Shell Oil pulls the plug on the crude-by-rail expansion project in Acacortes, Washington

By Seattle Times Staff (October 6, 2016)

Thursday delivered a sweet “two-fer”  to West Coast communities downtrack from proposed crude-by-rail projects.
Following the P66 “No” in San Luis Obispo, Shell oil quietly withdrew its crude-by-rail up in Anacortes, Washington.
Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice who represented conservation groups in their legal challenge of the project, called the decision to stop the project an extraordinary victory for the people of Skagit County and Washington state.
“Having a full and transparent public process exposed everyone — including apparently Shell itself — to the risks and harms of this project.”

Above:  Protestors march near oil refineries in Anacortes, Washington, on May 14, 2016, as part of a series of global actions calling on people to “break free” from dependence on fossil fuels.  The Shell and nearby Tesoro refineries were the targets of a three-day protest in May. Fifty-two people were arrested and charged with criminal trespass for blocking BNSF Railway lines.  (Photo credit:  Scott Terrell of the Skagit Valley Herald)  

Read more about the action here:

San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission Rejects P66 Proposal

BY CYNTHIA LAMBERT, San Luis Obispo Tribune (October 5, 2016)

To a standing ovation by opponents of Phillips 66 Co.’s oil-by-rail plan, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to reject the project that had gained statewide attention.

Commissioner Eric Meyer read an impassioned five-page statement explaining his opposition, including the need to move away from fossil fuels and the massive opposition the project has garnered statewide.


Oil tanker berthed at Rodeo P66 refinery suspected as source of oil spill in San Pablo Bay

Oil spill containment booms oil tanker Yamuna Spirit Phillips 66 Refinery Rodeo

Oil spill containment booms surround an oil tanker the Yamuna Spirit docked at a marine terminal belonging to Phillips 66 Refinery on San Pablo Bay in Rodeo, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

On Tuesday night, the Vallejo Fire Department received more than 800 calls from residents complaining of a strong smell of natural gas, gasoline and rotten eggs. An estimated 120 patients went to Solano County hospitals, with complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness, according to the Solano County Health Department.   The tanker, now surrounded by hazmat booms,  was involved  in  spill in Nigeria in February.

  • Karina Loffee of the East Bay Times first broke the story (Weds, Sept 21st):

  • KQED followed up the next day and in this post gives a time line of events and an update on the investigation (Thursday, Sept. 22)

  • CBS also tracked the story:  Public frustrated with lack of information regarding the oil spill (Thursday, Sept. 22)

Huge victory across the Carquinez Strait: Benicia City Council votes “No!” on the same day that the Surface Transporation Board denies federal exemption status for the Valero refinery expansion project


Caption by environmental college, Ethan Buckner:  “This is what Democracy looks like!”  

By Roger Staw, Benicia Independent, September 21, 2016

This was a stunning victory after a 3.5 year long Davey and Goliath fight. Valerio went down in a one-two punch.  The  council’s 5-0 “NO!”  note and the U.S. Surface Transportation Board stinging rebuke of Valero’s claim of federal pre-emption status both happened on the same day.

The San Francisco Chronicle sees this decision affecting oil projects elsewhere in the county. Indeed Phillips 66 has been trying to do an end run around our communities of Contra Coast Coast and San Luis Obispo Counties claiming federal pre-emption defence in its two lawsuits.

Back in New York, Albany County executive Dan McCoy called the federal ruling “a victory for the community there and upholds that the municipality was not asserting undue influence on transportation by rail carriers and was not preempted by federal law from regulating such activity.”


Rail industry wants to cut brake inspections by half

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, September 19, 2016

Posted by Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineer and Trainmentrains-and-tanks

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for a waiver that would allow freight trains to travel up to 2,600 miles between mandatory air brake inspections instead of the current industry standard of 1,500 miles.

San Luis Obispo Hearing on Phillips 66 oil-by-rail plan continues to April

hearing room

By Cynthia Lambert, San Luis Obispo Tribune (March 11, 2016)

On March 11, after listening to more than 400 public speakers over four days on the controversial proposal, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission began deliberating  on Phillips 66 Co.’s plan to upgrade its refinery to receive Tar Sands crude oil by rail.  The ultimate destination after first minimally processing it in SLO County?  Rodeo.

But Planning Commissioner Jim Irving said Phillips 66 may not get a final decision on its project for five years because it may face challenges over both state and federal laws. “This is going to go from us to (county) supervisors, to the Coastal Commission, to the Supreme Court.”
Read more here:

Why are we always the last to know?

news clip artOn February 12th, California Emergency Management Agency posted on its website that the P66 Rodeo refinery released greater than 500 pounds of sulfur dioxide into our air due to an “equipment malfunction.”   Residents  learned about the release from the Dow Jones Busines News, the Wall Street Journal, and Nasdaq  …but nary a word from the refinery or from Contra Costa County Department of Emergency Services.

Both could have issued a health advisory, but did not.

The day before the article was posted, the refineries fenceline monitoring system was taken off-line. Three days after the article was posted, residents were startled by non-stop booms coming from the direction of the refinery.  The refinery dismissed the booms as coming from Air Liquid, not P66.  The Air Liquid plant provides the hydrogen for the P66 refining process and is completely surrounded by the P66 refinery operations in Rodeo.

One P66 supervisor took the prize for obfuscation when telling a concerned resident that Air Liquid was really a “renter”…



Californians Push Back !

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From Benicia down to San Luis Obispo, Californians are pushing back on Crude by Rail.   Two huge projects recently appeared in front of planning commissions this month:  San Louis Obispo County (Phillips 66) and the City of Bencia (Valero).  Both drew record-breaking crowds.  One project was defeated (Valero) and the other (Phillips 66) is well on its way to meet the same fate.

In both cases, State Attorney General Kamala Harris took the long view and weighed in against both crude-by-rail projects. At both hearings, hundreds of citizens signed up to speak. And in both cases, citizens from Crockett, Rodeo and Hercules were there “to represent.”


Just to give you a sense of scale of the opposition: At the Phillips 66 hearing in San Luis Obispo County, over 400 people filled out speaker cards.   That public hearing went on for two days and will wrap up on February 25th.   Although the folks here at C.R.U.D.E. don’t have a crystal ball, we reckon it has a snowball’s chance in Hell of passing as the San Luis Obispo County staff submitted a recommendation to turn it down…as did 26 cities, 20 school districts, 5 county/regional agencies and 2 local congresswomen.

And in Benicia?  After 3 days of hearings, that City’s planning commission took the courageous stand to stop the project, over the city staff’s objections.

Here are two articles describing the hearings:

  1. An overview of the San Luis Obispo Phillips 66 hearing (this Tar Sands project is intricately tied into the expansion project up here in Rodeo) can be read here: Sunflower Alliance
  2. Click here to read an article in the Huffington Post about Benicia’s decision about Valero’s refinery crude-by-rail project:  Huffington Post

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