Benicia City Council Delays Valero Decision

April 20, 2016

Valero’s appeal to the Surface Transportation Board amounts to a direct assault on local land use authority in Benicia and nationwide

April 19, 2016

Continuance Allows Valero to Seek Federal Preemption from the Surface Transportation Board

Benicia, CA — Late last night, the Benicia City Council voted 3-2 to delay a decision on Valero’s controversial plans to run a oil train through the community till September. The delay permits Valero to petition the Surface Transportation Board for a declaratory order.

“Valero’s appeal to the Surface Transportation Board amounts to a direct assault on local land use authority in Benicia and nationwide,” said Ethan Buckner, Campaigner for Stand. “Be assured, communities across the country will not sit quietly while Valero attempts to strip their precious right to protect their public health and safety.”

Valero officials claim that interstate commerce law preempts cities and states from the right to make decisions regarding rail transports, and go so far as to claim Benicia cannot take environmental risk into account. But in February, the Benicia Planning Commission rejected that claim, and citing environmental concerns, voted to deny Valero’s permit requests.

“It’s appalling to see Benicians’ right to a safe and healthy environment be ignored for Valero’s polluter profits,” said Lena Moffitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “We’re disappointed to see the City Council kick the can down the road, but the people of Benicia will not be silent–they will continue to fight this project until it is defeated.”

Last week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that Benicia is required to review environmental hazards and that federal rail preemption rules are not applicable because Valero is not a rail company.

“The Valero 3 have chosen to put Valero’s interests ahead of the health and safety of the people of Benicia by granting a specious continuance in order to clarify a question that has already been answered by Attorney General Kamala Harris,” said Andrés Soto, Benicians for a Safe & Healthy Community. “Furthermore, they are putting the principle of local land use decisions by municipal governments at risk because of an adverse decision far away in Washington, DC.”