All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Sacramento area mayors, emergency responders to send letter of concern to Valero

 Repost from KTXL FOX40 Sacramento/Stockton
[Editor: This is an excellent video report, but I can’t post it to run here because it runs commercial ads ad nauseum.  My apologies but you really should click on the image which takes you to the KTXL page where you can view this video.  It has footage from Valero’s community meeting, brief comments by West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cobaldon and Fire Chief Rick Martinez of West Sacramento, and an update from the April 17 Sacramento Area Council of Governments.  The text below summarizes the video, if you can’t stomach the commercials.  – RS]

Communities Concerned Over Crude Oil Train Plan

Note - this will take you to KTXL's website for the video.  Please be patient - commercial ad content.
Note – this will take you to KTXL’s website for the video. Please be patient – commercial ad content.

SACRAMENTO 17 Apr 2014 – Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor train is the chauffeur-driven commute for thousands in the Sacramento region.

But those runs to the Bay and back may soon be sharing the rails with something that could turn those trips of ease into trips of angst.

“That could be scary. It might deter me from taking the train,” rider Mary Pierschbacher said.

Those fears are about Valero’s plan to send up to 100 train cars full of a highly flammable crude oil through downtown Sacramento every day.

The cars would be traveling on Union Pacific lines through Roseville, West Sacramento, Davis and on into Benicia to a proposed rail terminal at Valero’s refinery there.

Tempers flared at public meetings in Benicia as the company and homeowners debated the potential threat that could be rolling through neighborhoods.

“Our crew, the railroad and the community is clearly capable of responding to an incident that happens,” Valero’s Chris Howe said.

Late notice of the impact in the Valley sent reps from targeted cities into a Thursday meeting at the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

Mayors and emergency responders plan to draft a letter of concern to Valero.

“We can’t plan for every eventuality, but we need to know what the range of possibilities are so we can make the appropriate preparations. And if we can’t then we need to raise our voices and object to the project,” said West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldon.

“I think  we still have a lot of work ahead of us to come to to a real solution, but i think we’ve taken some good first steps today,” said Rick Martinez, Fire Chief of West Sacramento.

The plan for more crude to ride the rails is a way to keep pace with increased fracking in places like northeastern North Dakota in the Bakken oil fields.

The trouble is that explosion in production is bringing to the surface oil that is lighter and more flammable than other types.

Bakken crude was in the 72 runaway train cars that derailed and exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec last July – killing 47 people and decimating the town’s center.

If a crash like that happened along the Capitol Corridor route through Sacramento,  the new Kings arena could be just one of many city investments destroyed.

And as of right now,  crews forced to respond would have little information about how many rail cars were filled with what.

“For our first responders who are supposed to be taking care of the emergency…it doesn’t help with even less information for them to go on,” said Adams.

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    California Assembly: new safety legislation for emergency readiness

    Repost from The Sacramento Bee, Capitol Alert
    [Editor: for more on Assemblyman Dickinson’s bill, see his press release here.  I am unable to find the bill’s number as of this writing.  The press release concludes with “The bill will be heard by the legislature in the coming months.”  More info via Dickinson’s office: Contact: Taryn Kinney, State Capitol, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0007, Tel: (916) 319-2007, Fax: (916) 319-2107  – RS]

    VIDEO: Dickinson bill seeks crude oil train emergency preparedness

    April 17, 2014  |  VIDEO BELOW: The Sacramento Bee/Dan Smith

    IMG_RB_Crude_Oil_7.JPG_5_1_F420A1K7_L47055198.JPGPointing to the catastrophic derailment in Quebec of a train transporting oil and similar accidents, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, has unveiled legislation to get emergency responders more information about crude-carrying trains that roll through California.

    As the United States reaps the fruits of a domestic energy boom, driven in part by huge volumes natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing, the amount of oil transported via rail has grown apace. According to the California Energy Commission, 6.1 million barrels of crude chugged into California on trains in 2013, accounting for 1.1 percent of the amount processed at California refineries.

    “It is safe to say that we’ve all become alarmed with learning about the large increase in certain types of crude oil and oil products that California refineries will be receiving,” Dickinson said during a Thursday news conference at the downtown Sacramento train station.

    Cities have begun raising the alarm about safety hazards, and officials have testified to Congress that most communities are ill-prepared to handle the aftermath of a derailment. In addition to the deadly derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, oil trains have jumped the tracks and ignited in Alabama and  North Dakota.

    Now, with a Bay Area refinery planning to move huge amounts of crude oil on a rail line running through downtown Sacramento, Dickinson has proposed legislation requiring railroads to disclose more information about oil shipments to those who would be dispatched to handle a potential rail accident.

    “Because of this rapid change in the transportation of crude by rail, state safety rules are simply not what they need to be,” Dickinson said.

    Currently, railroads don’t have to notify cities in advance about their cargo. Trains carrying hazardous materials, like oil or acid, must have warnings stenciled on the side of the cars containing the dangerous commodities.

    Under Dickinson’s bill, blueprints detailing facts like the volume of oil being transported in a given day; how many cars are being used; and the characteristics of the oil being conveyed would go to local officials. The state agency that now obtains that information would be compelled to share it with local fire and police departments.

    “If (responders) know what they’re dealing with,” Dickinson said, “they’ve got a much better chance of controlling and containing the incident and also protecting their own lives.”

    Gov. Jerry Brown has also taken note of the growing risk. Under the governor’s budget, the state’s Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response would get more money and staff to deal with the growing risk of inland oil spills. As it stands now, the agency responds to oil spills in marine areas.

    PHOTO: A tanker truck is filled from railway cars containing crude oil on railroad tracks in McClellan Park in North Highlands on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.
    VIDEO: The Sacramento Bee/Dan Smith
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      NY Times: More shipments, new accidents and calls for safety

      Repost from The New York Times, Business Day [Editor – this NYT article was a detail sheet linked to the major article, “Despite Rise in Spills, Hazardous Cargo Rides Rails in Secret“.  I am posting here because it is a serious contribution to our understanding of the huge increase in rail disasters in 2013-14.  – RS]

      More Shipments, New Accidents and Calls for Safety

          A sharp increase in rail shipments of oil over the past decade has been accompanied by accidents and derailments that have renewed the debate about regulating transportation of hazardous materials. The shipments are regulated by federal authorities; state and local officials have little say. Despite warnings of safety risks, measures to restrict or ban such transportation have been defeated.                      Related Article
      More Shipments, New Accidents and Calls for Safety
      More Shipments, New Accidents and Calls for Safety
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