All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Refinery to Refinery, Martinez to Benicia – a Healing Walk

Repost from Sunflower Alliance & Idle No More – Download: Media Advisory – All about the Benicia-Martinez Walk on May 17
[Editor – EVERYONE in the Bay Area is invited!  It will be fun, inspiring, colorful and an important contribution to our visionary opposition to Crude By Rail.  Details follow.  Please come!  – RS]

National Day of Action Coming to Martinez and Benicia on May 17th. Local citizens conduct refinery corridor healing walk.

May 6, 2014

Contact: Pennie Opal Plant, Refinery Corridor Healing Walks (510) 390-0386

National Day of Action Coming to Martinez and Benicia on May 17th

Local citizens conduct refinery corridor healing walk and say
“It’s time to transition to clean energy – No Keystone XL pipeline”

WHAT: The second in a series of four Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks along the Northeast San Francisco Bay focussing on the Keystone XL pipeline,  issues related to living near refineries and a just transition to clean energy. This walk is  in conjunction with the May 17 Day of Action against Dirty Fuels to ask the president and local officials to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and other dirty fuel projects that threaten our communities and destabilize our climate. The Refinery Corridor Healing Walk will be one of hundreds of synchronized events with Hands Across the Sand/Land and other partners to raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fuels and the need to speed the transition to available, affordable clean energy solutions.

The upcoming National Day of Action is another manifestation of a growing movement demanding that our leaders act quickly and boldly to address climate change. It comes in the wake of the Department of State’s recent announcement that it was extending its review of the pipeline, and the Reject & Protect encampment in Washington, DC which dramatically highlighted the opposition of farmers, ranchers and Native Americans who would be directly impacted by the pipeline, In early March, Keystone activists presented the Administration with over 2.5 million comments opposing the pipeline.

WHO: Citizens from Martinez, Benicia and the Bay Area will be joined by members of the Sierra Club, Martinez Environmental Group, Stop Crude by Rail, CRUDE, Sunflower Alliance, APEN, Communities for a Better Environment, The Global Monitor, CREDO action, Greenpeace,, the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations. Residents from Martinez and Benicia will be speaking at the morning and afternoon rallies.

WHEN:   Saturday, May 17th – 8:15 a.m. Prayer for water, 9:00 a.m. Rally. Walkers will finish at 9th Street Park in Benicia

WHERE: Beginning at Martinez Waterfront Park and ending at the 9th Street Park in Benicia

***VISUALS WILL INCLUDE BANNERS, FLAGS, – See attached photos of Refinery Healing Walk #1 on April 12th attached


More information at:

    Firefighters get specialized training to fight crude oil tank car fires

    Repost from The Albany Times Union [Editor: We can expect that this kind of training is being initiated all across North America, given the proliferation of derailments and explosions.  Has the Benicia Fire Department sought training?  Other Bay Area fire departments?  How about a regional training event?  – RS]

    Firefighters train as crude oil surges through Albany port

    Controlled blaze gives firefighters practice for a real oil event at port
    By Brian Nearing  |  May 8, 2014
    An instructor, right, leads firefighter trainees during a live fire training drill on best practices for the suppression of ignitable liquids such as crude oil in the event of a flammable liquid emergency at the Port of Albany Wednesday May 7, 2014, in Albany, NY.  (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Photo: John Carl D'Annibale / 00026798AAn instructor, right, leads firefighter trainees during a live fire training drill on best practices for the suppression of ignitable liquids such as crude oil in the event of a flammable liquid emergency at the Port of Albany Wednesday May 7, 2014, in Albany, NY. (John Carl D’Annibale / Times Union)

    To practice fighting towering flames that could erupt should crude oil-laden trains ever derail and explode, firefighters in the Port of Albany on Wednesday practiced on controlled blazes created on something not unlike a giant barbecue grill.

    In a parking lot off South Pearl Street, about two dozen firefighters spent several hours dragging hoses to spray special foam on fires fueled by propane lines from a tank truck parked nearby, and that burned both in vapors bubbling in a water-filled pan on the ground and from a valve atop an adapted tractor-trailer.

    Flames would shoot up, teams of firefighters would creep up to spray foam, flames would be extinguished and then the next team would repeat the exercise.

    The state Division of Homeland Security ran the two-day drill, which is part of routine training done statewide for local fire departments and companies with their own firefighting crews, said James Cable, chief of the division’s Special Operations Branch.

    Later Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring all railroads operating trains hauling large loads of highly flammable Bakken crude oil — like those into Albany’s port — to notify state emergency response officials about routes and operation of rail traffic through their states.

    The rule requires rail companies that have trains containing more than one million gallons of North Dakota Bakken crude — equivalent to about 35 tanker cars — to notify state officials on the routes of those trains.

    Also the rules asks oil shippers to phase out use of the oldest, least-safe tankers, known as DOT-111s, as soon as is practical, without setting any deadline.

    Applauded by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer, who last week called for such notification, and Kirsten Gillibrand, the federal announcement came after the local safety drill was finished. Before the drill, Albany Deputy Fire Chief Frank Nerney Jr. called the drill “an extension of our regular training to understand the use of foams to fight flammable liquids. We take part in this drill twice a year.”

    Nerney said training has focused on crews at the South End firehouse, which is closest to the Port of Albany, where trains carrying Bakken crude oil are arriving daily. Crude shipments have skyrocketed in the last two years. Derailments and massive fires in Virginia, North Dakota, Alabama and Quebec in the last year have raised mounting safety concerns.

    In some of the infernos, flames were up to 200 feet high. Wednesday’s flames were much smaller, appearing to shoot five feet from the water-filled pan and 20 or 30 feet from the tractor trailer. Crews wearing protective clothing were able to walk within a few feet of the flames, which were still hot enough to be felt by reporters standing back about 40 yards.

    New recruits from the Albany department, as well as its five battalion chiefs, took part in the drill, as well as members from fire departments from Schuyler Heights, Maplewood and Schenectady and the SABIC chemical plant in Glenmont.

    Cable said the principles of the propane-based training system apply to crude oil fires or other “ignitable liquids.” The chemical foam is mixed with water under pressure, and the foam is sprayed over a fire. It acts like a blanket, sealing off the surface of the burning liquid from air, which extinguishes the blaze. The foam is consumed gradually by fire, and so must be applied enough to create a barrier; otherwise, gaps will allow air to continue to feed the blaze.

    The state has run the training course for local departments for three years, said Cable. “We are looking to increase this training, as more communities are asking for it.”

      Latest derailment: Estevan, Saskatchewan – no explosion

      Repost from The Estevan Mercury
      [Editor: Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada is located approximately 10 miles north of the Canada–North Dakota border.  – RS]

      Train derailment in Estevan

      May 8, 2014  |  by Chad Saxon

      Estevan, Saskatchewan derailment smAlthough few details are known at this point, the City of Estevan says there is no danger to the public following a train derailment this morning.

      Four tanker cars containing crude oil left the track at around 11 a.m. The incident occurred east of the CP Rail oil transloading facility and just north of the Devonian industrial subdivision.

      During a media update at City Hall, Emergency Measures Coordinator Helen Fornwald confirmed the tankers were loaded and that were “no fires or leaks at this time.”

      Fornwald said Transport Canada is en route to Estevan and will be conducting an investigation into the derailment.

      The City is asking that the public stay away from the scene and allow emergency services and CP Rail clear access.

      A cause for the derailment is not known at this time. It occurred on a low speed section of track and was not directly at the transloading facility which has been a source of concern and controversy since it opened in late 2011.

      Fornwald added two businesses adjacent to the tracks were evacuated immediately after the derailment while Fire Rescue Services and CP personnel assessed the scene.

      “Estevan Fire Services went on the scene and determined the priority level and once it was identified there were no leaks it was downgraded to let’s get this situation under control,” Fornwald said. “We put our EMO team on standby.”

      This is the first derailment in Estevan since 2004. In that case, rail cars containing ammonia derailed and forced an evacuation of homes in the immediate area.