Martinez Environmental Group: Volatile crude by rail IS a concern

Repost from The Martinez Gazette, Letters

‘Volatile crude by rail IS a concern’

June 26, 2014

Dear Editor,

The front page headline of the June 14-15 edition of the Martinez News-Gazette read: “Crude by rail not a local threat, CAER director says.”   The article covered the recent City of Martinez Public Safety Committee, which convened to examine the Bakken crude by rail issue. The meeting was dominated by CAER director Tony Semenza, who is also principal of a consulting firm that serves a number of major local refineries.

Mr. Semenza was quoted “… there is one train, with up to 100 tanker cars, that originates in Stockton every 7-10 days and ends up at the Kinder Morgan facility in Richmond, traveling via the tracks that parallel Highway 4.” In other words, this train is going right through Martinez! It rolls over the (rusty) Alhambra trestle carrying 3,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude, the same oil that has been exploding all over North America and that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.  According to maps recently released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an explosion by an oil train on that track would threaten thousands of Martinez residents and endanger five schools located within the zone of impact.

Minimizing the issue by only focusing on the one present train ignores recent trends and projections for the near future. Only one train now. There were none this time last year.  Next year, if the refineries have their way, there very well could be a drastic increase of oil train traffic through our town. Nationally, crude oil train traffic is skyrocketing, from 9,500 carloads in U.S. in 2008 to 434,000 in 2013.  California crude-by-rail rose an incredible 506 percent just from 2012 to 2013, with a further 24-fold increase expected by 2016. Accidents have also increased across the country.

Just in the past 11 months, there have been nine major derailments of oil trains, involving explosions, evacuations and spills. These trains spilled over a million gallons of crude oil, more than spilled by railroads in the past 37 years combined. And with crude-by-rail projects pending all around Martinez in Benicia, Pittsburg, Rodeo and Santa Maria, we will  see more than just one train every 7-10 days. So, let’s not minimize the risk. Volatile crude by rail IS something we need to be concerned about here in Martinez.

The disappointing part of the Martinez Public Safety Committee meeting was the decision by Mike Menesini and Anamarie Avila Farias to not immediately elevate the issue to the full City Council, despite the current threat to our health and safety. If you live anywhere near the tracks, check out www.mrtenvgrp.com for more information, and write or call your city council to ask them to do something meaningful on this issue quickly. Other Bay Area cities have passed resolutions opposing the passage of crude by rail. Martinez needs to do the same.

Signed,

Martinez Environmental Group Members Aimee Durfee, Tom Griffith, Bill Nichols, Jim Neu, Kathy Petricca, Guy Cooper, Nancy Peacock, Karen & Arnie Wadler

Please share!

Canada Announces Rules for Transporting Dangerous Goods by Rail

Repost from The Wall Street Journal

New Measures Mandate Tank Cars That Carry Crude Oil to Be Built with Thicker Steel Walls

By David George-Cosh, June 27, 2014

TORONTO—Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced new rules Friday aimed at bolstering safety measures for transporting dangerous goods, such as crude oil, over the country’s railway networks.

The new measures include updating safety-reporting requirements for rail companies operating in Canada, mandating tank cars that carry volatile crude be built with thicker steel walls, and improving data-reporting requirements for railways.

Canadian and U.S. regulators have urged the rail industry to improve safety measures after several recent accidents involving trains carrying crude, including last year’s derailment of a crude-carrying train in rural Quebec in July, which killed 47 people.

“Our government is committed to railway safety and the safe movement of dangerous goods,” Ms. Raitt said in a statement. “The upcoming regulations will further strengthen safety in Canada’s already robust transportation system.”

A spokesman for Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.  said the company was reviewing the announcement and that it has a “strong” set of existing safety measures it discloses to the federal government.

Jim Feeny, a spokesman from Canadian National Railway Co. said that its position on safety disclosure “largely aligns” with the federal government’s proposals, but it was also reviewing the announced measures.

The new rules announced Friday will include amendments to legislation to require DOT-111 tank cars to abide by new standards such as thicker steel walls and better top protection to reduce spills in a derailment.

The ministry will also require the country’s short-line railroads to upgrade their safety-management disclosure by providing Transport Canada with the same reports on safety risks that the country’s major rails provide. The proposal affects 35 railways in Canada, Transport Canada said.

Transport Canada is also requesting that Canada-based railroads provide measurable data such as maintenance and repair records to the federal government that could better address safety risks before they occur.

Friday’s measures follow a series of steps Ms. Raitt announced in April to improve rail transport in response to recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada after its investigation of last year’s Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

The federal government also ordered older DOT-111 tank cars to be phased out or retrofitted in three years, and added a requirement that all crude oil shipments include emergency response plans.

It is unclear how many DOT-111 cars operate in Canada, but the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association says that there are 228,000 general-purpose tank cars in service in the U.S. known as DOT-111s.

The U.S. has adopted tougher classification standards for shipping crude-by-rail that but hasn’t curbed the use of older DOT-111 tank cars on the country’s tracks despite last year’s deadly accident in Quebec and more recently, a fiery derailment in Lynchberg, Va.

Please share!

Federal rail safety legislation proposed by NY Sen. Schumer

Repost from The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Schumer pushing new rail safety bill

June 28, 2014

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, announced Thursday he has co-sponsored a bill aimed at better coordinating federal resources to improve responses to railroad derailments, including those involving oil cars.

The bill, called the Railroad Emergency Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act of 2014, would establish a subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council to address the issue of railroad derailments and the resulting hazmat incidents, with a specific focus on crude oil transported down New York state railroads.

Schumer said the committee would be tasked with bringing together all of the relevant federal agencies, emergency responders, technical experts and the private sector for a review of training, resources, best practices and unmet needs related to emergency responders to railroad hazmat incidents. Schumer said if the bill is approved all flammable, hazardous materials that travel railways would be subject to review by subcommittee members, with a particular focus on train oil transport, as evidenced by the increased risk associated with derailments of cars that carry this crude oil.

… MORE

Please share!