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Benicia city council considers Valero refinery's plan to ship crude oil by rail

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Benicia considered a controversial topic Tuesday night, transporting crude oil by train. (KGO-TV )

Benicia considered a controversial topic Tuesday night, transporting crude oil by train. Opponents say it's an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, but supporters say it's safe.

Tuesday is the city council's first pass at hearing Valero's proposal to move crude oil by rail. The planning commission rejected it last month and Valero appealed. It's an hours-long process to reintroduce all of the reports council members were still asking questions late into Tuesday night.

The Valero refinery in Benicia already brings crude oil into the facility by pipeline and ship and it wants to add rail. Members of Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community have been opposed since the beginning.

"Air emission impacts, traffic impacts, as well as the risk of catastrophic explosion here in Benicia that could destroy the economy and estroy the culture of this community for generations to come," said Andres Sotos, a member of Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community.

The city might not have a choice. Staff and consultants point to federal laws that don't allow cities to regulate railroads. But others say Benicia has every right to reject Valero's proposal.

"I've never seen a city, and I've been on the city council. I've never seen a city give up their permitting power and I think it's the wrong direction for the city to take," said Benicia resident Jan Cox Golovich.

Last month, the planning commission unanimously rejected Valero's plan. Now it's fate is in the hands of the city council. Valero is optimistic.

"We believe it can be done safely and we're looking forward to making that case to the city council in our appeal," said Valero director of health and safety Chris Howe.

Valero wants to move 70,000 barrels of crude oil by rail and rely less on shipping. Public comment on the issue is scheduled for April 4.
Related Topics:
newsrail safetyoilsafetytrainstrain safetyenvironmentBenicia
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