Newsletter # 59 – Recap P66 Planning Commission hearing – 09-22-16


Great turnout.  Standing room only in chambers. Overflow room another 30 plus people. Public comments – 1 or 2 minute  –  over 75 signed up.

Needless to say the applicant, P66, for reasons I do not understand, was given as much time as they wanted to respond to the Federal Surface Transportation Board ruling that was released 2 days prior that stated once and for all local communities have a right to say no to oil trains.  P66’s response which should have been made in public comment and held to 2 minutes max, dismissed the ruling as irrelevant to their permit in SLO.  Not at all true but they said it anyway.
County council seemed to agree with P66 calling the ruling not particularly relevant to our area and situation. Again, not at all true but they said it anyway.  Even some of the commissioners seemed to be bobbling their heads in agreement with P66’s comment.    And frankly given the STB precedent setting ruling and the immediate impact it had on Benicia and for communities nationwide who have been wrestling with this preemption issue, I find county council’s all but dismissive response shocking.

The Surface Transportation Board ruling is a game changer.  County council dismissing it does not change that fact.


This is a victory for the right of communities to say no to refineries’ dangerous oil train projects. The federal government has said once and for all that there is nothing in federal law that prevents cities from denying these oil companies’ dangerous rail projects,” Buckner said. “The oil industry keeps telling communities they have no right to say no to oil trains, but this ruling once and for all refutes this.” Ethan Buckner was one of the organizers for environmental advocacy group Stand, which was working to stop the Benicia facility.

The ruling came out just hours before the Benicia City Council was to vote on the refinery permit. Valero is the largest employer in the city, according to a recent comprehensive financial report compiled by the city’s finance team.

However, The five-person Benicia City Council voted unanimously to reject the Valero Crude Oil by Rail Project finding the project is too dangerous for the community.

In Every community where Health and Safety of the community is the top priority these permits are ALWAYS denied because of unavoidable human and environmental adverse health and safety impacts.  And by the same token in Every community where Health and Safety is of no consequence these permits are ALWAYS approved.

This STB decision appears to be a game-changer in the oil-by-rail story. With it, perhaps now more politicians will agree that “the safety of our communities matter” — much more so than oil company profits.

Here is the whole disturbing display of an abuse of discretionary power in the works.  Check out at 44 minutes, Chairman Campbell’s submitting into the public record P66’s off the record hired guns condemnation of speaker’s comments.  Mr. Campbell seemed obliged to repeat the allegations made by P66 consultants into the public record saying that the authorized and recognized speakers “lend to an agenda driven requiem on the transportation of oil” and questioned why we (SLO County) should be charging “someone [P66] supplied for one little spot to put an unloading dock, pay for all that time (staff time) and all that expense?”  What the Heck Mr. Chairman?

I guess this is why P66 did not have to comply with the August 15th deadline to pay for services rendered and submit requested documentation essential to an ongoing investigation.  The PC decided to ignore the demand for payment like they are ignoring staff’s recommendation to deny the permit and all our public comments on health and safety issues.  Abuse of discretionary power?

The Chairman, Mr. Campbell, also said they don’t want to kick this can down the road to the Board. They want to do everything they can to make it easy on the Board (to approve their recommendation to approve the permit?)

Well, if the intent was to make it easy for the Board to do the right thing why didn’t they revoke that permit the minute P66 defaulted and failed to pay for services rendered and get the documentation in on time? If this commission wanted to insure all the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed August 15th was the day to do it. Instead what happened was P66 stiffed us and the commission said o.k. But you know what? No, it isn’t o.k. Hearing continued until Oct. 5th and no end in sight.

Mr. Irvine needs to start from square one and go over all the conditions again and if anything new pops up we continue until we have either been exhausted into comma or expired from exhaustion.

This type of behavior is reminiscent of Freeport’s petition to the Board a year ago for a 3-year extension on an expired permit to complete 31 wells at the Price canyon facility.  Extension was a blatant violation of federal code and the CUP that states you cannot extend an expired permit. Application for a new permit is necessary to insure compliance with all new rules and regulations. Earthquakes, faults zones and emergency drought situation were not an issue 10 years ago.  But never mind.

Phasing Schedule of Phase IV

PXP CUP 2004

  1. A total of ten years is allowed for the development of the 95 producer and 30 steam injector wells, and the 3 steam generators.
  2. At the end of the ten years, any wells or steam generators not yet completed shall require review and approval of a new Conditional Use Permit.

It couldn’t be more clear that a new CUP was necessary.  Yet Council advised never mind,approve it. It wasn’t o.k. and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the Board to point out that fact which is still pending a response from the Board. Delay, delay, delay.


So you see there is a pattern here of abuse of power that needs to be addressed. Like Freeport and P66 unless we actually tell the Board to stop ignoring us there is no reason for them to give us the time of day. Well, actually there is. The oil interests are self-regulated and if they were actually operating in good faith this would be a whole different story. But as we can see none of the parties are doing their job or operating in good faith, not Freeport, not P66 and not the Board of Supervisors.

We cannot depend on the outcome of the election to insure our own safety, health and well-being. We have rights that must be upheld no matter what political persuasion gets elected.  The fact is we have been violated and no matter who gets elected is not going to change that fact. The violators still need to be held accountable and our rights still need to be upheld. So, unless we make the demand they uphold our rights they will continue to disregard them because they can.   Right now all the offending parties feel quite comfortable dismissing us an inconvenience or annoyance with no consequences.  That needs to change.


P66 is just a precursor to what is coming down the road with Freeport and their permit to extract and waste billions of gallons of fresh water for non-beneficial use in stage D4 extreme drought conditions.
We know this is all going to end up in court one way or another, sooner or later.  So, why not make one way, our way and now?  And one way right now is demand the Board revoke P66’s permit for failure to meet the deadline.

We got the grounds, Board has policing powers and can and must do that.  They aren’t going to volunteer to do it or they would have done it already.


Lets stop kidding ourselves and do something about this insult to our self-respect and infringement on our rights to the peaceful, safe and quiet enjoyment of our environment. The only way the Board is going to hear us over the deafening and oppressive roar and filth of diesel engines and toxic waste disposal in our backyard is if we force them to listen.  How do we force them?  Order from the court usual does the trick.

And that is just the segue we need to announce the next all-hands-on-deck installment. Switch from oil trains to oil drillers.  Be at the San Luis Obispo County court house on Thursday, Oct 6th 8:30 am- 9:00 am – Short and Sweet.  Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against DOGGR this time, for, in essence, preapproving the Arroyo Grande Aquifer, site unseen, as a toxic waste water disposal site produced for PXP then new owners Freeport.  Freeport filed a demurrer which in effect is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Lawyers informally define a demurrer as a defendant saying, “So what?” to the pleading.

Justice should not depend on how many people show up to bear witness to the process but the reality is it does make a difference. SO, this is a just a bit of a hop towards our giant leap forward to protecting forever more our home sweet home.

Details below from Natalie Risner Protect Price Canyon. There is no public comment but if you want to observe the proceedings you certainly can. Room where the hearing is held is posted right inside the doors of the court house on the left. They do an airport like scan so leave your multipurpose, with a phillips head screw driver with a fish scaler knife in the car.

And now from Natalie Protect Price Canyon.




At 8:30 AM sharp! Have folks near the entryway in a line, so that anyone entering will have to pass residents.


(Please RSVP here!)

Signs will have more serious messaging, ala “My water is at stake” rather than the traditional “stop dangerous drilling” signs. Other themes could include that big oil is a bully, and that the EPA must look past this and protect resident’s water. Note that that the judge isn’t the target, and that Freeport bringing the case, not the state.


This will be a pretty short gathering – 8:30am for a 9am hearing, so we won’t need to worry about tons of filler or long line of speakers. Additionally, our attorneys feel that chanting isn’t appropriate, so we won’t be engaging in that.


We’re asked to dress respectfully and I was thinking that we all wear blue (the color of water) and sit in a tight group to show our team support.  Natalie Risner.

The court delayed this hearing for one week. So, not OCT 6 but rather OCT 13. 

See you there all you Loving, Tenacious, never-say-die, we-shall-overcome beautiful people.

Hope this helps to better understand what is at stake and what we need to do next.

And thank you for your patience this was a mouth full.

Much love,




“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging
to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong,
we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

— Aldo Leopold