Standing Room Only – community meeting in Benicia – Stop Crude by Rail!

Repost from the Benicia Herald
(Click here for the video presentations – please be patient, the videos will be a bit slow to load)

Rail plan opponents pack library

March 11, 2014 by Donna Beth Weilenman


More than 100 hear of dangers of crude oil shipments by train

More than 100 people packed the Doña Benicia Room of the Benicia Public Library on Monday night to hear a panel of authors, scientists and organizers urge opposition to the proposed Valero Crude-By-Rail project that is currently undergoing environmental review.

Filmed testimony by Marilaine Savard, a survivor of the July 6, 2013 derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, came early in the program. Savard had spoken Feb. 26 at a similar event in Martinez.

Her views of the tragedy that killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town’s business area were echoed by such activists as Benicia residents Marilyn Bardet and Andres Soto, author Antonia Juhasz and Damien Luzzo, a Davis environmental business owner.

They urged Benicia residents to join neighbors in other refinery cities who object to transporting crude oil by train.

No one from Valero Benicia Refinery, nor anyone who supports its Crude-By-Rail project, spoke Monday.

The meeting was one of many rallies, gatherings and activities planned to galvanize opposition to the proposal to deliver domestic crude to Valero Benicia Refinery by train, said Jan Cox Golovich, a member of the steering committee of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Environment, one of the groups that organized Monday’s “call to action” meeting.

The panelists reminded their audience that while Benicia city officials are considering a project proposed solely to bring in 50 rail cars of oil twice a day into the local refinery, the San Francisco Bay Area has other cities with refineries that also could bring crude from North Dakota’s Bakken fields into the area.

The problem with the Valero project, as with delivering Bakken fields crude to refineries in Richmond, Rodeo, Martinez and Pittsburg, they said, is that the North Dakota crude has properties similar to gasoline.

It is more flammable than heavier “sour” crude such as that obtained from Canadian tar sands. Poured into a glass, Bakken crude resembles light beer, Bardet said, and has a low flashpoint under pressure.

In contrast, another panelist, Diane Bailey, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Canadian tar sands from Alberta looks like dark, goopy coffee grounds or peanut butter.

That heavier crude has its own dangers, Bailey said. It, too, can spill, polluting environmentally sensitive lands. It’s dirtier than lighter crudes, with more heavy metals and a higher percentage of other toxins.

Valero officials have said repeatedly the Benicia refinery isn’t equipped to process tar sands oil, but Bailey said such crude can be diluted with solvents — chemicals like benzene that pose their own health threats.

Juhasz said the ability to drill horizontally and use the same fracking technique that is used to obtain natural gas has opened the Bakken oil fields.

A significant amount of that oil is moved by rail, she said, since pipelines aren’t available and the oil fields are nowhere near navigable waters — which has led to a dramatic increase in the number of spills.

More barrels of oil were spilled in 2013 alone than were spilled from 1975 to 2012, Juhasz said.

Not only do the fracking process and the spills worry her, she’s also concerned that there is little regulation that protects public safety.

In fact, Juhasz noted, the National Transportation Safety Board has been asking for better crude-carrying rail cars for 20 years. While some individual railroad companies, such as BNSF, have announced they aren’t waiting for federal regulators to require better oil cars, Juhasz said stricter regulation of the rail delivery of crude “is practically nonexistent.”

The country’s older pipelines aren’t much better, and have burst, sending crude into sensitive wetlands, panelists said.

The Bakken fields have made North Dakota the biggest oil-producing state except for Texas, Juhasz said. Yet, noted the author of “The Tyranny of Oil and “The Bush Agenda,” the increase in domestic crude hasn’t lowered gasoline prices because much of the oil is being sold outside the United States.

Ed Ruszel, whose woodworking company sits next to rails that belonged to the Southern Pacific Railroad when he first purchased his company’s land in the Benicia Industrial Park, said the much shorter trains that operate near his business tie up traffic for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Those are 15-car trains. Ruszel said the 50-car trains proposed as part of the Valero Crude-By-Rail project would have a greater impact on Industrial Park traffic.

Nor does he expect that the Union Pacific Railroad would limit the trains to 50 cars each twice a day. He said he suspects the railroad would bring even more rail cars in during the weekend and let them sit, stored on Industrial Park tracks.

Andres_SotoSoto, an activist who has moved to Benicia, his parents’ hometown, after working for years in Richmond, said because crude by rail doesn’t just affect Benicia, residents should join their neighbors to prevent train delivery of oil to Conoco Phillips, Shell, Chevron and other Bay Area refineries.

He also asked the audience to monitor the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as it looks at the cumulative effects of the change to rail deliveries. “It’s caving to industry pressure,” he said. Residents should tell the agency to do “our will” or get a new staff.

If cities with oil refineries have worried residents, municipalities where those trains would pass through also have concerns, said Damien Luzzo, who asked Benicians to object to the Valero project not only for themselves but also for “uprail” cities like Davis.

An explosion the size of the one last year in Quebec “would incinerate half of our town,” he said of Davis, which he described as a city with environmental awareness.

“We’re wondering what we can do,” Luzzo said. “We don’t have the jurisdiction.”


    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


        For safe and healthy communities…