Notes from WesPac EIR Scoping Session, 2015/07/22

WesPac is back. The proposal for an oil terminal in Pittsburg, CA has been modified, dropping the rail component. It would include a marine terminal, lots of oil storage, and pipelines to Bay Area refineries. The storage tanks are within 200 feet of homes, and there are churches and schools nearby as well.

A new EIR will be prepared, and there was a scoping session on July 22nd. Comments on the scope of the EIR will be taken until 5pm on Friday, August 7th, 2015. I took some rough notes from the scoping session.

A couple of City staffers and a representative from TRC, the consulting company doing the EIR, spoke. The purpose of the scoping session, they said, was 1) to educate the public about the process and 2) to take public comment. Significantly, the public comment was supposed to be on the scope of the EIR, and not supposed to be about the merits of the project itself. Nevertheless, many speakers did share their opinion on the project as a whole. After public comment, the TRC rep said there had been two kinds of comments: 1) impacts of the EIR, and 2) opinions. He said, “Please let your decisionmakers (City Councilmembers and Planning Commissioners) know your opinions.”

The rep introduced the rationale for the project: a California Energy Commission determination that there is a shortage of crude oil storage in the Bay Area, coupled with an increase in oil imports, and ship congestion at existing terminals. None of this holds water – the CEC determination is from several years ago, there are plenty of marine terminals at existing refineries, and in any case, California gasoline and diesel use is declining.

Public Comment

I took brief notes on each speaker. Public comment lasted about two hours. Unfortunately, the City did not provide video recording or a stenographer – they had a staffer take notes on an easel pad. I will be submitting these notes.


1. Rich, recently relocated to Pittsburg from SF – IBEW member.
Question about how this affects jobs – it seems like this kind of project would turn people away. Doesn’t make sense long-term.

2. Joe Miyamoto, resident, retired marine biologist.
Mentioned the letter from the Attorney General: outdated info used for justifying the purpose of the project.
Need model of oil spills.
Alternatives listed in the AG letter.

3. Chris Fallon
Wants info on crude type.
What routes will the ships take?

4. Isa? resident
Saw protests, did research.
Alternative fuels versus reopening old plant closed 20 years ago. Why did it close 20 years ago?
No shortage of gas, just trying to make money.
Residents can’t sell their houses and move away easily. Right now one can throw a rock at the silos.
New home construction at Clipper Cove – when she engaged the sales office in a conversation about the tanks, they said “I don’t want to know about it.”
Put money into housing, education – people are “struggling”. What about urban home rehabilitation?

5. Nick Despota
Look at electrifying the docks to reduce diesel emissions.
Impact of noise.
Use most current info on economic impact and perception of oil spills.
One alternative to consider: invest in clean energy, solar power proposal.

6. Charles Smith – retired UC Berkeley professor, worked at LBNL.
1. Do not allow offsets.
2. Use up-to-date data.
3. High pollution to start with.
4. Tank corrosion – single-walled, currently leaking. Consider new, double-walled tanks.

7. Mark Day
Asked friends to move to Pittsburg, no longer.
The project is speculative, short-term gain for long-term deficits.
Requires an EJ section.
Tell us the characteristics of refined / diesel oil.
What are the long-term effects of a spill – see eg Valdez, the BP deepwater blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

8. David Manley, pastor, Stewart Memorial.
History – what is the safety record of WesPac and Oiltanking?
Is the tech “over and above” or bare minimum?
What are the procedures to deal with odors?
Are windsocks installed?
Will there be monitoring equipment all around to detect H2S?
Will there be a direct hotline? What is the emergency response?
Will there be on-site fire response?
What about contamination during construction?
How do you address current contamination?
Will there be crude assay analysis?
Will there be vapor recovery systems?
Will there be relief systems for the pipelines?
Will there be booms on-site to protect the marina?
Will there be a ban on expulsion of shipping ballast into the marina?
Will they inform the local PD of people coming off the ships?
How will they protect the neighbors?

9. Jessica Hendricks, Global Community Monitor
GCM did air monitoring. There’s already very high air pollution in the area.
High cancer rates. Top 15% polluted communities in the Bay Area – eligible for the BAAQMD CARE program.

10. Pamela Arauz, Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
Need to use current data on rates of cancer and neurological and respiratory issues.
Monitor the health within a quarter mile radius of the site.
Should have a year-long air monitoring program, using Pittsburg data, as a baseline.
Independent, third-party analysis of emissions.
Consider, as an alternative, a quarter-mile buffer zone around the facility.

11. Geoff Taylor
Request to extend comment period for 15 days, with an additional scoping session.
Soil and seismic analysis with up-to-date info.
What are the fire response and disaster recovery plans?
Need evacuation plans and routes / talk to FEMA.

12. Mike Baeta
EIR needs “hostile oversight” – make sure the plan is real.
“The map is not the territory.”
Zoning seems crazy – the standard should be higher than if tanks weren’t there, rather than taking existing zoning as a given.
Water table – at his residence, it’s only 5 feet.
Need local air monitors.
Money to improve air quality.
Need substantial financial guarantee.

13. Jesse – new resident, 200 feet from the tanks.
What does it take to buffer residents? Schoolkids?
Asbestos containment?

14. Martin MacKerel
Volatization of diluents in tar sands – making kids sick?
Consider double-walled pipelines.
Analyze and compare with the Mayflower spill in Arkansas – they also took old pipelines, reversed direction, and pumped corrosive tar sands through them at higher pressure.
Climate change effect is over and above direct emissions. We need to reduce industry flexibility and build no new infrastructure.
Hard to quantify, but what are the knock-on effects of taking a stand and saying “no” on a moral basis?

15. Tamhas Griffith, Martinez Environmental Group
Recent Montana spill was a brand new, double-walled pipeline.
Why a new marine terminal? Plenty at existing refineries.
What’s the 20-year projection of capacity?
What are the potential effects of dredging? Including:
When, how often, who?
What toxins might be released by dredging?
Explicitly examine the effect on salinity.
What kinds of oil? What are the effects of refining that oil at Shell and Tesoro? Might there be more flaring? Can equipment at those refineries handle tar sands?

16. Aimee Durfee, Martinez Environmental Group, Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition
We know this is not an isolated project. WesPac is part of an effort to increase regional infrastructure to handle tar sands.
Why is there no stenographer here? Standard for these sorts of sessions.
Request a second scoping session w/translation present.
Is this a wise investment given the fossil fuel industry’s dim future?
Project the regulatory risks.
Risks to salinity, oil spills, etc.
Consider the particular risk to freshwater access for the Bay Area during a drought.
What is the Development Agreement? Should be very transparent.
There should be a Community Oversight Committee – this is standard in these kinds of projects.
Rail could be added later – can we have a legally binding agreement preventing rail later?
What’s the response to a tar sands spill in the water? Tar sands is very difficult to clean up in water because it sinks.
Environmental justice – they have a special responsibility to notify neighbors in language that’s accessible and understandable, multiple languages.

17. Ratha Lai, Sierra Club
Environmental justice – disproportionate impact
Diesel emissions

18. Kalli Graham, Pittsburg Defense Council
Extend the scoping period.
What’s the risk of fire? What’s the flashpoint of all the liquids that may be handled?
What’s the vapor pressure?
Do we have a risk of “bomb tanks” like we have a risk of “bomb trains” full of especially volatile Bakken shale oil (or in some cases, tar sands in diluents)?
In past cases of explosions, what were the costs to the cities that suffered them?
What’s the blast zone from an explosion, how far can shrapnel be thrown, how far does the initial pressure wave travel?
Could there be a domino effect where one tank sets off others?
What’s the maximum area that could be impacted?
There was a 3-alarm fire on-site last year – the fire dept had to retreat because of the power lines. How does that affect fire response plans?

19. Lisa Graham, Pittsburg Defense Council
Give us data on cancer, esp lung cancer.
Five facilities in the area release top 5 toxins for lung cancer.
What do the NRDC, CARB, Calif. Health Services, CDC, etc. say?

20. Jim MacDonald
The risk is not just of fire, but of air-fuel detonation – potentially far more destructive.
Consider alternative of using pure nitrogen in the ships and tanks instead of air when emptying fuel.
The DOT requires a 1-mile radius around a crude spill because of the risks of air-fuel detonation.

21. Willie Mims
We already have toxic stuff in our backyard.
Alternative: no project.
What are you recirculating?
“Proposed” is a weak word.
Who will evaluate the condition of the tanks?
How do you know this won’t affect cultural resources?
What are you going to do about population and housing impact?
How can you mitigate a death trap?

22. Chris Bernal
Used to do aerial surveillance of pipelines. Pipelines leak. A lot.
What is the pipeline care?
He’s a new homeowner at Clipper Cove – just bought a house for $450K.
What is the impact on home value? On his family’s health?

23. Charlie Davidson
Lives near a pumping station for the San Pablo pipeline.
Ample marine terminals at Bay Area refineries.
Rail could be added later.
Unusually dangerous chemistry of these crudes addressed by the Attorney General letter.
No stabilization (removal of gases) of Bakken shale.
Tanks could produce a vapor propane cloud over Pittsburg that seeks out an ignition source.

24. Patricia
A mother – talked to her pediatrician, has a kid at St. Peter Martyr.
The railroads are corroded, how will kids be safe? They could get sick.
Can’t prove it’s safe.
No one wants it.
Kids should be the #1 priority.
City not giving us an explanation.

25. Frank Teiche
Pipelines are 60+ years old.

26. Rosa Fallon
Thanked Kristin and other staffer.
To audience: come to City Council meetings, 1st and 3rd Mondays at 7pm.

27. Dick Dillon, President of 252 Heron HOA
Had experience at Signal Hill military, then Coast Guard.
The ’58 Hancock fire – burned for two weeks.
Oil doesn’t burn – fumes from heating it does.
From his home, he couldn’t drive away from a fire. Could boat out if oil isn’t on the water.
Never seen a study on the hazardous material in the ground.
This meeting should be about how to protect people. New homes?
What’s the pollution from the tanks right now?
What about replacing the bottom of the tanks?

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