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 http://beniciaindependent.com/?p=80 Also see http://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={C45EA667-8D39-4B30-87EB-9110A2F9CE13}


    Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (SafeBenicia.org)
    Facebook: Stop Crude By Rail (facebook.com/stopcrudebyrail)
    The Benicia Independent (BeniciaIndependent.com)


    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…