California Energy Commission official should have known…

Repost from the Sacramento Bee – Capitol Alert

California energy official says state wasn’t aware of crude by rail facilities

March 16, 2014

A California Energy Commission official Friday said the agency wasn’t aware that the state had become a destination for crude oil shipments by rail, even though Gov. Jerry Brown‘s budget proposal made note of it two months ago.

The Bee reported in January that the state was already receiving the shipments and expecting more. According to the energy commission’s own numbers, California received nearly 1.2 million barrels of crude oil by rail in December, up from fewer than 100,000 a year earlier.

The Bee identified at least two locations where crude oil was being unloaded from trains, including Richmond and Bakersfield, with several more terminals under development.

But Gordon Schremp, senior fuels specialist at the commission, told CBS San Francisco Friday that “we don’t have any of those facilities operating in California.”

When the TV station showed him video of rail cars of crude oil at the Kinder Morgan facility in Richmond, Schremp modified his statement.

“It’s certainly a recent change that you know, we haven’t been made aware of that,” he told the TV station.

State and local officials across the country have become concerned about the safety of crude shipments by train since a derailment killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July, and leveled the center of the town with explosive force.

Many communities, from Washington state to New York state, have voted to bar the expansion of such operations until their safety is improved. But it’s not clear that those measures have any legal authority, because the job of regulating rail shipments falls to the federal government.

Railroads and the Department of Transportation last month agreed to a series of voluntary safety improvements, but many state and local officials would like to see more swift, decisive actions from the federal government to protect their communities.

Here is the CBS San Francisco report:

PHOTO: In this July 6, 2013 file photo, emergency workers examine the aftermath of a train derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada. Forty-seven people were killed. U.S. federal regulators are further tightening testing requirements for companies that transport oil by rail after a spate of explosions caused by crude train derailments in the U.S. and Canada. Associated Press/Ryan Remiorz)

    Correction – tar sands, not bakken spotted in Bay Area?

    By Roger Straw, editor, The Benicia Independent

    In my weekly BenIndy newsletter yesterday I highlighted KPIX’s most recent report, “Trains Carrying Fracked Oil Spotted In Bay Area.”

    First, KPIX is to be thanked for its continued excellent coverage of the crude by rail crisis in the Bay Area.

    But overnight, I heard from a trusted community organizer in Davis, Lynne Nittler, who is in touch with a staff person for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR).  They believe that the Kinder Morgan trains are most likely carrying crude sourced from tar sands, not fracked Bakken crude.

    The OSPR staffer was told that the trains are carrying tar sands crude.  This clearly fits with the last quarter of data posted by the California Energy Commission, which shows a sudden increase in tar sands coming into California.  The Commission had predicted 2 million barrels in crude-by-rail for 2013.  In reality, it jumped to 6 million barrels – because of the increases last quarter.  See http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/petroleum/statistics/2013_crude_by_rail.html

    So I want to correct any possible misinformation I might have spread in my newsletter.  The fault for misinformation here?  Certainly not KPIX.  A Bay Area expert offered the following observation, “This is clear evidence that we need public disclosure: what are these rail cars carrying, how much, on what routes?”  I let KPIX reporters know about this.  The Kinder Morgan tar-sands trains would be a good follow-up story.  This is deadly serious – diluted tar sands crude is less volatile, but as Lynne Nittler wrote, dilbit spills “are worse – more polluting and harder to clean up, more corrosive, and much worse at the refinery for air pollution and producing much more petcoke.”

    BACKGROUND:
    For a detailed background on Valero’s proposal 2012-present, see http://beniciaindependent.com/?p=80 Also see http://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={C45EA667-8D39-4B30-87EB-9110A2F9CE13}

    MORE:
    BENICIANS FOR A SAFE AND HEALTHY COMMUNITY
    SafeBenicia.org
    Spokesperson Andrés Soto, (707) 742-3597
    info@SafeBenicia.com

      KPIX Exposé: Crude by Rail already in Bay Area

      Repost from CBS San Francisco 5KPIX News

      Trains Carrying Fracked Oil Spotted In Bay Area

      March 14, 2014 12:24 AM
      by Kristin Ayers

      RICHMOND (KPIX 5) – We have seen how fracked crude oil can explode when trains derail. And Bay Area residents have made it clear that they don’t want them here and several projects to bring in crude by rail are on hold because of it.

      But KPIX 5 discovered it’s already happening, in an operation so hush hush that even the state’s energy commission didn’t know about it.

      A unit train, 100 cars long, is designed to deliver 70,000 barrels of crude cross country in one single run. It’s the same kind of train that derailed and exploded in Quebec, and the same kind of train that Bay Area residents have been fighting to keep out of their towns.

      So what is the train doing in a rail yard in Richmond? “I was very surprised,” said energy consultant Ian Goodman.

      Goodman found out about it in an investor publication for Kinder Morgan. The energy company operates pipelines and terminals across the U.S.

      “They were very proud of the fact that they were the only unit train terminal to unload crude in California,” he told KPIX 5. “My impression was there were no existing unit train unloading facilities in California.”

      That’s apparently what state officials thought too. “At this point we don’t have any of those facilities operating in California,” said Gordon Schremp with the California Energy Commission.

      After KPIX 5 showed him our video Schremp revised that. “It’s certainly a recent change that you know, we haven’t been made aware of that,” he said.

      He said Kinder Morgan’s Richmond terminal has been receiving ethanol on 100 car trains for years. But what about receiving explosive Bakken crude?

      KPIX 5 asked Schremp: “Is that something that maybe should be monitored? Put out to the public, so that people are aware that this is running through that area?”

      “Well I think it would depend. If the crude oil is just in rail cars and is just temporarily stored there in rail cars, then there should be no need to do an Environmental Impact Report,” he said.

      But our camera captured much more than that. After talking to the state, we went back to Richmond and saw this: Bakken crude oil getting unloaded from the train cars onto tanker trucks.

      KPIX 5 followed one of those tanker trucks to the Tesoro refinery in Martinez.

      So we wondered, where’s the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?

      “Our agency would not necessarily require an EIR to be done,” said Jim Karas at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Karas said Kinder Morgan just applied for a change of use, because their terminal is already set up to receive ethanol trains.

      So even though it’s now Bakken crude, key agencies involved don’t seem to care. “This would not be something that would be a significant concern to us,” said Karas.

      KPIX 5 called the city of Richmond to see if they approved the project. They said Kinder Morgan leases the rail yard from Burlington Northern Railroad, which is under federal jurisdiction. Bottom line they said they have no control.

      Kinder Morgan confirms it is receiving the trains and is in compliance with air quality district permits. In a statement to KPIX they said : “Kinder Morgan is committed to public safety, protection of the environment and operation of our facilities in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. It is our goal to work openly and cooperatively with all stakeholders regarding environmental, health and safety (EH&S) issues. Among other related EH&S programs, policies and procedures (including annual EPA compliance and ethics training for employees) to help us achieve that goal, we integrate Kinder Morgan EH&S employees into each business unit, where they actively participate in the overall operating success of the organization.”

       

        For safe and healthy communities…