Seattle to ban oil-by-rail

Repost from SeattleMet.  See link to the Council’s resolution in paragraph 3.

City to Adopt Anti-Oil Train Resolution

The city council is poised to adopt a resolution condemning oil-train expansion in Washington.

Published Feb 21, 2014
By Erica C. Barnett

The city council’s planning committee is poised to approve a resolution next month condemning proposals to massively expand the number of trains transporting flammable oil, ultimately bound for Asia, through the Pacific Northwest.

“We’re moving about 57 times as much oil by rail as we were in, say, 2009, 2008 [nationally]”—a mere five years ago—Sightline’s Eric de Place told the committee,

The resolution, which, of course, is non-binding, would ask Washington state legislators to adopt rules requiring companies moving oil to disclose how much petroleum they’re transporting, what type of petroleum products, and the frequency and duration of oil transports.

Seattle area state Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-46, N. Seattle) is sponsoring legislation that would do just that. The Democratic house passed the bill earlier this week and the Democratic minority in the state senate managed to block a watered-down version of the bill, making Farrell’s version the main bill on the issue.

The city resolution also urges the federal government to improve safety regulations for tank design and operations, and asks state, federal, and local agencies to assess the impact oil trains will have on public safety, the environment, and the economy.

It also asks that any railroad company that operates on rail lines adjacent to the arenas or in tunnels underneath the city itself “consider restrictions on the shipment of petroleum products along those routes until adequate study” has determined that those shipments are safe.

Additionally, committee chair (and ardent environmentalist) Mike O’Brien said he’d like to add two more requests: A study of the impacts increased oil train transports will have on climate change; and a moratorium on new oil train permits in the state until “we better understand the implication of this 57-fold increase in a product that has been shown to be deadly.”

And not in an abstract way. In Quebec, an explosion on a runaway oil train killed 47 people (in a town of just 6,000) last year. Similar trains also exploded in the past year in Alabama, North Dakota, and New Brunswick, although no one was killed in any of those incidents.

Representatives of the rail and shipping industries made the case at today’s hearing that they’re working voluntarily to improve the safety of oil shipments, and that if any new regulations are needed, they should be imposed at the federal level.

But their testimony was overwhelmed by an onslaught of folks concerned about the potential climate and safety impacts of oil trains, including a troupe of Raging Grannies, a Mount Baker resident who pledged to risk arrest over another controversial fossil-fuel project, the Keystone XL pipeline, and two teens who performed a folk song live with the refrain, “Please don’t send exploding trains through our city.”


    Excellent source of news about crude by rail in the Pacific Northwest

    Sightline Daily, News & Views for a Sustainable Northwest

    Sightline Series

    The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails

    Westbound oil train, Essex, MT. Photo credit Roy Luck.

    Westbound oil train, Essex, MT. Photo credit Roy Luck.

    Since 2012, nearly a dozen plans have emerged to ship large quantities of crude oil by train to Northwest refineries and port terminals. This would be a major change for the Northwest’s energy economy, yet so far, the proposals have largely escaped notice. This series begins with a report that is the first comprehensive, region-wide review of all the oil-by-rail projects planned or currently operating in the Pacific Northwest, and it proceeds with updates on and analysis of their development.

    For analysis of the traffic impacts of oil and coal trains in communities throughout the Northwest, see the series “The Wrong Side of the Tracks.”


    Posts on The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails

    22. Running “Off the Rails”

    ForestEthics’ new report on the Northwest fossil fuel blow-up.
    on March 13, 2014 at 9:35 am

    21. The Man Behind the Exploding Trains

      Pulling back the curtain on Warren Buffett’s role.
      and on March 4, 2014 at 10:30 am

    20. The Growth in Oil-By-Rail in One Picture

      Railroads now move 57 times more oil on trains than just a few years ago.
    on February 24, 2014 at 6:30 am

    19. Updated Oil-by-Rail Analysis

      Sightline has a new accounting of Northwest oil train projects.
    on February 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    18. No Margin for Error

      DOT-111 tanks cars are unsafe at any speed.
      and on February 12, 2014 at 6:30 am

    17. Video: How Oil Trains Put the Northwest At Risk

      Sightline featured in new video on oil trains.
    on February 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    16. CARTOON: How Communities See Oil Trains

      Oglala-Lakota artist on Bakken oil trains and risk.
    on January 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    15. Why Bakken Oil Explodes

      The perils of a particular petroleum, explained.
      and on January 21, 2014 at 10:30 am

    14. Another Oil Train Blows Up, Because That’s What They Do

      Major fire in New Brunswick after derailment.
    on January 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

    13. Oil Trains: What You Should Be Reading

      Understanding why oil trains are a threat.
    on January 7, 2014 at 6:30 am


      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.


          For safe and healthy communities…