Elk Grove Soccer Stadium Proposed Near 24 Million Gal. Propane Storage Tanks, Suburban Propane Kept in Dark

October 28, 2016 |   When Mayor Gary Davis and members of the Elk Grove City Council voted to purchase 99-acres outside of the ci...

October 28, 2016 |  

When Mayor Gary Davis and members of the Elk Grove City Council voted to purchase 99-acres outside of the city-limits to help lure a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, along with several tournament soccer fields, the City launched a full-fledged media blitz.

Davis, the lead proponent of the $100-million project, along with former State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez who had been granted exclusive rights to promote the site, were featured in numerous news reports and helped to rev-up throngs of soccer families. Davis, Nunez and the entire City media machine notified almost everyone who would listen about their soccer field and stadium ambitions except for one critical neighbor who owned property a mere half-mile away - Suburban Propane, owner of the largest above-ground propane storage tanks in the nation-24 million gallons to be exact.

This revelation was provided to EGN by a citizen who felt that a future sports facility, and later modified to include possible County Fairgrounds near the tanks should have input from Suburban Propane.

In a December 4, 2015 letter, from Suburban attorney John R. Fletcher, of the Law Offices of John R. Fletcher told the citizen, "Despite our best efforts to get timely information about proposed projects in close proximity to our facility it was through your letter to Robert Terry [Suburban Propane Elk Grove Terminal Manager] that this latest project was brought to our attention. The City of Elk Grove, despite our proximity to the project, never provided us with any information."

The citizen's original letter to Suburban brought to their attention the City of Elk Grove's desire to annex the 99-acre parcel on Grant Line Road, almost directly across from Suburban Propane, through the sphere of influence process with the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). Once they became aware of the City of Elk Grove's SOI application, Fletcher submitted a letter to Sacramento LAFCo's executive director, Peter Brundage what, from their perspective, are were critical public safety issues.

That eight page letter, which was submitted before the announcement of the planned $400-million 12-story casino resort proposed by the Wilton Rancheria three-quarters of a mile away from the tanks (view letter to Brundage and Fletcher's thank you letter here) outlines the history of the facility, the targeting of the facility by domestic terrorists in the late 1990's, explosion studies, and their opposition to what they characterize as encroaching development and the risks to Elk Grove public safety.

Facility History 

In his letter to Brundage and the Sacramento LAFCo, Fletcher outlined a history of the storage tanks and rail terminal at this site since 1969.


The operation which transports liquid propane throughout North America, which handles up to 55 trucks and up to 8 rail tank cars a day and ships throughout North America, was selected because of its ideal freeway and rail access. At the time, Elk Grove was a small, mostly rural unincorporated area of Sacramento County with no high-density residential development within the tanks blast zone. Fletcher noted that in its 45-years of operation, there has never been an accident on the site and throughout its history, they have utilized state-of-the-art security. Regardless, Fletcher notes that the terminal was the target of a failed domestic terrorist attack in 1999.

Although the conspirators’ plans to bomb the facility were thwarted by the FBI, it did raise awareness of the site's potential as a terrorist target. The 1999 plot happened in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City domestic terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people.

In his letter, Fletcher noted that former Elk Grove Fire Department [now the Cosumnes Community Services District Fire Department] Chief "Meaker, and his successors continued to advise against dense development within a mile of the facility." He went on to say that Sacramento County [Board of Supervisors], before Elk Grove's 2000 incorporation, "rarely followed the advice of 'staff' or the leaders of the fire and police services and allowed such development to occur within the one-mile radius."

Prior to the City’s incorporation in 2000, the County had zoned the surrounding land for agriculture and industrial which appeared to be compatible with Suburban. When the city incorporated, they changed the zoning near the tanks to accommodate a mall, tract housing development, and related commercial.

The high-density residential developments that set the negative precedent, in Fletcher's view, were the approval of the Hampton Village subdivision along East Stockton Boulevard and the so-called Triangle Point Development, both within one mile of the Suburban Propane tanks.

Land use and blast studies

Fletcher noted that while the vision for the proposed development of the soccer stadium has been called "bold" by one land use attorney, he added that its proposed location less than a half-mile from the storage tanks is "flawed and misguided."

"With sixteen (16) soccer fields, a proposed stadium designed to seat nine thousand (9,000) spectators, and intentions to hold special events including the annual Sacramento County Fair, the large number of people in such close proximity to the state's only large liquefied propane terminal is not in Suburban's opinion, bold, it is flawed and misguided."

While Fletcher acknowledges "the vision and the scope of the project are fantastic for another site, for the proposed location, it is a mistake." As of the date of this letter, Fletcher says "there has been no mention of the propane facility in any consideration of the multi/park project for past projects that were further away from Suburban there was considerable attention paid to the facility."

One of the topics of controversy for development in the area surrounds the blast radius of the propane tanks. Fletcher acknowledges that depending on their position, various consultant studies on the affects of an explosion at the terminal have resulted in different findings,. However, an independent study by a consultant with no ties to any party had findings that aligned with studies commissioned by Suburban Propane.

For example, an August 2000 blast study commissioned by proponents of the Lent Ranch Mall, as the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove was then called, and performed by Quest Consultants, said the mall was safely outside a half-mile blast hazard area of the tanks.

Fletcher wrote that “Despite the fact that Quest was retained by a developer whose sole interest was in ensuring that the development proceed, the City of Elk Grove unilaterally rejected the reports of all other consultants, including one prepared by the Joint Task Force, paid for by the County of Sacramento, in an effort to support its Draft EIR on the General Plan.”

The letter also points out that several studies, two of which were conducted by the same firm, but commissioned by different entities, reached differing results. However, he noted a 1999 independent study commissioned by Sacramento County found “that worse case accident scenarios were sufficiently severe to call for a moratorium on all residential building and dense development within one (1) mile of Suburban Propane.”

Fletcher noted when the City hired the same consulting firm as the mall proponents, Quest, it was “a clear breach of the fiduciary duty it owes to the public.” Those studies, not surprisingly, said the mall would be outside the blast area.

In his closing, Fletcher noted that while the plant operators have an exemplary safety record, he notes “As a society we are certainly more aware today of continued threats to citizens and institutions from persons who wish to harm us. Today’s knowledge of such acts and events almost makes us feel like we were naïve in 1999 and 2001.

The leaders of the City of Elk Grove must seriously consider the inappropriateness of placing thousands of children downwind and next to a facility which has the potential for significant off-site consequences in the event of an untoward act.”

The environmental impact report being prepared for this project has been in the preparation stage for nearly 6 months now and it is unclear when, and if, a draft will be circulated for public review and comment. One city document (CIP status) states that the EIR won’t be completed until the end of next summer.

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