CA Attorney Common Kamala Harris challenges Benicia oil map

51
Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 1:47 AM

The debate involves a map by Valero Refining Co. to ship up to two 50-car trains a day of crude oil through Northern California, including through Roseville, downtown Sacramento and Davis, to its plant on Suisun Bay on the outskirts of Benicia.

CA Attorney Common Kamala Harris challenges Benicia oil map

CA Attorney Common Kamala Harris weighed in on Benicia’s ongoing oil train debate on Thursday, arguing that the city has a valid right to reject a local refinery’s oil train map and the obligation to review environmental risks.

The debate involves a map by Valero Refining Co. to ship up to two 50-car trains a day of crude oil through Northern California, including through Roseville, downtown Sacramento and Davis, to its plant on Suisun Bay on the outskirts of Benicia. Valero is seeking city permits to create changes at its refinery to authorize it to get train shipments.

In a five-page letter Thursday, Harris repeatedly challenged Valero’s assertion – and the opinion of an attorney on hire to Benicia – that the city cannot consider any potential negative impacts of oil trains to cities along the rail line.

“We dispute that the city is prohibited from considering the project’s eleven significant and unavoidable rail-related impacts when exercising its local land utilize authority,” said Harris, the state’s top law enforcement official, said.

An earlier environmental impact report conducted by Benicia concluded that the trains presented significant and unavoidable risks of oil spill, environmental damage and potential loss of human life if one were to derail while en route to the refinery. Several spills and explosions in recent years, including one in which forty-seven people were killed, have highlighted the dangers of crude oil trains nationally.

Bradley Hogin, an environmental attorney hired by Benicia, has argued that federal interstate commerce law pre-empts the city from turning Valero’s proposal down because that decision would at minimum indirectly be telling the Union Pacific railroad company what it can and can’t do.

The Benicia Planning Commission earlier this year rejected Hogin’s opinion and denied Valero’s permit request. Planning commissioners said they didn't wish to keep cities on the rail line at risk, but they also made a point of saying they also were because of local issues, such as flood and traffic concerns.

Valero appealed that decision to the Benicia City Council, which is conducting hearings, including two scheduled for next week.

Numerous attorneys representing environmental and social justice groups have argued that Hogin’s reading of the law is wrong. Sacramento-area executive have sent several letters to Benicia calling on that city to defend communities along the rail line, and a no of Sacramento and Davis residents have testified in Benicia against the plan.

The state attorney common is the highest law enforcement official to weigh in on the matter. Harris, a Democrat, is running for U. S. Senate this year.

Harris argues, in her letter, that federal pre-emption law on rail shipments doesn't apply because Valero isn't a railroad company and is only asking Benicia for permission to create improvements at its local refinery site.

“Both Valero and city staff incorrectly argue that the city’s denial of Valero’s utilize permit will somehow impermissibly interfere with Union Pacific’s rail operations,” the attorney common said in her letter, written by Deputy Attorney Common Scott Lichtig. “The city’s denial of Valero’s utilize permit isn't categorically pre-empted” by federal law because it doesn’t interfere with UP’s federal rights.

In sum, the attorney general’s office said that below federal law Benicia “retains its authority to get discretionary action to approve or deny Valero’s project.”

Valero spokesman Chris Howe responded Thursday in an email to The Sacramento Bee, saying, “We stay confident in our views related to the application of federal pre-emption in this matter.”

In an email to The Bee Thursday evening, Hogin responded.

“City staff disagrees with the Attorney General’s letter,” he wrote. “Based on current law, cities don't have the authority to create permitting decisions based on impacts from rail operations. Cities may only consider local impacts that could result from a shipper’s unloading facility. The status of the permittee as rail carrier or shipper isn't the deciding factor; what matters is the nature of the regulation – whether it addresses impacts from a shipper’s unloading facility, or impacts from rail operations.”

Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, who's acted as spokesman for the local six-county Sacramento Area Council of Governments, said the Attorney General’s analysis is consistent with SACOG’s own valid analysis. “At this point it seems clear that the significant environmental impacts and public safety risks of this expanded crude oil terminal outweigh the project benefits,” he said.

Ethan Buckner of Stand California, one of several organizations that oppose crude oil shipments, issued a statement lauding Harris.

“Attorney Common Harris stood up for democracy and public safety today,” Buckner said. “Valero was hoping to cloud the issue with complicated federal law... The City Council should presently uphold the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision to reject the Valero oil train project.

“And all other cities in CA and around the U. S. presently know for certain that federal law doesn't preempt or constrain the city’s discretionary decision-making authority.”

READ ALSO
Ted Cruz defended TX ban on the sale of sex toys in state

Ted Cruz defended TX ban on the sale of sex toys in state

Prior to becoming a U. S. senator, Cruz was for more than five years Texas' solicitor general, arguing the state'south valid positions in court.

59
George Clooney joins Hillary Clinton for CA fundraisers

George Clooney joins Hillary Clinton for CA fundraisers

The film star and his wife, human rights lawyer , will accompany Clinton at a pair of high-dollar private events to lift money for the . The first, tonight at the Bay Area residence of venture capitalist , will require couples to contribute or lift for a spot at the main table with Clinton...

64
Donald Trump loves NY, and New York’s GOP loves him

Donald Trump loves NY, and New York’s GOP loves him

Which he probably has. With that one rambling, off-the-cuff twenty-seven min speech, the billionaire businessman showed why he’s drained much of the suspense from Tuesday’s NY GOP primary.

85
Assemblyman Roger Hernández slapped with restraining order by wife

Assemblyman Roger Hernández slapped with restraining order by wife

Currently embroiled in divorce proceedings with his wife, Baldwin Park City Council member Susan Rubio, Hernández has been ordered to not obtain within one hundred yards of her.

73