Repost from The Spartan Daily at San Jose State University
[Quote: “Last Wednesday a Union Pacific train pulling empty gravel cars derailed near Taylor and Seventh streets in Japantown. There were no injuries, but stalled traffic forced public transit to reroute, according to a report by NBC Bay Area.” Editor: See also the NBC report. – RS]
Trains will bring oil through Downtown San JoseBy Jeremy Cummings Mar 18, 2015 2:36 am
Despite growing public opposition to transportation of crude oil by rail since serious accidents such as the Lac-Megantic crash in 2013 a proposal to the Santa Maria Planning Commission might bring a crude oil train directly through Downtown San Jose.
Jill and Jack Sardegna, two concerned San Jose natives who live close to the train tracks, worry about pollution and other risks the trains could bring.
“We didn’t think that this was a possibility here, and certainly not through a residential area,” Jill Sardegna said, “But here it is.”
San Jose State is in the potential impact zone of fires that could result from a derailment downtown, according to blast-zone.org, but the school’s administration is unprepared at this point to respond to such an event, according to SJSU Chief of Staff Stacy Gleixner at a press conference with student media last Wednesday.
“I don’t think we’ve given thought yet to what kind of precautions we might need to have in place,” Gleixner said.
The train, run by Union Pacific Railroad, will carry oil to the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo County and was proposed in 2013.
According to a draft of the proposal’s environmental impact report on slocounty.ca.gov, up to five 80-car trains will run to the Mesa refinery a week.
The commission has the final say on whether or not the oil trains will run, a decision which will impact some citizens’ lives all throughout California, according to Council member Ash Kalra.
Safety risks of oil trains
Complete safety cannot be guaranteed when transporting oil by rail, according to Francisco J. Castillo, director of corporate relations and media at Union Pacific Railroad.
Castillo said although oil by rail arrives safely 99.99 percent of the time, there is a risk associated with this shipping method as there is with any other.
In July 2013 an oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, killing 47 and causing significant damage to the city.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported that this crash was a result of simple human error. A conductor failed to set the train’s brakes correctly, allowing it to run out of control into the town center.
Data from a report released by environmental watchdog Mesa Refinery Watch Group shows that approximately 462,000 gallons of crude oil are confirmed to have spilled in the United States alone since 2013.
Unconfirmed amounts of oil have been spilled in other derailments such as one that occurred in Aliceville, Alabama, in December 2013.
The most commonly used tank car by the Department of Transportation is the DOT-111.
According to data from dot111.org and 2014 North American Freight Railcar review, DOT-111s make up approximately 75 percent of the North American Rail Fleet.
These tank cars are a big concern to environmental groups such as the Mesa Refinery Watch Group, which say DOT-111s follow outdated safety standards and leak large quantities of hazardous materials during transit.
Carol Ziegler, a representative of Phillips 66, said all of the cars in its fleet meet the newest safety standards for oil transportation.
Last Wednesday a Union Pacific train pulling empty gravel cars derailed near Taylor and Seventh streets in Japantown.
There were no injuries, but stalled traffic forced public transit to reroute, according to a report by NBC Bay Area.
The Lac-Megantic accident shows the potential consequences of an oil train derailing in a populated area.
According to San Jose Fire Department Chief Curtis Jacobsen, San Jose Fire is not equipped to contain the fires that could result from a derailment.
The Sardegnas are worried by the lack of publicized information about this issue, and have contacted multiple news outlets including the Mercury News trying to get the word out.
“This is a big concern for us that students don’t even know this is happening,” Jill Sardegna said.
Councilmember Kalra said it’s important for SJSU students to educate themselves about this and other issues so they might make a difference going into the future.