Senators question railroads on oil train braking systems

Repost from Transportation Today
[Editor: I challenge Senators Feinstein and Harris (and Attorney General Becerra) to follow the lead of Senators Wyden and Merkley.  These “positive train control” braking systems, or “electronically controlled pneumatic” (ECP) braking systems – were supposed to be in place nationwide long ago, but every time a deadline approached, the railroad lobby won a delay.  Now they have Trump on their side.  Some background in this 2015 CNN report, “Amtrak derailment: Could technology have prevented crash?”.  – R.S.]

Lawmakers launch railway safety standards inquiry

BY DOUGLAS CLARK, OCTOBER 19, 2018

Union Pacific

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are seeking answers from two railway company’s regarding plans to ensure trains carrying hazardous material have updated braking systems.

To do so, the Oregon senators recently forwarded correspondence to Union Pacific and BNSF in the wake of the Trump Administration’s announcement to roll back an Obama-era rule requiring the installation of electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems by 2021. The legislators noted that the guideline was instituted after multiple oil train crashes across the United States, including one in the Columbia River Gorge.

“Too often our constituents in the Pacific Northwest have seen trains carrying crude oil crashing within and around their communities,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “We have seen these trains crash near school buildings, small businesses, and homes, causing extensive damage to communities and putting our environment at risk, including sources of drinking water as well as river habitats that house endangered fish species.”

In their letter, the lawmakers inquired about how many of the railway companies’ trains carrying crude oil in Oregon and Washington have ECP brakes installed; the percentage of trains carrying crude oil through Oregon and Washington have ECP brakes; and whether the rule rollback impact purchasing of new railcars with ECP brakes.

The legislators maintain their constituents should be afforded security from potential railway transport dangers.

“Our constituents, many of whom live, work or go to school in the vicinity of rail lines that carry hazardous materials, need to know that their safety is being protected,” the legislators wrote.

    UPDATE: Anti-Birdseye PAC gets more money

    By Roger Straw, October 18, 2018

    The Benicia City Clerk notified City Council members and candidates yesterday that additional campaign finance reports were received from the Pro-Strawbridge-Largaespada/Anti-Birdseye PAC. [Editor: You will notice that I am purposely avoiding use of the politically loaded and false title the PAC has chosen for itself, Wkg Fmls…]

    Two NEW Contribution Forms 497 were filed, and one NEW Expenditure Form 496 was received from the PAC on Wednesday.

    In addition, since last reported here on October 13, a few new reports and corrective AMENDED reports were filed.  These new filings are not clearly labeled by the City of Benicia.  All are simply listed by number on the City website without much guidance for voters.  I’ll try to sort it out below, with new totals.

    But meanwhile, be alert!  In summary, the PAC is absolutely LOADED for more big campaign expenditures during these final weeks before election day.  TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS OF $154,200 MINUS EXPENDITURES TO DATE OF $25,836.06: $128,363.94.

    CONTRIBUTIONS UPDATE (Oct. 18)

    EXPENDITURES UPDATE (Oct. 18)

    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_1.pdf
      PRO-STRAWBRIDGE: Winning Connections calls $5,166.67 on 10/10; Valero Use of Poll $4,733.34 on 10/10
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_2.pdf
      PRO-LARGAESPADA: Winning Connections calls $5,166.67 on 10/10; Valero Use of Poll $4,733.34 on 10/10
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_3.pdf
      ANTI-BIRDSEYE: Winning Connections calls $5,166.67 on 10/10; Valero Use of Poll $4,733.34 on 10/10
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_4.pdf
      ANTI-BIRDSEYE: Digital Turf media buy $4,689 on 10/11 (cumulative to date $16,589); Digital Turf ad production $2,000 on 10/11 (cumulative to date $16,589)
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_5.pdf
      PRO-STRAWBRIDGE: Digital Turf media buy $4,689 on 10/13 (cumulative to date $16,589); Digital Turf ad production $2,000 on 10/13 (cumulative to date $16,589)
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_6.pdf
      PRO-LARGAESPADA: Digital Turf media buy $4,689 on 10/13 (cumulative to date $16,589); Digital Turf ad production $2,000 on 10/13 (cumulative to date $16,589)
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_7.pdf
      AMENDMENT TO 496-1 PRO-STRAWBRIDGE Winning Connection calls $5,413.73 (not $5,166.67) and (cumulative to date $16,836.07); Heat & Frost contribution of $20,000 (not $30,000) on 10/16
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_8.pdf
      AMENDMENT TO 496-2 PRO-LARGAESPADA: Winning Connections calls $5,413.73 (not $5,166.67) and (cumulative to date $16,836.07) on 10/16
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_9.pdf
      AMENDMENT TO 496-3 ANTI-BIRDSEYE: Winning Connections calls $5,413.73 (not $5,166.67) and (cumulative to date $16,836.07) on 10/16
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_10.pdf
      AMENDMENT TO 496-4 ANTI-BIRDSEYE: Digital Turf media buy and ad production (and cumulative to date $16,836) on 10/15
    • Anti-Birdseye_PAC_Form_496_11.pdf
      NEW EXPENDITURE PRO-LARGAESPADA: Winning Connection calls $9,000 (cumulative to date $25,836.06) on 10/16
      TOTAL EXPENDITURES TO DATE: $25,836.06

      Lingering questions regarding Anti-Birdseye PAC money

      By Roger Straw, October 18, 2018

      The Benicia City Attorney and City Clerk were not helpful in clarifying certain questions regarding funds collected and spent by the Anti-Birdseye political action committee (PAC) as of October 13.

      In my last report of October 13, I was able to post links to the City of Benicia website showing the Anti-Birdseye PAC’s first Contribution Report (Form 497-1), totaling $74,200.  Strangely, I was able to report an additional $30,000 contribution which showed up in an Expenditure Report (Form 496-4).  So I reported total receipts of $74,200 + $30,000, or $104,200.

      Also in my Oct 13 report, I was able to post links to the City of Benicia website showing details from the four Anti-Birdseye PAC Expenditure forms. Form 496-1 reported $9,900 spent for phone calls on behalf of candidate Strawbridge; Form 496-2 showed $9,900 spent for phone calls on behalf of candidate Largaespada; and Form 496-3 showed $9,900 spent for phone calls to oppose candidate Kari Birdseye.  An additional Form 496-4 showed $6,689 for negative digital advertising to smear candidate Birdseye

      These expenditure reports confused me, so I wrote to our Benicia City Attorney and City Clerk asking for clarification, “On 496 Expenditure forms #1, #2 and #3, the exact same amounts are listed, $5,166.66 and $4,733.34.  Does this mean that a total of $9,900 was spent THREE times, for a grand total of $29,700?  Or are all three forms reporting the same dollars for a total of only $9,900?”

      The City could not, or would not take time to help.  City Attorney Heather McLaughlin replied, “Your questions are more properly addressed to the FPPC.  The city doesn’t get into substantively analyzing the reports.”

      Left to my own conclusions, I’d guess that a total of $9,900 had been spent on phone calls as of Oct. 13, and was simply reported three times on the separate forms to show the PAC’s intent to support CS & LL and to oppose Kari Birdseye.  The additional $6,689 on video smears against Birdseye brings the total spent as of Oct. 13 to $16,589, leaving $87,611 in the PAC’s account for future campaign efforts.

        For safe and healthy communities…