Tag Archives: Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Contra Costa Times: Judge tosses out suit seeking to stop crude oil shipments by rail

Repost from The Contra Costa Times

Richmond: Judge tosses out suit seeking to stop crude oil shipments by rail

By Tom Lochner, Contra Costa Times, 09/05/2014

SAN FRANCISCO — A lawsuit by environmental groups seeking to stop shipments of crude oil by rail to Richmond was tossed out by a judge Friday on the grounds that it was filed too late.

Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in March. The suit involved a Feb. 3 permit issued to Kinder Morgan to receive crude oil by rail at its Richmond trans-loading facility along the BNSF Railway tracks off Garrard Boulevard, where the oil is transferred to trucks.

Kinder Morgan Material Services LLC and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP were co-defendants.

Tanker cars sit on railroad tracks near the Shell Refinery in Martinez, Calif. on Monday, May 6, 2013. The Bay Area’s five refineries have moved
Tanker cars sit on railroad tracks near the Shell Refinery in Martinez, Calif. on Monday, May 6, 2013. The Bay Area’s five refineries have moved toward acquiring controversial Canadian tar sands crude through rail delivery. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

The Feb. 3 permit amended a July 2013 permit that allowed Kinder Morgan to operate a denatured ethanol and crude oil bulk terminal. Ethanol is a volatile liquid derived from grain that is used as fuel or as a fuel additive, among other uses. The Feb. 3 amendments included modified testing procedures and standards for trucks. But the judge applied the 180-day statute of limitations to when the July 2013 permit was issued.

Both permits were issued ministerially and without environmental review.

Kinder Morgan has declined to say where the trucks are headed, citing confidentiality, but they are widely believed to be bound for the Tesoro Golden Eagle refinery in Martinez. Tesoro was an intervenor in the lawsuit, which had sought a preliminary injunction against further crude oil operations at Kinder Morgan and suspension of the air district permit pending a full review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Earlier this year, a Tesoro spokeswoman confirmed the Martinez facility receives between 5,000 and 10,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude, a light, flammable variety named after oil fields in North Dakota and adjacent areas. That amount is equivalent to about two to four trains per month, the spokeswoman said, and is received through a “third-party facility” that she did not identify.

Air district counsel Brian Bunger hailed Friday’s decision as “a correct application of the law.”

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” Bunger said.

Air district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said late Friday that “The Air District will continue to work with state legislators and policy makers regarding where and how crude oil is transported into the region for refining.”

But Earthjustice blasted the dismissal, saying it allows Kinder Morgan and the air district to “get away with opening (Richmond) to crude oil transport by rail without public notice.”

“This is just how the agencies and industry wins — hide the information, make the change under the cover of night, and hope people don’t notice while the clock winds down on any hope to stop these dangerous and callous developments,” Earthjustice attorney Suma Peesapati said in a news release. “What’s worse is this emboldens other companies to do the same thing and hide their switch to crude oil.”

Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said his company is “satisfied with the outcome.”

“It was a well-reasoned and thoughtful decision by the judge,” Wheatley said in an email Friday. “We look forward to continuing to serve our customers safely and reliably.”

Tesoro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Responding by email Friday, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who sits on the air district board, said: “Despite this case’s dismissal, I remain concerned about the safety of transporting Bakken Crude and believe it’s important for the Federal Government to strengthen safety standards.”

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    Judge dismisses environmentalists’ lawsuit against BAAQMD

    Repost from SFGate

    BREAKING NEWS: Judge says suit to stop Richmond oil shipments filed too late

    By Bob Egelko, September 5, 2014

    A judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by environmental groups over shipments of volatile crude oil to the Richmond rail terminal, saying they had waited too long to challenge regulators’ approval of the project – approval they discovered only after the deadline for going to court.

    Trains from the Midwest have been carrying the oil to the terminal of the Kinder Morgan energy company since early February. The environmental law firm Earthjustice learned of the shipments from news reports in mid-March and sued later that month, saying air-quality regulators should have conducted an environmental study of the potential for toxic emissions as well as the explosions that have occurred elsewhere.

    But the Bay Area Air Quality Management District had decided in July 2013 to let Kinder Morgan receive crude oil instead of ethanol, which had been delivered to the terminal since 2009.

    Acting under its legal authority, the district made no public announcement of the new permit, but – according to Friday’s ruling – its action started the clock ticking on a 180-day deadline for a lawsuit.

    That deadline expired two months before the suit was filed, said San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch.

    “I understand the deep concern,” Busch said in a courtroom filled with opponents of the shipments, some of whom wore “Stop Crude by Rail” stickers on their shirts. But he said courts must follow “the Legislature’s determination of the appropriate time period to impose finality.”

    Lawmakers’ decision

    In setting that firm timetable, he said, “the Legislature contemplated circumstances where the public wouldn’t know” a project had been approved.

    Communities for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed the suit.

    Their lawyer, Suma Peesapati of Earthjustice, argued that the 180-day timeline should have started much later, either when the public learned of the oil shipments or when Kinder Morgan halted them for two weeks to bring in oil trucks with stronger protections against vapor release.

    According to documents now available, Peesapati told the judge, the district and the energy company had studied the project for a year and initially agreed that it was likely to harm air quality, a conclusion that would have required a full environmental study and public input. Then, she said, the district reversed course and “cooked the books” to cover its tracks.

    “There was a bait and switch,” Peesapati said. “The public had no way of knowing.”

    5 months of tests

    Lawyers for the district and Kinder Morgan said they had acted safely and legally. John Lynn Smith, the company’s lawyer, said it conducted five months of tests before beginning the shipments, and used trucks that kept vapor releases to their levels during the ethanol deliveries.

    Busch said neither the commencement of the oil shipments nor the truck substitution made significant changes in the project the air district had already approved.

    Peesapati said the environmental groups would consider an appeal. The district’s approval process “was biased in favor of Kinder Morgan at every turn,” she said.

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      Activists In Richmond Halt Oil Tankers

      Repost from Popular Resistance
      [Editor: See this story also on the Richmond Standard, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. and the Sacramento Bee.  – RS]

      Citizens Risk Arrest to Halt Operations at Richmond Oil Train Terminal: Call on Air Quality Agency to Reverse Illegal Permit, Protect Public Health

      By Eddie Scher, risingtidenorthamerica.org, September 4, 2014

      1stopoil[Richmond, CA] Today more than a dozen Bay Area citizens chained themselves to a gate at the Kinder Morgan rail terminal in Richmond to stop operations. The citizens risked arrest to protest mile-long oil trains that threaten the safety of area residents and are a massive new source of air and carbon pollution in the region.

      Among the demonstrators were residents of Richmond, Rodeo, Martinez, and Benicia, all towns that currently see dangerous oil trains moving through residential areas. Earlier this year the regional air quality agency, known as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, changed an existing permit to allow oil trains at the rail facility. Demonstrators contend that the agency broke the law when it modified the existing permit without additional environmental and safety review.

      On Friday the San Francisco Superior Court will hold a hearing on a lawsuit filed by groups challenging the legality of the permit change and asking for a halt to oil train operations at the facility.

      “I work with Richmond residents who already struggle with cancer, asthma and other devastating health impacts of pollution. Now they are living with bomb-trains full of explosive Bakken crude oil driving through their neighborhoods. By allowing this to happen, BAAQMD is failing to protect us and choosing Kinder Morgan’s profits over our safety,” said Megan Zapanta, Asian Pacific Environmental Network Richmond Community Organizer.

      “People in Richmond are angry that the Air District, who are supposed to protect us, instead has put our community at catastrophic risk along with all the uprail communities. This irresponsible behavior must be stopped NOW!” said Andres Soto, organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.

      “It’s unacceptable and illegal that the Air District allowed Kinder Morgan to bring explosive Bakken oil by rail from North Dakota without going through the processes established by state law to protect air quality and the safety of families in Pittsburg, Martinez, Crockett, Rodeo, Benicia, and Richmond. We demand that all operations related to oil by rail at Kinder Morgan stop immediately,” says Pamela Arauz, on behalf of Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition.

      “The law in the State of California requires public agencies like the Air District to inform the public of projects like the Kinder Morgan Bomb Train operation.  Not only that, the law requires an environmental review and public input into the process of issuing permits.  The Air District broke the law when they secretly approved this dangerous project,” stated Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor.

      “As the Bay Area Air District and other government agencies are failing to protect the health and lives of communities from the reckless shipments of crude oil by rail, the people are taking action to protect our communities,” said Bradley Angel, Executive Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

      “The Air District took a reckless, illegal shortcut that puts our families at risk. We’ve seen what happens when one of these trains derails and catches fire, we can’t let that happen here,” said Ethan Buckner, US organizer with ForestEthics.

      “Climate disruption is bearing down on us even faster because of the extreme extraction of tar sands and shale oil. With Bomb Trains carrying millions of gallons of that dangerous crude rolling on Bay Area rails, all of our lives are on the line. Instead of the alarming dead-end expansion of the fossil fuel industry we need a rapid transition to renewable energy now,” said Shoshana Wechsler of the Sunflower Alliance.

      “To be sure, we take the oil refineries’ contempt for fenceline communities for granted. But frankly, it was shocking to see how covertly BAAQMD threw our public health under the bus,” said Nancy Rieser, Co-founder, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment (C.R.U.D.E.)

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        Earthjustice lawsuit against Kinder Morgan & BAAQMD – case overview

        Repost from EARTHJUSTICE … because the Earth needs a good lawyer …

        Challenging Crude-by-Rail Shipments to California’s Bay Area

        The City of Richmond, home to a Chevron refinery and tank farm, is already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.The City of Richmond in California’s Bay Area is already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.  Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

        CASE OVERVIEW

        Earthjustice, on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to halt the shipment of highly explosive and toxic crude oil into the City of Richmond, a community already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.

        The Air District issued Kinder Morgan a permit to operate its crude-by-rail project in early February, without any notice to the public or environmental and health review.  The case asks the court to halt operations immediately while the project undergoes a full and transparent review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

        Members of the Richmond community, perhaps even members of the BAAQMD’s Board of Directors, did not know that a permit to transport crude oil had been issued for over a month.  According to longtime resident of Richmond and CBE organizer Andres Soto, the community is tired of being blind-sided and ignored.

        Berkeley and Richmond city councils have voted to oppose crude-by-rail plans that involved trains running through their cities. The number of trains carrying crude oil around the country has risen dramatically in the last two to three years, due to the increased drilling in both the Alberta tar sands in Canada and the Bakken shale oil area of North Dakota.

        The California Public Utilities Commission, office of Rail Safety, released a report in November 2013 listing a number of alarming railway safety concerns associated with the increased movement of crude oil by rail through California. The report specifically identifies California’s railroad bridges as a significant rail safety risk.

        Bakken crude is extremely explosive and toxic. In January of 2014, the U.S. federal agency that regulates hazardous materials on the rails issued an alert, stating that Bakken crude may be more flammable than other types of crude. And in July of 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a town in Quebec, Canada, killing 47 local residents and destroying most of the downtown area.

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