PITTSBURG -- A project to build the WesPac oil storage and transfer facility in Pittsburg suffered a setback Tuesday night when city officials said the public comment period for the draft environmental impact report would be reopened to address community concerns.
When the announcement was made at the City Council meeting, members of the audience broke out in applause. Opponents contend the draft report is inadequate and fails to disclose many potential environmental impacts and risks associated with the project.
"The city staff is putting public safety first ... We hear you, you are not being ignored," City Councilman Pete Longmire said after City Manager Joe Sbranti announced that a letter outlining the city's position was sent to WesPac officials Tuesday.
Mayor Sal Evola said WesPac officials have a legal right to have their project considered by city officials in response to a question from the audience as to why the project could not be rejected now.
"We have a process we are following ... We are listening to the community, but everyone deserves a fair hearing," Evola said.
The public comment period had closed last September. The city's letter said staff planned to open a new public review and comment period for applicable portions of the report in response to comments that have been received.
"At this point we only intend to analyze additional information that has come to light. We are still in the process of identifying what that will include. Once complete, this analysis will be made available for public comment," Sbranti wrote in an email.
It is too early to say how long the additional review and comment process will take, he added.
"I am very surprised. I am very pleased. This is one victory. We are going to continue to be vigilant in watching this project," Lyana Monterrey said after the meeting. Monterrey is a member of the Pittsburg Defense Council, which along with several environmental groups is fighting the project over concerns about air quality, environmental issues and safety concerns involving the transportation of crude oil by rail.
Representatives from Irvine-based WesPac could not be reached for comment, but have in the past said the project will be safe and include mitigation to address safety and environmental concerns.
Supporters say the project will bring jobs and revenues to the city, make use of a vacant industrial parcel, and help refineries meet their future needs at a time when oil production in California is declining and existing storage is near-capacity.
The $200 million WesPac project would unload an estimated 88 million barrels of domestic and imported crude oil and partially refined crude oil annually that would be delivered by trains and ships to a storage facility on the western edge of town near homes, schools, churches and the Pittsburg Marina.
Sixteen empty storage tanks that once stored fuel oil used to power a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. plant more than three decades ago would be replaced, repaired or retrofitted to store crude oil, which would be shipped by mostly underground pipelines to local refineries that ring the bay.
The first phase calls for building a component to unload domestic crude oil from North Dakota, Colorado, west Texas, and New Mexico that would be shipped in by 100 rail cars five days a week at an existing rail yard next to North Parkside Drive. The second phase calls for upgrading the marine terminal and remaining storage tanks on a 125-acre parcel next to what is now the NRG power plant.
Reach Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189.