BENICIA -- The Valero Community Advisory Panel will host a community meeting Monday to discuss Valero's controversial crude-by-rail project.

According to Valero Benicia refinery officials, the meeting's purpose is to inform the community, especially Benicia residents, about what Valero believes is the importance of the project, both to the refinery and the city.

It will be held from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. at Ironworkers Union Local 378, 3120 Bayshore Road. Because of limited space, RSVPs are required by calling 707-654-9745 or via email to info@beniciacbr.com. For more information, visit www.beniciacbr.com.

The panel consists of Valero officials and members of the City Council, school board, business community and community at large. It was established by an agreement executed in 2000 between the city and Valero to provide an ongoing means of communication about issues of mutual concern.

The subject of the meeting will be Valero's proposed rail off-loading facility that would allow the refinery to receive up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil per day by train. The project's draft environmental impact report is due out next month.

Project critics have raised concerns about rail safety and the possible use of highly flammable Bakken crude from North Dakota. Critics also have raised concerns about the possible use of Canadian tar sands oil, regarded as more polluting than other crudes.


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An opposition group, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, have organized events and launched a website -- www.safebenicia.org -- to give voice to these concerns.

Valero officials, however, have repeatedly said the project wouldn't increase emissions. They argue it would generate jobs and help the refinery stay competitive through better access to North American crude stocks.