All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Panel of experts – Martinez, Feb. 26

On Facebook:

Big Oil in our Midst: From Canada to the Carquinez Strait

BigOilInOurMidst_headerA forum about increased rail accidents, refinery dangers, and climate change.

A panel of experts and activists will educate residents of Benicia, Rodeo, Martinez, and nearby communities on Big Oil’s plans locally, regionally, and globally. How will refinery expansion and transportation of crude oil by rail affect your community?

Panelists, followed by Q&A:

  • Marilaine Savard: spokesperson for a citizens’ group in the region of Lac-Mégantic, Québec.  In 2013, a string of exploding petroleum rail cars destroyed the center of the town and claimed 47 lives.
  • Antonia Juhasz: oil industry analyst, journalist, and author of “The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry and What We Must do to Stop It” and “Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill”.
  • Diane Bailey, senior scientist at the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
  • Marilyn Bardet:  Valero refinery watchdog, activist, and founding member of Benicia’s Good Neighbor Steering Committee.
  • Nancy Rieser: spokesperson from the Crockett-Rodeo-Hercules Working Group, challenging Phillips 66 on its “propane recovery” project.
  • A member (TBD) of the Pittsburg Defense Council, fighting against the proposed WesPac oil terminal.

Forum sponsored by the Sunflower Alliance, in partnership with the Sierra Club, Pittsburg Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, ForestEthics, the Good Neighbor Steering Committee, and the Crockett-Rodeo-Hercules Working Group.

For those in other towns, we have related forums in Pittsburg and Richmond!

    Oil Companies Fined For Mislabeling Crude Shipments

    Repost from Huffington Post / Reuters

    U.S. Oil Companies Fined For Mislabeling Crude Shipments In First Move After Series Of Derailments

    Main Entry Image

    In this Dec. 30, 2013 file photo, a fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy, File) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

    By Patrick Rucker
    WASHINGTON, Feb 4 (Reuters) – Three oil companies operating  in North Dakota were fined $93,000 on Tuesday for wrongly  classifying fuel shipments in the first sanctions since a series  of fiery derailments put the energy industry under a spotlight.

    The Department of Transportation said Hess Corp,  Marathon Oil Corp and Whiting Petroleum Corp   were cited for wrongly classifying cargo tanks that were hauling  crude oil from the field to a railhead.

    Fuel shipments must be designated with a hazard class to  alert emergency responders in the event of an accident. Eleven  of eighteen samples of one survey were mislabeled, the DOT said  in a statement.

    “The fines we are proposing today should send a message to  everyone involved in the shipment of crude oil: You must test  and classify this material properly,” said Transportation  Secretary Anthony Foxx.

    A spate of explosive derailments, including one in Quebec  last July which killed 47 people, has led to concerns over the  safety of shipping crude oil by rail and improper labeling.

    Officials have already warned that some fuel found in North  Dakota’s energy patch, the Bakken, could be more volatile and  explosion-prone than other crude oil and that shippers should  take precautions.

    Typically, crude oil carries a ‘hazard class 3’  classification and can be shipped in a standard tank car. The  shipments are further assigned a ‘packing group’ to alert to  dangers – that portion of the shipping paper was faulty, the DOT  said.

    While the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety  Administration (PHMSA) has been testing crude samples for months  and issued several industry warnings, Tuesday’s action is the  first sanction.

    Phmsa Administrator Cynthia Quartersman said the fines  reflected “initial findings” and that officials would scrutinize  the corrosivity, pressure and other traits of Bakken crude.

    The DOT did not specify which companies would be expected to  pay what share of the $93,000 fines but by any measure the sums  were small for large energy companies.

    Officials from Hess and Marathon could not immediately be  reached for comment.

    Jack Ekstrom, a spokesperson for Whiting, said that the  company had not yet been contacted by the DOT about a possible  fine.

      Valero CBR top Benicia news story in 2013

      Letter to the editor, The Benicia Herald
      Friday, February 07, 2014
      By Sabina Yates

      In your Jan. 30 edition of the Benicia Herald, the top 13 stories of 2013 starts with No. 13, “Community pitches in to save beaten dog,” and ends with No. 1, on page 5, ”Valero Crude-by-Rail project delayed.”

      You should put the top story on page one.

      First things first! The Valero-Crude-by-Rail project is something that will affect Benicia far more than a beaten dog. There has been an increased number of derailments and fires around the country because of the huge increase in rail transport of crude. Union Pacific, which would be hauling the Valero crude, has not been involved in any of these fiery rail accidents – but have their older tank cars been upgraded to new safety standards proposed by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board many times over the past years?

      These measures would include requiring double-hulled cars that are more puncture resistant. However, the companies that actually would be responsible for most of the costs associated with improving rail car safety are the oil companies themselves.

      In a recent New York Times article, the American Petroleum Institute states that ”the first step is to prevent derailments by addressing track defects and other causes of all rail accidents.” Sounds like “buck-passing” to me. And what about local and regional emergency response plans to alleviate the risk to public safety? There are a lot of reasons why the Valero Crude-by-Rail project rightfully deserved the top priority of the Benicia news of 2013, but isn’t this where there could have been more “inches” of type? And not on page 5.

      -Sabina Yates