OAKLAND, Calif. November 30, 2020 — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced it will withdraw plans to dredge a 13-mile stretch of San Francisco Bay and adjacent waters in a project that would have allowed larger oil tankers to access local oil refineries.
“Good riddance to this boondoggle of a project, which would have wreaked havoc on wildlife and public health,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Using taxpayer money to dig a 13-mile ditch through San Francisco Bay to help oil companies refine more tar sands oil was a terrible idea, and local groups weren’t fooled. Now Gov. Newsom needs to take the next step and phase out these dangerous refineries so communities don’t have to breathe their pollution.”
The plan was originally proposed to allow larger vessels to ship oil to Bay Area refineries. The proposal coincided with refineries’ plans to process more Canadian tar sands oil once the Trans Mountain pipeline was completed. The dredging project would have also allowed the Port of Stockton to export more coal to Asia.
With the cancellation, the Bay Area avoids a host of environmental harms. The dredging activity would have harmed water quality and fish in the Bay. Larger vessels traveling at higher speeds as they transit to the navigation channel would have posed a greater risk of harm to endangered whales and other marine mammals from ship strikes and noise disruption. And processing dirtier oil at refineries would have increased air pollution for nearby communities.
“Communities near these dirty refineries can breathe a little easier knowing larger oil tankers will not be delivering huge tar sands shipments to their doorstep,” said Kretzmann. “The writing is on the wall for fossil fuel companies. The refineries are already laying off workers. We need a just transition to make sure we responsibly phase out fossil fuels and move to a cleaner future.”
The Army Corps explained that it withdrew the plan after no local agencies were willing to share the costs. The Port of Stockton and Contra Costa County were among those local agencies that declined to partner with the Army Corps on the project, after advocacy groups raised alarms about the dangers.
The Army Corps also failed to certify an environmental impact study after the Center and local community groups criticized the draft study’s inadequate analysis of environmental harm.