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.

    Bay Area Air District sets new goals for 2050

    Repost from The Contra Costa Times

    Bay Area Air Quality Management District adopts plan to control greenhouse gases

    By Denis Cuff Contra Costa Times
    Posted: 04/03/2014

    It has fought to rein in smog and smoke for years, but now the Bay Area’s air pollution board is tackling a new challenge: reducing greenhouse gases.

    A plan to speed up work on reducing global warming gases from the region’s businesses, industries and residents was adopted Wednesday by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board.

    Under one of the 10 measures, the district will review its industrial and business pollution rules to decide if changes are needed to cut down on carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases.

    Any changes in regional rules would be closely coordinated with the state Air Resources Board, the leader of the state’s climate control effort, air district officials said.

    “It’s very important we complement what the state is doing and not cause confusion or conflict,” said Henry Hilken, the air district’s director of planning and research.

    If rule changes are made, they likely will focus on making industries change operations to make less pollution, rather than to control it afterwards, he added.

    The clean air agency also will increase its technical advice to cities and counties considering local climate action measures such as setting local building energy efficiency standards. The district also will help seek funding for those local agencies.

    To prepare for the extra workload, the air district later this year will propose adding four new employees to work on greenhouse gas issues.

    Under the plan, the district will monitor the region’s progress toward meeting state goals for reducing greenhouse gas levels 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

    If the region isn’t moving fast enough, the district will announce it, then coordinate efforts by city, county, state, federal and regional efforts to close the gap.

    Under old estimates yet to be updated, the Bay Area in 1990 generated some 87.7 million tons of greenhouse gases equivalent to carbon dioxide. An 80 percent cut would drop that to 17.5 metric tons.

    Those figures are likely to be modified when the air district updates its estimates, officials said.

    Actions to control greenhouse gases will not only protect the earth from overheating, but also help to reduce Bay Area smog and fine particle pollution, Hilken said.

    Most of this plan is geared at actions to be taken in the next two years, before more permanent measures are adopted in 2015.

      Ohio: Leaders don’t keep track of oil trains

      Repost from The Bucyrus Telegraph, Bucyrus, Ohio

      Leaders don’t keep track of oil trains

      Explosive shipments go right through city centers

      Apr. 3, 2014
      by James Pilcher, The Cincinnati Enquirer

      Domestic oil production, including that in Ohio, keeps growing. And with oil being produced in new areas that don’t have pipelines, more crude is heading to refineries in rail cars. Yet neither federal nor state regulators track the shipments that are increasingly crisscrossing the country — potentially cutting through neighborhoods and business districts nationwide.

      Much of the oil apparently is more volatile than traditional crude, with some experts saying it is as explosive “as gasoline.” A number of oil tanker accidents and explosions made headlines last year, including last July’s derailment and explosion in  Quebec that killed 47 people and all but leveled a small town. The train was pulling at least a dozen tank cars carrying crude pulled from Bakken shale deposits.

      Similar types of oil are being pulled from shale fields all over the U.S., including eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and North Dakota.

      “Regulators across North America simply have not kept up with the boom in moving oil by train,” said Keith Stewart, a Canadian-based researcher for the environmental group Greenpeace. “You would be shocked how little governments know how much and where and when this oil is moving by rail.”

      Federal regulators don’t know what is  on the tracks at any given time. Nor do first responders and community officials, apart from getting a list of the top 25 hazardous materials that move through their communities. But because of security concerns, local officials can’t make the top 25 lists public. Railroads must keep a list internally, but those records also are not public.

      The lack of disclosure could pose a problem for a city such as Cincinnati, which has one of the Midwest’s largest railyards in CSX-owned Queensgate, which sits near downtown.

      “All kinds of hazardous materials go through (Queensgate) and no, we’re not notified of what is going through when,“ said Cincinnati Fire Department District Chief Tom Lakamp, who oversees special operations and hazardous materials response teams for the city.

      The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration oversees the shipments of all hazardous materials, including crude oil, superseding state regulators for rail shipments. The agency did not make anyone available for interviews, but said in a statement that it was starting to look at changing its rules and was taking a closer look at oil shipments.

      All that’s called ‘crude’ is not necessarily the same

      The United States is poised to become the world’s largest combined producer of natural gas and crude oil in the coming year, according to federal data, which  indicate the country produced 7.5 million barrels of oil a day last year. Oil industry officials saying national production has been above 8 million barrels per day since November.

      Ohio is a part of that growth, because of the wells in the eastern part of the state pulling up oil and natural gas from Utica shale reserves. The state produced 16,000 barrels of oil a day last year, up more than 23 percent from 2012.

      But even as oil production has grown, pipeline infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. That’s forced oil producers and refiners to turn to rail shipments, especially in remote areas such as North Dakota, but also in Ohio. The railroad industry reports that crude oil shipments nearly doubled in 2013 as compared with 2012, with the American Association of Railroads estimating that more than 400,000 tank loads of crude arrived by rail last year.

      A single tank car holds about 714 barrels of oil, and each barrel contains 42 gallons, meaning every tank car contains 30,000 gallons of oil. But an Ohio oil industry official says the majority of what’s called oil produced and shipped in the state is “ very volatile” and “basically liquified natural gas,” even as he points out that Ohio oil has been pumped and shipped safely for decades.

      “It is still classified as crude oil, even thought it is a lot closer to gasoline,” said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Natural Gas Association. “The bottom line is that it should be treated differently than other crude oil.”

      Stewart says most of Ohio’s oil is shipped out of state — although refineries in the state are starting to take on this volatile oil.

      Finally, the oil is being shipped in outdated tanker cars. The National Transportation Safety Board started recommending in 1991 that oil companies stop using the older model of tanker because they have proven not to prevent spillage and explosions in case of derailments. It renewed its call this January.

      “You’ve got one of the most profitable industries in the world looking to save a few dollars at the cost of safety,” said Fred Millar, a Virginia-based rail/hazmat safety consultant who has worked with major cities on safety planning.

      Issue creates tensions; changes on the way?

      Tension abounds between the oil and rail industries over the shipments, even as railroads court oil producers as customers.

      Many carriers — including CSX and the Genesee & Wyoming railroad — actively market their capacity to oil producers. But on the other hand, national railroad officials openly acknowledge differences with the oil industry over safety standards.

      “The shippers own the cars and the materials and are responsible for safe packaging and labeling, but we’re the ones liable in case of an accident,” said Holly Arthur, spokeswoman for the American Association of Railroads.

      The rail industry last month agreed with the U.S. Transportation Department to voluntarily impose tighter procedures, including:

      •  Installing better brakes on trains with 20 or more oil cars.

      •  Limiting speeds to 40 mph on trains with 20 or more rail cars in highly populated areas.

      •  Increase track inspections on lines that carry trains with heavy oil traffic.

      Oil industry officials say they also are trying to improve safety, but have not yet agreed to any specifics. “Our mitigation efforts are looking at topics like tank car design and crude oil testing and classification,” said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer for the American Petroleum Institute.

      As for the regulators, PHMSA is studying new variations of the domestically produced oil and its potential volatility. It’s also double-checking that domestic oil is property categorized and shipped.

        For safe and healthy communities…