All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Interview & photos: Marilaine Savard, from Lac-Mégantic, Quebec

17 minute interview of Marilaine Savard by Andrés Soto of KPFA Radio.  Dramatic photos.  Ms. Savard is the spokesperson for a citizens’ group in the region of Lac-Mégantic, Québec.  Last year, a string of exploding petroleum rail cars destroyed the center of the town and claimed 47 lives….

Ms. Savard’s visit with us here in the Bay Area was sponsored by:

In partnership with: Sierra Club, 350 Bay Area, Communities for a Better Environment, Richmond Progressive Alliance, ForestEthics, Pittsburg Defense Council, Pittsburg Ethics Council, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, and the Crockett-Rodeo-Hercules Working Group.

    NTSB: DOT-111 rail tanker cars “unacceptable public risk”

    Repost from Associated Press, on Huffington Post

    DOT-111 Rail Tank Cars Used To Ship Oil Called ‘Unacceptable’

    by JOAN LOWY,  Posted:
    Main Entry ImageA DOT-111 rail tanker travels through Council Bluffs, Iowa, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Rail tank cars being used to ship crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region are an “unacceptable public risk,” and even cars voluntarily upgraded by the industry may not be sufficient, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

    The cars, known as DOT-111s, were involved in derailments of oil trains in Casselton, N.D., and Lac-Megantic, Quebec, just across the U.S. border, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt told a House Transportation subcommittee hearing.

    Forty-seven people were killed and 30 buildings destroyed in the blaze ignited by the Lac-Megantic accident. The Casselton accident, which occurred half a mile outside the town, created a massive fire that burned for more than 24 hours.

    The NTSB has been urging replacing or retrofitting the tank cars since 1991, but the most recent federal effort to write tougher regulations for new cars didn’t get underway until 2011. An initial public comment period closed in December, and regulators are currently at work writing proposed new standards, Cynthia Quarterman, head of the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, told the panel. She said she expects her agency to propose new tank car standards before the end of this year, but refused to be pinned down under questioning by lawmakers on when those rules might become final.

    “Right now, there is so much uncertainty that people aren’t going to make investments in safer cars and they’re going to keep running these crummy cars and killing people,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., complained.

    Quarterman said she expected her staff to finish writing proposed rules “very soon.” All major regulations go to the White House before they are issued to ensure the safety benefits outweigh the cost to industry. It often takes months to years between when new rules are proposed and when they become final.

    Ed Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, said the industry has strongly urged the government to set new tank car standards.

    “We believe there needs to be a safer tank car,” he said.

    At least one major freight railroad has given up waiting. Last week, BNSF invited bids from manufacturers for 5,000 new tank cars made to new specifications that the company has developed. The aim is to make these latest tank cars safer than the voluntarily upgraded tank cars that the NTSB has questioned as possibly not safe enough.

    The NTSB has said vulnerabilities with the DOT-111s means they are easily ruptured during accidents, releasing crude oil or other hazardous liquids like ethanol that then ignites.

    U.S. crude oil production is forecast to reach 8.5 million barrels a day by the end of 2014, up from 5 million barrels a day in 2008. The increase is overwhelmingly due to the fracking boom in the Bakken region, which is mainly in North Dakota, but also extends into parts of Montana and Canada.

    U.S. freight railroads transported about 415,000 carloads of crude in 2013, up from just 9,500 in 2008, according to government and industry figures.

    The oil trains, some of which are 100 cars long, pass through or near scores of cities and towns.

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, called on the freight rail industry and the Transportation Department to amend a voluntary agreement reached last week to address oil train safety concerns. He said the agreement should be changed to require industry to develop a plan no later than July 1 to phase out or retrofit the DOT-111s.

    “Each week seems to come with another freight train derailment, and it is imperative we undertake every measure necessary to ensure the safety of our nation’s communities through which these crude oil tank cars pass,” he said in a statement.

    Kevin Thompson, spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said the agreement was just one step in ongoing efforts to improve the safety of crude oil shipments by rail.

    “All communities will see a reduced risk of derailments because of increased track and mechanical inspections and the use of enhanced braking technology” under the safety agreement, Thompson said.

      U.S. Safety Ruling causes Canada company to suspend use of some DOT-111 tank cars

      Repost from The Calgary Herald

      Crude-by-rail shipper deals with U.S. ruling

      Some cars suspended but shipments continuing, says Torq CEO

      Crude-by-rail shipper deals with U.S. ruling
      Emergency workers examine the aftermath of a train derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, Que., last July. Photograph by: Ryan Remiorz , AP

      By Dan Healing, Calgary Herald February 26, 2014

      CALGARY — Some tanker cars in Western Canada have been temporarily suspended from being used to ship oil in the wake of Tuesday’s U.S. rail safety ruling, the chief executive of Calgary-based terminal operator Torq Transloading Inc. said Wednesday.

      But service is continuing to be offered, Jarrett Zielinski told the Herald.

      “Everything is under regulatory review. The shipments we ship are compliant,” he said in an interview.

      “Every precaution is being taken on our end. We are working collaboratively with the regulators, the railroads and the customers to ensure all of our shipments are compliant and there has been no interruption of service.”

      A story by Bloomberg earlier in the day had quoted a Torq executive as saying shipments had been halted but Zielinski said that’s not true.

      The U.S. Transportation Department on Tuesday ordered energy companies to immediately conduct chemical tests on all crude intended for rail shipment and warned that certain commodities require more robust tank cars for transport.

      Zielinski said his private company ships between 40,000 and 45,000 barrels of oil per day but it doesn’t own the cars. He said the “vast majority” of the cars are compliant and any that are questionable have been “temporarily suspended while they are reclassified.”

      He said about 95 per cent of the oil his company ships is undiluted heavy oil, which has a much lower risk of igniting than the light crudes shipped from the North Dakota Bakken — such as the cargo aboard the train that exploded in July at Lac-Megantic, Que., killing 47 people.

      Most of the oil is bound for the United States. He said Torq frequently tests the product.

      Two Calgary-based oilsands shippers said they don’t believe the U.S. ruling will affect their transportation plans.

      Producer MEG Energy Corp., which began shipping diluted bitumen in December through the Canexus Corp. rail-loading facility northeast of Edmonton, and moved six unit trains each carrying 60,000 barrels of diluted bitumen in January, is not affected, said spokesman Brad Bellows.

      “The cars we have made arrangements to move our products on are very modern cars that meet or exceed all the recent standards and the outlook,” he said.

      Spokesman Pius Rolheiser of Imperial Oil Ltd. said the new rules are not expected to affect a project to build a 100,000-barrel-per-day oil loading terminal near Edmonton.

      “We’re still in the process of design and manufacture of the cars but I can tell you with certainty they will meet Canadian safety guidelines,” he said. “The tanker cars we use in this project will meet the DOT 111-F specification, which is the American Association of Railroads current specs. That requires thicker shells as well as steel shields to guard both ends of the car.”

      Imperial Oil will be the base load customer in the project it is sharing with American transportation partner Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. Startup is set for next December and the terminal is expected to ship diluted bitumen from Imperial’s Kearl oilsands mine.