“Crude-by-Rail Bomb Trains,” Explained

Does Valero want to bring back the dangerous “Crude-by-Rail” project?

In 2016, Valero submitted to Benicia’s Planning Commission a proposal to bring “crude-by-rail” trains through Benicia.

In September 2016, culminating a four-year battle, the City Council unanimously rejected a Valero Energy Corporation proposal to bring two 50-car trains a day carrying up to 70,000 barrels of crude oilinto Benicia from Canada and North Dakota. The Corporation pursued this project despite the deadly danger of such “crude-by-rail” shipments. This danger was demonstrated by the 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster, named for the Quebec town where an oil train’s derailment, fire and explosion took 47 lives and decimated the downtown area.

A 2020 Canadian News Corporation piece documented not only that horrific event, but seven subsequent major oil train derailments in Canada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QRvZsO4fc

Vice News and other outlets have also produced stunning videos and documentation about what have been called “bomb trains.”

The threat of such “oil bomb trains” has been indicated by post-Lac-Mégantic derailments and fires in Oregon, West Virginia and elsewhere in the United States. From 2013 to 2020, there were at least 21 derailments in North America, many resulting in massive spills and fires lasting for hours or even days.

Back to Benicia: Is it a coincidence that in the 2018 election cycle, following crude-by-rail’s 2016 defeat, Valero poured substantial sums into a successful effort to have candidates it favored elected to the City Council and one it opposed defeated?

The current Valero-supported PAC has adopted a similar though less long-winded name than that used in 2018: “Working Families for a Strong Benicia, a Coalition of Labor, Industrial Services Companies, Public Safety and Local Leaders Supporting Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada and Opposing Kari Birdseye for Benicia City Council 2018.

And back to today: Is Valero seeking to spend a massive sum on this year’s City Council elections because it wants to reintroduce crude-by-rail? If not, then what does it want?