Martinez Gazette: Background on lawsuit against BAAQMD and Kinder Morgan

Repost from The Martinez Gazette

Environmental groups look to halt shipment of crude by rail

Rick Jones | April 1, 2014

Environmental groups filed suit Thursday against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and energy company Kinder Morg­an to halt the shipment of highly explosive and toxic crude oil into Richmond.

Kinder Morgan receives crude oil by rail at its Richmond terminal, where it is transferred to trucks, under a Feb. 3 permit from the BAAQMD, of which Martinez City Councilman Mark Ross is a member.

A KPIX-CBS report found the oil is loaded onto trucks, some of which travel through Martinez to the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery.

A spokeswoman for the Tesoro refinery confirmed to the Contra Costa Times its facility receives between 5,000 and 10,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude. That is about two to four trains per month, and is received through a third-party facility, the spokeswoman, Tina Barbee, told the Times.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court Thursday by Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, asks for a preliminary injunction against further crude oil operations at Kinder Morgan and suspension of the air district permit, pending a full review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

According the Earth First website, “the Air District (BAAQMD) 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 CEQA.”

“If the BAAQMD board knew nothing about the permit, it should be embarrassed, and it should actually exercise its authority and hold its staff accountable to the community,” Communities for a Better Environment organizer Andres Soto told Earth First. “The BAAQMD’s hush-hush permitting process for the Kinder Morgan permit reinforces the high level of distrust that the community has towards the BAAQMD staff. They lied to us during the Chevron fire, and now we are seeing them make backroom deals with industry in their permitting.”

Bakken crude, a light, flammable variety named after oil fields in North Dakota and an adjacent part of Canada,  is extremely explosive and toxic. In January, 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. In both the U.S. and Canada, as the number of train cars carrying crude oil has quadrupled over the past six years, accidents, explosions and derailments have dramatically increased. Last July, 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.

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