substantial evidence explaining why the analysis in the DEIR or Revised DEIR was believed to be insufficient.”
 The document also contains revisions to the DEIR and RDEIR, taking some of the comments into consideration. Also included with the document is a CD containing the entire text of both the DEIR and RDEIR.
   Copies of the FEIR are available for review in City Hall’s Community Development Department, located at 250 East L St., and the reference desk at the Benicia Public Library, located at 150 East L St. Electronic copies can also be downloaded at the city’s website at
   Additionally, the City Planning Commission will be holding a formal public hearing at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 8 to consider the FEIR and a use permit for the project. Due to a potentially large volume of speakers are scheduled for Feb. 9, 10 and 11, unless all members who wish to speak have their voices heard at the Feb. 8 meeting. All meetings will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, located at 250 East L St.

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