FOX40 News: Crude Oil Rail Meeting Sparks Questions in Fairfield

Repost from FOX40 NEWS Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto
[Editor – The 2 minute video is MUCH better than the online text below.  Two excellent on camera comments by Antonia Juhasz.  Significant closing statement by Fox40 reporter Ben Deci, “The process in Benicia is moving along pretty quickly.  Valero says it expects to be in front of that [Benicia] City Council before the end of the year.”   (…apologies for the video advertisement.)  – RS]

Crude Oil Rail Meeting Sparks Questions in Fairfield

September 29, 2014, by Ben Deci

FAIRFIELD – Oil is coming out of Middle America and needs to get to refineries somehow. Lots more of it, orders of magnitude more, is moving by rail.

But that means more accidents.

“In 2013 alone, we had more crude oil spills by rail than in every year since 1975 combined — 1.1 million gallons. But thus far in 2014 we’ve already surpassed that,” said Antonia Juhasz, an author and investigative reporter sitting on a panel about oil transport through Solano County.

If Valero gets plans approved for a new refinery complex in Benicia, a lot more oil will be loaded on trains, coming this way.

“Our business is dealing with flammable liquids. We deal with it every day. I’m confident in our preparations,” said Chris Howe, with Valero in Benicia.

For those gathered at today meeting in Solano county who don’t want the crude rolling through their backyards, it’s not clear how much choice they have.

“Freight railroads in the United States are actually required to accept any commodity that is delivered to us by our customers, so long as it’s packaged according to U.S. Department of Transportation regulations,” said Liisa Stark, spokesperson for Union Pacific.

The federal government right now is considering stricter standards for the kinds of train cars the crude can be transported in.

But can the wheels of government keep pace with the wheels on the rail?

“It must. If it’s not going to happen at the federal level, it has to happen at the state level. If it’s not going to happen at the state level it has to happen at the community level. There are communities all across the country that are banning crude by rail,” Juhasz said.

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KGO 810 Radio: Benicia Community Groups Oppose Oil-by-Rail Plan on Safety Grounds

Repost from KGO 810 Radio, The Bay Area’s News & Information Station
[Editor: the online text below has some misquotes.  The video is MUCH better.  Good interview comments by Andrés Soto of Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community.  – RS

Benicia Community Groups Oppose Oil-by-Rail Plan on Safety Grounds

Railroad tracks (morguefile)

BENICIA (KGO) – The issue of rail safety is front-and-center in Solano County as officials consider a plan to allow oil-carrying trains to pass through the region.

The controversy surrounds a proposal by the Valero’s Benicia refinery. Refinery officials want to begin transporting crude oil to the city via railroad tanker car. The refinery currently receives crude by ship.

“We believe that it presents a clear and present danger to both the physical and economic futures[s] of the city,” says Andre Soto, a member of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, one of several groups opposing the endeavor.

“Crude by rail, as delivered by the railroad companies right now, has a terrible record of catastrophic explosions, mostly due to derailment,” says Soto.

Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert is hosting community meetings to discuss preparedness and response.

“The chances are [oil] is going to come through in greater quantities than [it] has in the past. Regulatory and schemes and ensuring that the public is safe is absolutely essential,” she says.

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Oregon & California Senators ask for more oil train notifications

Repost from The Seattle Times
[Editor: Significant quote: “The four senators are…asking Foxx to lower the threshold for reporting to no higher than 20 carloads. They say most of the accidents with the exception of the Lac-Magentic disaster were caused by smaller and non-Bakken shipments and resulted in explosions, fires or environmental contamination. In one case, the train carried 14 carloads of flammable liquids; in another, 18 carloads.”  – RS]

Senators ask for more oil train notifications

By Gosia Wozniacka, Associated Press, September 30, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. — Four West Coast senators are asking the federal government to expand a recent order for railroads to notify state emergency responders of crude oil shipments.

The letter, sent Monday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, says railroads should supply states with advanced notification of all high-hazard flammable liquid transports — including crude from outside the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, as well as ethanol and 71 other liquids.

The letter was signed by Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

In May, Foxx ordered railroads operating trains containing more than 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil — or about 35 tank cars — to inform states that the trains traverse. The order came in the wake of repeated oil train derailments, including in Lac-Magentic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed.

The West Coast has received unprecedented amounts of crude oil by rail shipments in recent years. More than a dozen oil-by-rail refining or loading facilities and terminals have been built in California, Oregon and Washington, with another two dozen new projects or expansions in the works in the three states.

But according to the California Energy Commission, oil from the Bakken region accounted just for a fourth of crude-by-rail deliveries to California since 2012. Canadian oil — which travels to California through Washington and Oregon, as well as through Idaho and Montana — accounted for as much as 76 percent of California oil deliveries, the senators wrote.

Non-Bakken oil is also delivered to refineries and loading facilities in Oregon and Washington — including a terminal in Portland. A controversial proposed terminal in Vancouver, Washington, would also receive some non-Bakken crude.

Wyden and Merkley in June similarly urged Foxx to expand his order to cover crude from all parts of the U.S. and Canada. Transportation Safety Board Chairman Chris Hart wrote the two senators that month saying all crude shipments are flammable and a risk to communities and the environment — not just the Bakken oil.

The four senators are now repeating the same demand and are also asking Foxx to lower the threshold for reporting to no higher than 20 carloads. They say most of the accidents with the exception of the Lac-Magentic disaster were caused by smaller and non-Bakken shipments and resulted in explosions, fires or environmental contamination. In one case, the train carried 14 carloads of flammable liquids; in another, 18 carloads.

The Association of American Railroads has said the rail industry is complying with Foxx’s original order and the group would have to see the specifics of any proposed changes before commenting further.

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