An oil storage and transfer facility proposed for Pittsburg that could have polluted San Francisco Bay won’t be opened. In a victory for the Bay and local communities, the facility developer, WesPac Energy, recently called off the project.
Baykeeper opposed the crude oil facility because it would have raised the risk of oil spills in the Bay and its watershed. The WesPac project would have led to more oil being shipped by rail on tracks near the Bay shoreline, creating a risk of oil spills and explosions. Future sea level rise could have flooded the facility’s shoreline site, causing significant pollution in Suisun Bay and San Francisco Bay. In addition to raising the risk of pollution in the Bay, the WesPac project would have harmed nearby communities and generated air pollution.
The oil storage facility was a key component of oil industry plans for a major expansion of oil refineries on San Francisco Bay. Refinery expansion would also increase the amount of oil shipped by rail in the Bay Area. This victory could help defeat other current Bay Area oil refinery expansion plans.
Baykeeper worked with a number of environmental and community organizations to create the public pressure that halted the oil storage facility. Organizations involved in this victory include Pittsburg Defense Council, Forest Ethics, Communities for a Better Environment, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sunflower Alliance.
Baykeeper twice urged Pittsburg city leaders to block the WesPac facility. We also conducted a Toxic Tour in 2013 aboard Baykeeper’s pollution patrol boat, raising public awareness about the threat from WesPac and other plans for oil refinery expansion on San Francisco Bay.
Moreover, we have worked on several other fronts to protect San Francisco Bay and its wildlife from the threats of oil refinery expansion and shipping of crude oil by train:
- We recently urged Benicia city leaders to block Valero Energy Corporation’s plan to enlarge the train yard at its Benicia refinery.
- Baykeeper helped orchestrate the passage of a 2014 state law that provides California’s rivers, lakes, and creeks with oil spill protections previously given only to coastal waters. When the railroad industry sued to overturn the law’s requirement that railroads be prepared to clean up oil spills from train accidents in California, Baykeeper, represented by the environmental law firm Earthjustice, filed an amicus brief in our law’s defense. The railroad’s lawsuit was dismissed and protections remain in place.
- 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 contributed to a report and joined with Waterkeeper organizations across the country to urge federal regulators to tighten lax regulations on crude oil shipped by rail.
In addition, Baykeeper has 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, we have played a key role in improving oil spill response policy in the Bay Area, California, and across the country.
Baykeeper will keep working to oppose the expansion of oil refining and shipment in the Bay Area, and to ensure that San Francisco Bay has the best possible protections from oil spills.
Photo by Joan Robins