Baykeeper and more than 150 of our supporters recently stood up for San Francisco Bay and against Valero Energy Corporation’s plan to enlarge the rail yard at its Benicia oil refinery.
If Valero gets its way, long trains of tank cars filled with explosion-prone crude oil will run beside Suisun Bay, a San Francisco Bay inlet and important wildlife habitat area. Oil spilled along Suisun Bay's shore could quickly spread throughout San Francisco Bay.
In order to go forward with the rail yard expansion, Valero needs approval from the Benicia city government, including approval of Valero’s Environmental Impact Report on the project. Baykeeper and our supporters urged Benicia’s city government to reject the Environmental Impact Report and the rail yard expansion itself.
The risk of oil spilling from trains is high. Last year in the US, more than a million gallons of crude oil was spilled as a result of rail accidents.
Suisun Bay is a nursery for many species of fish, and an important stop for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. An oil spill there would be a major threat to Bay wildlife. The railroad tracks along Suisun Bay could also buckle or collapse in an earthquake, upping the risk of an oil spill.
In opposition to Valero’s unwise plan, Baykeeper submitted expert comments describing the ways Valero’s report did not accurately describe the rail yard expansion’s environmental impact. Problems with the report include underestimating the risk of a serious explosion or spill in the Bay Area and underestimating the risk of damage to Suisun Marsh and its wildlife.
More than 150 Baykeeper supporters also sent emails to Benicia city government leaders urging them to say no to long trains of tank cars along the Bay’s shore.
Baykeeper has been working on several fronts to protect San Francisco Bay and its wildlife from the threat of increased shipping of crude oil by train in and out of the region:
- Baykeeper helped orchestrate the passage of a new state law that provides California’s rivers, lakes, and creeks with oil spill protections previously given only to coastal waters. This means that the Bay’s entire watershed will now have critical protections from oil spills. The law also expands the scope of the California agency that rescues wildlife injured by an oil spill, which was previously threatened with having to close.
- Acting in coalition, we advocated for a resolution passed unanimously by the Oakland City Council to oppose the shipment of oil by rail through the city.
- We are fighting the proposed re-opening a now-closed oil storage facility in Pittsburg that would facilitate more oil being shipped into the Bay Area by rail.
We also have a long history of improving oil spill protections for San Francisco Bay. Baykeeper was a lead responder to the Cosco Busan oil spill of November 2007 that released 53,000 gallons of heavy fuel into the Bay. Since then, Baykeeper has played a key role in improving oil spill response policy in the Bay Area, California, and across the country. We will keep working to ensure that San Francisco Bay has the best possible protections to prevent oil spills, and the best achievable cleanup when spills occur.
To read Baykeeper's comments on the Valero refinery rail yard expansion plan Environmental Impact Report, click below.