All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

CALL TO ACTION Monday, March 10, 7pm, Benicia Library

Stop Valero Crude By Rail!
Monday, March 10, 7pm
Dona Benicia Room, Benicia Public Library

 FacebookStopCrudeByOil_cover(LGlogo)Benicia, CA – Benicia residents and business owners, along with concerned citizens of neighboring communities, have been following with growing alarm, the proposal of Benicia’s Valero Refinery to import dangerous crude oil by rail.  The public is invited t join with Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, at a community forum to learn more and raise concerns and questions.  Panel followed by Q&A.

Expert panel of speakers and co-sponsors – see below.
Optional: Sign up on Facebook here.
Help promote: download the flyer, print and distribute – thanks!

A panel of experts and activists will present their concerns:

  • Video: Marilaine Savard, spokesperson for a citizens’ group from Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.  In 2013, a string of exploding crude oil rail cars destroyed the center of town and claimed 47 lives.
  • Marilyn Bardet, Valero refinery watchdog, activist and founding member of Benicia Good Neighbor Steering Committee: “Where does Valero’s CBR Project Begin and End?”
  • Ed Ruszel, co-owner of Ruszel Woodworks, located right along the tracks in Benicia’s industrial park: “Impact to Local Business & Industrial Park”
  • Antonia Juhasz, oil industry analyst, journalist, and author of several books, including The Tyranny of Oil: “Crude by Rail 101”
  • Andrés Soto, Benicia resident, KPFA’s Morning Mix host and Communities for a Better      Environment Richmond organizer: “Local and Regional Impacts”
  • Diane Bailey, Senior Scientist with Natural Resources Defense Council: “Health and Community Impacts”
  • Damien Luzzo, Davis resident and CEO,  SaveWithSunlight, Inc.: “Valero’s impact on ‘uprail’ communities”

This meeting is open to the public.  Residents, business owners, City officials and the press are all welcome.  After the panel, a brief question and answer period will follow.


Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Benicia Good Neighbor Steering Committee, Natural Resources Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, Sunflower Alliance, 350 Bay Area, Pittsburg Defense Council, Pittsburg Ethics Council, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Gathering Tribes – Idle No More.


For a detailed background on Valero’s proposal 2012-present, see Also see{C45EA667-8D39-4B30-87EB-9110A2F9CE13}


Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (
Facebook: Stop Crude By Rail (
The Benicia Independent (


Andrés Soto, (707) 742-3597


    Washington Senator Cantwell calls for elimination of DOT-111 tanker cars

    Repost from Longview Daily News, Longview, WA

    Sen. Cantwell presses oil executives to fast-track use of safer rail cars

    March 8, 2014 By Erik Olson

    U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is demanding the oil industry eliminate older, unsafe tanker cars that are hauling crude oil through the Pacific Northwest, including those that pass oil through Cowlitz and Columbia counties.

    At a Senate hearing Thursday on rail safety in Washington, D.C., Cantwell pressed industry executives on when they will pull cars known as “DOT 111” off the rails in favor of newer, sturdier models that are less likely to be punctured and spill.

    The safety of oil trains has come under increasing scrutiny following the increase in drilling from the Bakken shale fields centered in North Dakota. Communities on rail lines have expressed concerns of a growing risk of fiery explosions if oil trains derail and detonate highly flammable Bakken sweet crude, and regulators have been slow to respond.

    Critics warn about the possibility of disasters like last year’s crude oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which caused an explosion that killed 47 people.

    “We’ve gone from four years ago — having basically nothing on rail by crude — to now having something like 408,000 carloads of crude. Knowing when those cars are going to be off those rails — these cars that the National Transportation Safety Board has already said are unacceptable — this is a key issue for me and for my state,” Cantwell said in a written transcript.

    Oil industry executives, who own most of the tanker cars, told Cantwell said they hope to phase out 60 percent of the older cars by 2015 but couldn’t say when they’d all be off the rails.

    In the Pacific Northwest, most of those trains are headed to the BP oil refinery in Anacortes near the San Juan Islands and to a converted ethanol production facility at Port Westward owned by Boston-based Global Partners.

    Some of those trains pass through Cowlitz County on the way to the refinery, and other oil trains pass through Rainier en route to the oil export terminal at Port Westward.

    Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said he supports Cantwell’s efforts but trusts Global to operate safely while creating jobs in the area. He said a Global official called him this week and said the company is moving the oil as safely as possible. About a dozen trains with about 100 cars each currently come through downtown Rainier per month, 22 fewer than Global is allowed by its permit.

    “The safer rail cars, at the end of the day, are good for everyone along that line, from their end destination to the beginning,” Cole said.

    The legality of some of those shipments remains under dispute. Oregon state regulators said this week that Global has violated its permits by moving 297 million gallons of oil to Port Westward between December 2012 and November 2013 when its permit allowed 50 million gallons. The company is disputing the claim.

    Railroad officials note that they don’t own tanker cars — the oil companies do — but they are installing safety measures on unit trains and mainlines, such as better brakes and additional locomotives. They said they applauded Cantwell’s call for increased safety.

    “If something is on our rails, and we’re carrying it, we’re going to do it in the safest ways possible,” Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said.


      Chem Engineers’ review of TSB analysis of crude oil samples from Lac-Mégantic

      Repost from The Chemical Engineer… news and jobs from the chemical, biochemical and process engineering sectors

      Oil in deadly train blast explosive as fuel

      Canadian authorities test Lac Megantic oil

      Richard Jansen  07/03/2014


      The oil was found to have a flash point similar to unleaded gasoline

      THE oil shipment involved in last year’s deadly Lac Megantic disaster has characteristics closer to gasoline than normal crude, according to a report by Canadian authorities.

      Almost 50 people were killed when a train carrying crude produced from the US’ Bakken shale play exploded into a fireball after derailing in the Canadian town of Lac Megantic. In the aftermath of the disaster questions were raised over how the oil reacted so violently, as the properties of regular crude should make it very unlikely to explode.

      In its engineering report, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says that the level of hazard posed by the oil “was not accurately documented” when it had been shipped. Using samples taken from the handful of tankers that didn’t derail, the regulator found that the oil at Lac Megantic had an extremely low flash point – the temperature at which it will form a flammable mixture with air – “similar to that of unleaded gasoline.”

      “The large quantities of spilled crude oil, the rapid rate of release, and the oil’s high volatility and low viscosity were likely the major contributors to the large post-derailment fireball and pool fire,” it concludes.

      In the wake of Lac Megantic there have been several accidents involving oil being transported from North American shale plays. Late last year a 106-car train came off the rails near the town of Casselton in North Dakota, US, and exploded. Though none of the incidents since Lac Megantic have caused a fatality, transport regulators across the region have looked to improve their safety regulations, with the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announcing plans to reinforce its testing standards for crude.

      The accidents have brought fresh attention to the increasing amount of oil transported across North America by rail. As production from shale oil and oil sands continues to grow faster than the pipeline network, rail has become an increasingly important method of transportation.

      According to a report by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) released last year, in 2008 just 9,500 carloads of crude oil travelled by rail. By 2012 this had grown to nearly 234,000 carloads, with “another big jump” expected for 2013.