Martinez Environmental Group: Volatile crude by rail IS a concern

Repost from The Martinez Gazette, Letters

‘Volatile crude by rail IS a concern’

June 26, 2014

Dear Editor,

The front page headline of the June 14-15 edition of the Martinez News-Gazette read: “Crude by rail not a local threat, CAER director says.”   The article covered the recent City of Martinez Public Safety Committee, which convened to examine the Bakken crude by rail issue. The meeting was dominated by CAER director Tony Semenza, who is also principal of a consulting firm that serves a number of major local refineries.

Mr. Semenza was quoted “… there is one train, with up to 100 tanker cars, that originates in Stockton every 7-10 days and ends up at the Kinder Morgan facility in Richmond, traveling via the tracks that parallel Highway 4.” In other words, this train is going right through Martinez! It rolls over the (rusty) Alhambra trestle carrying 3,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude, the same oil that has been exploding all over North America and that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.  According to maps recently released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an explosion by an oil train on that track would threaten thousands of Martinez residents and endanger five schools located within the zone of impact.

Minimizing the issue by only focusing on the one present train ignores recent trends and projections for the near future. Only one train now. There were none this time last year.  Next year, if the refineries have their way, there very well could be a drastic increase of oil train traffic through our town. Nationally, crude oil train traffic is skyrocketing, from 9,500 carloads in U.S. in 2008 to 434,000 in 2013.  California crude-by-rail rose an incredible 506 percent just from 2012 to 2013, with a further 24-fold increase expected by 2016. Accidents have also increased across the country.

Just in the past 11 months, there have been nine major derailments of oil trains, involving explosions, evacuations and spills. These trains spilled over a million gallons of crude oil, more than spilled by railroads in the past 37 years combined. And with crude-by-rail projects pending all around Martinez in Benicia, Pittsburg, Rodeo and Santa Maria, we will  see more than just one train every 7-10 days. So, let’s not minimize the risk. Volatile crude by rail IS something we need to be concerned about here in Martinez.

The disappointing part of the Martinez Public Safety Committee meeting was the decision by Mike Menesini and Anamarie Avila Farias to not immediately elevate the issue to the full City Council, despite the current threat to our health and safety. If you live anywhere near the tracks, check out www.mrtenvgrp.com for more information, and write or call your city council to ask them to do something meaningful on this issue quickly. Other Bay Area cities have passed resolutions opposing the passage of crude by rail. Martinez needs to do the same.

Signed,

Martinez Environmental Group Members Aimee Durfee, Tom Griffith, Bill Nichols, Jim Neu, Kathy Petricca, Guy Cooper, Nancy Peacock, Karen & Arnie Wadler

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