Challenging Crude-by-Rail Shipments to California’s Bay AreaThe City of Richmond in California’s Bay Area is already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry. Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
Earthjustice, on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to halt the shipment of highly explosive and toxic crude oil into the City of Richmond, a community already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.
The Air District issued Kinder Morgan a permit to operate its crude-by-rail project in early February, without any notice to the public or environmental and health review. The case asks the court to halt operations immediately while the project undergoes a full and transparent review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Members of the Richmond community, perhaps even members of the BAAQMD’s Board of Directors, did not know that a permit to transport crude oil had been issued for over a month. According to longtime resident of Richmond and CBE organizer Andres Soto, the community is tired of being blind-sided and ignored.
Berkeley and Richmond city councils have voted to oppose crude-by-rail plans that involved trains running through their cities. The number of trains carrying crude oil around the country has risen dramatically in the last two to three years, due to the increased drilling in both the Alberta tar sands in Canada and the Bakken shale oil area of North Dakota.
The California Public Utilities Commission, office of Rail Safety, released a report in November 2013 listing a number of alarming railway safety concerns associated with the increased movement of crude oil by rail through California. The report specifically identifies California’s railroad bridges as a significant rail safety risk.
Bakken crude is extremely explosive and toxic. In January of 2014, the U.S. federal agency that regulates hazardous materials on the rails issued an alert, stating that Bakken crude may be more flammable than other types of crude. And in July of 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a town in Quebec, Canada, killing 47 local residents and destroying most of the downtown area.