Martinez could become hazardous rail car choke point

Repost from The Martinez Gazette

Martinez Environmental Group: Martinez could become hazardous rail car choke point

By Jim Neu  |  May 29, 2014

On May 14, a few members of the Martinez Environmental Group (MEG) attended the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) seminar in Vallejo, where the major topics of discussion were petroleum crude oil being shipped by rail and new regulations for rail tank car construction.

Since September 2013, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of petroleum crude by rail derailments and explosions across the U.S. and Canada, due to the expanded market of Midwestern crude oil being transferred to the Gulf and East and West coasts. This has hazardous materials specialists and first responders nervous, and looking for local, state and federal regulation on rail car inspection, labeling, speed controls in residential areas, car construction, overloading, and offload monitoring.

Currently, Phillips 66 in Rodeo, Valero in Benicia and Shell and Tesoro in Martinez, receive highly volatile and explosive Bakken crude oil by rail, ship, and/or pipeline. There are no regulations in place for the DOT 111 rail tank car which has a tendency to split apart when derailed or comes into contact with other surfaces. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration (PHMSA) have drafted a proposed regulation regarding construction, transportation, and usage of DOT 111′s  that will be recommended to the refiners and shippers. This will be a recommendation, not a mandate.

The DOT 111 rail car was originally designed to haul corn syrup but now hauls crude oil, ethanol, butane, propane, a wide variety of hazardous chemicals such as hydrochloride and sulfuric acids, and non odorized liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Phillips 66 Refinery in Rodeo proposed a propane recovery project that will capture excessive butane and propane from refining Bakken crude oil. This process will increase rail tanker car traffic through downtown Martinez as Bakken crude oil moves west for refining and liquified petroleum gas moves east after refining. This project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states 24 LPG cars per day will come out of the refinery which – added to the 100 plus LPG cars that regularly sit on rail sidings east and west of our downtown – are turning Martinez into a DOT 111 rail car choke point.

June 3 at 9 a.m. in the County Building at 651 Pine St., Martinez, the Contra Costa County Supervisors are scheduled to respond and decide on the Phillips 66 Propane Recovery Project EIR.

This hearing has been postponed several times because of inconsistencies and omissions in the EIR. If you have concerns about the increase of  hazardous materials in unsafe, deteriorating rail tank cars being moved through your downtown, or the effects on your health the Phillips 66 refinery project will inflict by refining dirtier crude oil, there is time on the agenda for public speaking. We encourage you to attend and be heard.

Additional note: at the June 3 meeting, the Supervisors will also be considering Shell’s request for an EIR consultant on their proposed changes to the Martinez Refinery, so we encourage you to come and ask questions about the project, as well.

More information can be found at the Martinez Environ­mental Group website at www.mrtenvgrp.com.

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