Tag Archives: Aliceville Alabama

Albany NY Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

Repost from The Press Republican, Plattsburgh, NY
[Editor: the safety improvements showcased here are far from adequate, nevertheless, it’s a good update on conditions in New York.  Sen. Schumer is absolutely right – the DOT-111 tank cars should be taken out of service immediately… and not just in New York.  And Bakken crude should be stabilized before it is transported (not just conditioned) … just as it is in Texas.  – RS]

Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

Lohr McKinstry, December 6, 2014

LEWIS — New state regulations on crude-oil trains should help make them safer, Emergency Services officials from Essex and Clinton counties said recently.

State agencies have implemented 66 actions designed to strengthen standards, regulations and procedures to make the transport of crude oil by rail and water in New York safer and to improve spill preparedness and response.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a status report outlining the progress made by multiple state agencies after they were directed to evaluate the state’s capacity to prevent and address crude-oil accidents.

Local leaders have been concerned about the 100-car-plus oil trains moving through Clinton and Essex counties as the crude oil extracted in North Dakota arrives via Canadian Pacific Railway trains.

The oil is on its way to the Port of Albany, where it is stored for transport to various refineries.

IMPROVEMENTS

Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said he sees the new procedures as a safety benefit to the North Country.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he told the Press-Republican. “We’re in a better position than we were a year ago.”

There’s been concern the trains could derail, and the oil burn or explode, as it has in other regions, and Jaquish praised Canadian Pacific for trying to make the tracks and tank cars safer.

“Upgrading the DOT-111 tank cars, rail replacement and maintenance, and specialized training are all beneficial to safety.

“Canadian Pacific has been helping us with training, hands-on-experience, that first responders need for these situations.”

EVACUATION PRACTICE

The tank cars are not owned by Canadian Pacific but by oil companies and vendors, and as a federal common carrier, the railroad is required to transport them.

Both the railroad and federal regulators have pushed for upgrades to the DOT-111 single-shell cars or a switch to the stronger DOT-109 or 112 cars.

“In almost any situation we get, we will be doing evacuations,” Jaquish said. “We’ve been working with Clinton County on planning and implementation.”

Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day said any improvements to the transport of oil cars are welcome.

“At the end of the day, what they’ve done is good, no question,” Day told the Press-Republican. “Any regulatory move to make the DOT-111 cars safer is a plus. It’s a long time coming.”

One problem is that there are thousands of DOT-111 tank cars still in service, he said.

“There are so many of them (DOT-111 cars) out there on the tracks. They’re not going to stop moving the oil before they fix the cars. The oil is not going to stop coming any time soon.”

STATE GUIDANCE

Day said enhanced state regulations on oil shipments will be helpful.

“If there are changes that are pushed upon them (shippers), it can only make it safer. We’ve seen some of the benefits of the state’s work with regard to planning,” he said.

“We have guidance now on firefighting potential on dealing with these things. There are so many variables. Multiple cars of this crude oil on fire are a different animal.”

He said that, thanks to a donation, they now have the foam needed for such fires. The expensive product costs $30,000 for 1,000 gallons of foam but puts out crude-oil-based fires.

VOLATILE GAS

The North Dakota Industrial Commission has proposed draft regulations to remove the volatile gases from the oil before it is shipped, and Day said that provision is a good one.

“One of the things that makes the Bakken crude so volatile are the gases in the oil. The gas works its way out and is stuck in the head space of the car. If they breech, there’s flammable gas; cars that aren’t breeched and heat up, the gas could expand and be a problem.

“Removing that gas is a possibility before they put in the cars and ship it. If they could do that, it’s a big win.”

FEDERAL ROLE

Cuomo called for the federal government to mandate tank-car upgrades or replacement.

“The federal government plays a vital role in regulating this industry, and Washington must step up in order to expedite the implementation of safer policies and rules for crude-oil transport,” he said in the release.

The governor said the oil-production industry has resisted stronger tank-car standards and regulations requiring companies to reduce the volatility of crude before shipment.

A new report from the Brattle Group for the Railroad Supply Institute, a trade group, showed that a proposed federal rule to upgrade rail-tank cars could cost $60 billion.

According to the report, the high price tag is largely due to the costs associated with potential modifications to tank cars, early retirement of existing tank cars, temporarily using trucks instead of rails for transport and lost service time for tank cars under modification or awaiting modification.

‘TIME BOMBS’

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has also come out against use of DOT-111 cars.

“These outmoded DOT-111 tank cars … are ticking time bombs that need to be upgraded ASAP,” the senator said in a news release.

“That is why for two years, since the tragedy at Lac-Megantic, I have pushed federal regulators to phase out and retrofit these cars.

“As a result of our efforts, the federal Department of Transportation has put a proposal on the table that could start taking these cars off the tracks within two years, as well as restrict the speeds at which these trains operate.”

On July 6, 2013, a 74-tank-car train carrying Bakken light crude derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and the tank cars exploded, killing 47 people, destroying 30 buildings and spilling 1.5 million gallons of heavy crude oil.

That disaster was followed by oil-train-explosion derailments in Alabama, North Dakota, Illinois and New Brunswick, Canada.

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    Rachel Maddow: Train explosion, collision (DRAMATIC VIDEO)

    Repost from MSNBC, Rachel Maddow Show
    [Editor: Incredible video footage of two early October train crashes, and excellent Rachel Maddow commentary.  (Live video of the train crash at minute 2:10.)  Apologies for the 20-second commercial ad that precedes the video.  – RS]

    Train explosion, collision demonstrate oil shipping dangers

    Rachel Maddow, 10/07/14


    Rachel Maddow reports on a train derailment and subsequent fire in Canada, which follows on the heels of a dramatic train crash in Louisiana as the oil and rail industries try to push back the deadline for new federal safetly requirements.

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      Examiner Op Ed: Our fight to stop the bomb trains traveling through our backyards

      Repost from The San Francisco Examiner

      Our fight to stop the bomb trains traveling through our backyards

      By Suma Peesapati, August 28, 2014
      Casselton, N.D.
      Bruce Crummy/2013 AP file photo | An oil train derailed on Dec. 30 in Casselton, N.D. It was one of a handful of recent incidents of rail cars carrying crude oil exploding and going up in flames.

      “This issue needs to be acted on very quickly. There is a very high risk here that hasn’t been addressed. We don’t need a higher body count before they move forward.”

      It was a mark-my-words moment from National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman at her farewell appearance before stepping down from the position in April.

      She was speaking about the explosive growth of the use of unsafe tanker cars to haul crude oil extracted from the Bakken reserve in North Dakota and Montana to refineries across our nation. When involved in derailments, many of these cars carrying the highly volatile fossil fuel are vulnerable to puncture and explosion upon impact. They were the cars that were involved in explosions in Aliceville, Alaska, in November, Casselton, N.D., a month later and, of course, last summer’s horrific reckoning in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

      Not two weeks after Hersman made her remarks, a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in Lynchburg, Va., igniting a roaring blaze and prompting the evacuation of the entire downtown. The tankers involved, however, weren’t the cars that the former chairwoman was warning about. They were a tougher, supposedly safer car tank car that the rail and oil industry is slowly moving toward adopting. It begs the question, though, are these newer cars going to be safe enough?

      This question recently hit home when a local news station exposed a clandestine crude by rail-loading operation in Richmond, here in the Bay Area, that had been flying under the radar for months. After making a backroom deal with the local air district, Kinder Morgan secured approval to introduce this highly explosive fracked crude through urban Bay Area neighborhoods without any public notice or environmental review.

      Within two weeks after the story broke, Earthjustice sued the air district and Kinder Morgan, demanding a full public airing of the project’s risks to public health and safety. A hearing on the merits of this case is scheduled for Sept. 5 in San Francisco Superior Court. While we await our day in court, Kinder Morgan is unloading its crude just a half-mile from Washington Elementary School, in a low-income community of color that the air district recognizes as already overburdened by the very same carcinogenic toxic air contaminants released by handling Bakken crude.

      Piling on to this environmental injustice, this crude is being loaded onto tanker trucks that are not certified by California. Those trucks then travel on Bay Area roadways until this dangerous commodity reaches its ultimate destination — the Tesoro refinery in Martinez.

      Tesoro Martinez is also accepting Bakken crude from similar rail-to-truck crude transfer operations in Sacramento, thereby compounding the risk of accident. With some of the most treacherous mountain passes in the country, and a dilapidated railway system that was never designed or upgraded to transport such dangerous cargo, these trains are ticking time bombs.

      The anemic response from state and federal regulators has been disappointing. Fortunately, our state and federal environmental laws gives private citizens a voice demand more than “business as usual.”

      Suma Peesapati is an attorney for San Francisco-based Earthjustice.
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