James River threatened; some will need alternate water sources

Repost from CBS6 WTVR Richmond Central Virginia

City, Chesterfield consider new water sources after crude oil spill from train derailment

by Scott Wise and Alix Bryan  |  April 30, 2014
Lynchburg fire (PHOTO: WDBJ7.com)Lynchburg fire (PHOTO: WDBJ7.com)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WTVR) – The Lynchburg Department of Emergency Services has responded to reports of a train derailment and fire in area of Depot Grille.

The trains were carrying crude oil, according to WDBJ. The CSX train was carrying between 12 and 14 CSX tanker cars when it derailed around 1:45 p.m., according to WDBJ, who said on-air that around three or four trains breached.

There is no report yet why the trains derailed.

CSX officials worked to remove the portion of the train that is blocking workers from leaving Griffin Pipe Foundry located in the lower basin. Police urged people to avoid the downtown area. Some residents are being evacuated to the E.C. Glass High School.

The Depot Grille is located at 10 Ninth Street in Lynchburg. The location of the train derailment runs along the James River. There is no word yet exactly how much spilled into the James, or how long that could take to reach Richmond.

According to a Lynchburg city official who has been at the command post, crude oil is slowly leaking into the James River, affiliate WDBJ reported. Intake stations downstream have been notified. A boom in the river is trying to catch the crude oil.

Richmond will consider using an alternate water source due to the train derailment.The Department of Utilities will hold a press conference at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the city may tap the old Kanawha Canal system at Tuckahoe Creek.

Henrico is not switching from the James River, said William Mawyer, Assistant Director for Henrico Public Utilities. He said that intakes are well below the surface of where crude oil resides. He said that they would inform residents of any changes to the water supply.

Chesterfield gets water from the city, Swift Creek Reservoir and Lake Chesdin. They are isolating and shutting down the lines that come from Richmond and will service the entire county using water from the other two sources. Once the city switches and determines that the water from the alternative source is safe they will open the lines from the city, said Chesterfield’s Public Utilities department, Roy Covington.

He also said that their main priority was to provide safe drinking water for the citizens of Chesterfield County.

No injuries have been reported.

Governor Terry McAuliffe issued the following statement: “This afternoon my Public Safety team informed me of the train derailment and fire in Lynchburg. Immediately after those reports were received the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia State Police, and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs were instructed to coordinate with local responders and mobilize the resources necessary to respond to this incident.

“Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Adam Thiel has been dispatched to the scene and will provide my team and me with constant updates as this situation unfolds. I have also spoken with Lynchburg Mayor Michael Gillette and offered him any and all resources he needs to respond to this incident and keep Virginians safe.”


    Latest derailment, explosion: Lynchburg, Virginia

    Repost from Reuters

    CSX train carrying oil derails in Virginia, bursts into flames

     By Selam Gebrekidan | NEW YORK Wed Apr 30, 2014
    Flames and a large plume of black smoke are shown after a train derailment in this handout photo provided by the City of Lynchburg, Virginia April 30, 2014. REUTERS/City of Lynchburg, Virginia/Handout via ReutersFlames and a large plume of black smoke are shown after a train derailment in this handout photo provided by the City of Lynchburg, Virginia April 30, 2014.

    Credit: Reuters/City of Lynchburg, Virginia/Handout via Reuters

    (Reuters) – A CSX Corp train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia on Wednesday, spilling oil into the James River and forcing hundreds to evacuate.

    In its second oil-train accident this year, CSX said 15 cars on a train traveling from Chicago to Virginia derailed at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Photos and video showed high flames and a large plume of black smoke. Officials said there were no injuries, but 300-350 people were evacuated in a half-mile radius.

    City officials instructed motorists and pedestrians to stay away from downtown, while firefighters battled the blaze. Three railcars were still on fire as of 4 p.m., CSX said.

    The fiery derailment a short distance from office buildings in the city of 77,000 was sure to bring more calls from environmentalists and activists for stricter regulations of the burgeoning business of shipping crude oil by rail.

    JoAnn Martin, the city’s director of communications, said three or four tank cars were leaking, and burning oil was spilling into the river, which runs to Chesapeake Bay. She said firefighters were trying to contain the spill and would probably let the fire burn itself out.

    Attorney John Francisco at the firm of Edmunds & Williams, told local TV station WSET 13 he heard a loud noise that sounded like a tornado and then watched as several cars derailed. He said flames streaked as high as the 19th floor of his office building in Lynchburg, the commercial hub of central Virginia.

    “The smoke and fire were on a long stretch of the train tracks. The smaller fires died down pretty quickly. You could feel the heat from the fire,” Randy Taylor, who was working downtown when the train derailed, told the station.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation said it was sending Federal Railroad Administration inspectors to the scene.

    There was no immediate information about the origin of the cargo or the train’s final destination. One of the only oil facilities to the east of Lynchburg is a converted refinery in Yorktown, now a storage depot run by Plains All American. The company did not immediately reply to queries.

    It was not clear what had caused the accident or triggered the fire. CSX said it was “responding fully” to the derailment with emergency personnel, safety and environmental experts.

    Central Lynchburg General Hospital had not had any injured people brought in from the train derailment, spokeswoman Diane Riley said.


    Several trains carrying crude have derailed over the past year. Last July, a runaway train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, derailed and exploded, killing 47 people. Another CSX train carrying crude oil derailed in Philadelphia in January, nearly toppling over a bridge.

    With more trains hauling crude and flammable liquids across North America, U.S. regulators are expected soon to propose new rules for more robust tank cars to replace older models; Canadian authorities did so last week.

    “With this event, regulators could try to expedite the process, and they’ll likely err on the side of the more costly safety requirements in order to reduce the risk of these accidents in the future,” said Michael Cohen, vice president for research at Barclays in New York.

    Tougher rules could drive up costs for firms that lease tank cars and ship oil from the remote Bakken shale of North Dakota, which relies heavily on trains. It could also boost business for companies that manufacture new cars, such as Greenbrier Companies and Trinity Industries.

    Oil trains rolling across the country, often a mile long, have sparked concern in local communities, particularly in New York and the Pacific Northwest. Derailments have occurred in places as far removed as Alberta and Quebec in Canada, and North Dakota and Alabama in the United States.

    In Virginia, environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have opposed expansion of crude-by-rail shipments through the region to the Yorktown terminal, which can handle 140,000 barrels per day. CSX’s route through populated areas like Lynchburg and the proximity to the James River have been mentioned as special concerns.

    “Whenever oil is handled around water, a percentage of it gets into the water. This derailment is of major concern to us,” said William Baker, President Chesapeake Bay Foundation. City officials said there was no impact on drinking water.

    CSX has been positioning itself to deliver more crude to East Coast refineries and terminals. In January, Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward told analysts the company planned to boost crude-by-rail shipments by 50 percent this year.

    At the time, Ward said that Jacksonville, Florida-based railroad was working with U.S. regulators to address safety concerns in light of recent derailments and fires.

    (Reporting by Selam Gebrekidan, Joshua Schneyer, Anna Driver, Patrick Rucker, Josephine Mason, Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)


      Increasing Canadian Opposition To Big Oil Pipelines

      Repost from HuffPost Alberta

      What’s Behind The Rising Opposition To Canada’s Big Oil Pipelines

      CBC | Posted: 04/29/2014

      High-stakes oil pipeline projects have taken a public lashing lately, whether in a plebiscite in British Columbia, more protests in Washington, D.C., or from a former U.S. president and several Nobel laureates coming out strongly against billion-dollar plans to move the diluted  bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to international markets.

      The anti-pipeline pressure has been mounting for a while, but observers say that the ramped-up opposition to the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL proposals is no coincidence.

      Rather, the turmoil is a result of a confluence of issues ranging from deep-seated environmentalism and concern about climate change to the aggressive tactics of energy companies and governments that want to see the pipes in the ground sooner than later.

      Toss in some politics — midterm elections in the U.S. this fall, and anticipation of the federal decision on Enbridge’s $5.5-billion Northern Gateway project within a few weeks — and conditions have become ripe for ever more public push-back.

      “I certainly don’t see any chance of the opposition receding,” says Michael Byers, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia who holds a Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law.

      On the West Coast, in particular, he says, the roots of protest run deep.

      In the psyche

      “People in the rest of Canada need to understand the environmental movement was born in British Columbia, and it has a deep history here and is very wide-reaching,” says Byers.

      “It’s almost part of the collective psyche here on the West Coast and that’s something that Enbridge clearly did not understand, and that the Harper government at least for its first four or five years did not understand.

      “And when you add that to the unextinguished aboriginal rights, and the lack of appropriate consultation that took place, you have almost a perfect storm for opposition to pipelines.”

      In Kitimat, B.C., the coastal community that would serve as the endpoint of Northern Gateway, and the place where supertankers would fill up with Alberta bitumen, residents recently voted “No” to the project.

      The plebiscite isn’t binding on anyone, but it sent a signal, and left Enbridge with another reminder it might have done things differently in the early days of the project.

      “Something we’ve certainly learned is that we definitely needed an earlier, stronger presence on the ground,” says John Carruthers, president of Northern Gateway Pipelines.

      “We have had an office in Kitimat since 2008, but I think the key is you have to be there early and you have to be there often to work with people and build trust and provide information about what we are doing to address the concerns.”

      Changing the route

      Carruthers says the company has won support in instances where it has sat down, talked with people and come up with solutions for particular issues such as river crossings.

      “We made a number of changes to the route based on public input.”

      Responding to concerns from aboriginal groups, Enbridge revised 24 crossings, including for the Pembina, Athabasca, Smoky and Murray rivers, according to the joint panel review for the project.

      Carruthers says that between 2009 and 2013, there were “tens of thousands of exchanges with stakeholders through face-to-face meetings, coffee chats, presentations, public forums, technical meetings, community meetings, Community Advisory Boards, blogs, social media sites, receptions, community investment events, emails, telephone calls, letters, advertisements and website postings.”

      Enbridge’s approach to working with communities is an “evolving process,”  he says. “It doesn’t stop with the plebiscite. It doesn’t stop with the joint review panel recommendation, or even the decision by the federal government.

      “It’s ongoing, so there will be continued consultation, discussions, all the way through the process.”

      However, Byers says there was a lack of serious consultation by Enbridge with the coastal First Nations in the early going, and that “is a mistake that both Enbridge and the Harper government must rue to this day. Essentially that failure to take aboriginal rights seriously in those early years I think created a situation today where the project cannot proceed.”

      He sees “more sensitivity” being shown around discussions of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project to expand capacity of an existing pipeline running from Alberta through the Fraser Valley to Burnaby, B.C.

      “Kinder Morgan has made a significant public outreach effort. The Harper government has not weighed in with the same degree of passion and divisiveness that it did on Northern Gateway.”

      Another Exxon Valdez?

      As Byers sees it, the big issue of climate change figures prominently in this debate, particularly for environmentalists. “But for the person on the street, the concern is about a repeat of the Exxon Valdez.”

      “That oil spell happened just north of Kitimat on the southwestern coast of Alaska and people here look at the fact that oil continues to be found along the Alaskan coastline from that spill more than two decades later.”

      For his part, Byers sees some distinction between the kind of opposition that these pipeline projects in B.C. have garnered with that exerted on TransCanada’s $7.6-billion US Keystone XL project, which would pipe Alberta bitumen to the Texan Gulf Coast. “With Keystone XL, the debate is mostly about climate.”

      A presidential decision on Keystone XL has been delayed again, and won’t likely come until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections, which some are seeing as a win for its opponents.

      For environmental groups that want fossil fuel production to stop, “slowing down crude infrastructure is actually one of the politically easiest targets,” says James Coleman, an assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s faculty of law and Haskayne School of Business.

      Coleman sees a “dramatic” increase in the push-back against pipelines, something he attributes to several factors, including increased pressure for climate regulation, along with a desire for increased to “takeaway capacity” from Alberta because of the increased production there.

      Times change

      “People sometimes forget Keystone XL is just the second part. There was an original Keystone pipeline that was approved in the U.S. in 2008 and was defended by President [Barack] Obama’s administration,” says Coleman.

      “But the dramatic thing is that pipeline was approved with no consideration at all of the climate effects of increased oil production.”

      Now, a few years later, he notes, there’s a section of the U.S. environmental impact statement on Keystone XL devoted to the greenhouse gas output of increased oilsands production, and President Barack Obama says the key factor determining the project’s fate is whether it’s going to increase greenhouse gas emissions because of increased oilsands production.

      “It’s all about climate change. It’s not the pipe itself,” says Richard Dixon, executive director of  the centre for applied business research in energy and the environment at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

      “The issue is what’s going through the pipe,” he says, and how that has become a symbol of dealing with climate change.

      “It’s not about the amount of emissions. I mean, we’re one-10th of one per cent of world emissions. It’s negligible.”

      Finding the weak link

      Dixon says the opposition to pipelines has become more organized, and that more environmental groups are involved. Environmentalists have also identified the “weak link” energy companies have in their efforts to be sustainable: access to markets.

      “So they’ve focused on that and as they’ve gained more and more strength, they’re able to then focus on the issue of climate change.”

      That was the focus of a letter signed by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and a group of Nobel laureates who urged Obama to reject Keystone XL.

      The letter sent earlier this month says the president’s decision will either signal a “dangerous commitment” to the status quo, or “bold leadership” that will inspire millions counting on him to do the right thing for the climate.

      Dixon argues, though, that “if the goal of the environmentalists is to get us off oil, in fact, it’s doing the opposite,” as the public opposition is prompting energy companies to improve pipeline technology.

      “It will make sure that our pipelines are safe so that you can’t really complain about them. So that’s the irony of it — that it will improve pipeline technology. Quite an irony actually.”


        Latest derailment: Bainville, Montana

        Repost from The Missoulian

        Amtrak’s Empire Builder partially derails in NE Montana; 1 passenger injured

        April 29, 2014

        BAINVILLE — An Amtrak train carrying 117 passengers has resumed its journey after it partially derailed in northeastern Montana, causing minor injuries to one passenger.

        Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says two cars on the 13-car Empire Builder slipped off the tracks at a switch Monday afternoon near Bainville.

        The passenger train was headed west from Chicago to Portland and Seattle. Magliari says the injured passenger was treated at the scene, then taken to a nearby hospital and later released.

        The train remained upright and was moving again Monday evening after the damaged cars were uncoupled.

        A spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., which maintains the tracks, says seven trains have been delayed while repairs are made. BNSF spokesman Matt Jones says the repairs are expected to be completed overnight.