Valero Tries to Sway Public Opinion at Crude by Rail Meeting

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Valero Energy is building its case to transport highly flammable crude oil through northern California, and held a public meeting Monday night in Benicia.

Critics of the plan are worried about the worst-case scenario of a derailment and potential explosion, much like incidents in North Daktoa, Virginia and a deadly disaster in Quebec in 2013.

More than a hundred people came to Monday’s meeting. Valero says the benefits outweigh the risks, but others aren’t sure.

“We believe that there’s sufficient flaws with this draft instrument impact report,” Andres Soto, with Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, said.

Valero’s plan is to transport crude oil through Roseville, Sacramento and Davis to its refinery in Benicia. Soto says Valero isn’t saying how ready first responders would be if a derailment were to happen.

“There’s no real response to the question about the insufficient  capacity of the Benicia Fire Department,” Soto said.

The energy company argues that its own, private fire department will train other departments in cities the trains pass through.

Valero said only four trains a day would pass through Benicia, 20 new, local jobs would be created and there’s an environmental benefit to using trains.

“Having crude delivered by rail versus marine deliveries today will result in lower emissions in the Bay Area and California,” Valero’s Benicia Refinery Safety Director Chris Howe said.

The company also wants rail inspections increased and speeds through populated areas to be lowered.

Soto says that’s not enough.

“Their window looked at a 40 year period when this stuff has only been on the rail for the past two years,” he said.

The City of Benicia will hold a vote once a 45-day public comment  period is up on Aug. 1.

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