Tag Archives: Bay Area

KPIX VIDEO: Bay Area activist Andrés Soto on explosion in West Virginia

Repost from KPIX News
[Editor: Thanks to KPIX for local coverage, but we regret that this report did not mention Mr. Soto’s role as spokesperson for Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community. This report also missed an opportunity to cover the highly successful grassroots efforts here in Benicia to stop a proposed crude by rail development at Valero Refinery.   – RS]

West Virginia Train Derailment Is Reminder Of Bay Area Bakken Oil Shipment Vulnerability

Bay Area environmentalists are anxiously watching reports of a train derailment in West Virginia because the same Bakken crude oil is transported through Martinez and Richmond.  Christin Ayers, (2/16/15)


    KPIX: State Senator Says Bay Area Not Prepared For Crude Oil Trains

    Repost from 5KPIX TV CBS SF Bay Area
    [Editor: apologies for the video’s commercial ad.  You can pass on choosing an ad – the video will begin if you just wait.  – RS]

    State Senator Says Bay Area Not Prepared For Crude Oil Trains

    Phil Matier talks with state senator Jerry Hill who believes that Bay Area emergency crews are not properly prepared to handle the hundreds of tanker trains bringing shale crude oil from the Dakotas to local refineries. (11/23/14)


      Merced Sun-Star editorial: Tell us when dangerous oil cars are rolling

      Repost from The Merced Sun-Star

      Our View: Tell us when dangerous oil cars are rolling

      Editorial, August 15, 2014

      Railroad tracks run up and down the valley like a spine, carrying everything from cans to cars, telephone poles to toothpicks. Many communities see 30, 40 or even 50 trains a day.  Some of those cars carry dangerous materials. Compressed gas and caustic chemicals move in black, cylindrical tank cars adorned with two markings – the red diamond with a flame and “DOT 111” stenciled on each car.

      Not yet, but soon some of those rail cars will be hauling another dangerous material – crude oil extracted from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota. While it is no more dangerous than many other chemicals, there’s likely to be a lot more of it on the rails that bisect our communities. The railroads and state must make certain that we are aware of these movements and have a plan for dealing with any emergency.

      California’s Office of Emergency Services estimates shipments of Bakken crude will increase 25-fold by 2016 as 150 million barrels are sent to refineries in the Bay Area, Southern California and soon to two being readied in Bakersfield. That could mean thousands of tank cars a year moving through Modesto, Livingston, Merced and beyond. Mother Jones magazine calls it a “virtual pipeline.”

      The Wall Street Journal reported Bakken crude contains higher amounts of butane, ethane and propane than other crude oils, making it too volatile for actual pipelines.

      In July, 2013, a train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Less dramatic derailments, some with fires, have occurred in North Dakota, Virginia and Illinois. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports 108 crude spills last year.

      “When you look at the lines of travel from Canada and North Dakota, you figure if they’re headed for the Bay Area or to Bakersfield, the odds are that you’re going to see shipments going down the Valley,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, who represents north Sacramento. So, he authored Assembly Bill 380, which would require the railroads to notify area first-responders whenever these trains are passing through.

      Others are concerned, too. In July, the DOT issued proposed rules for safe transport, including increased cargo sampling, better route analysis, a 40 mph speed limit on trains labeled “high-hazard flammable,” and switching to newer, safer DOT 111 cars after Oct. 1, 2015. The new cars have double steel walls, better closures and heavier carriages. Currently, they make up about a third of the nation’s tanker fleet. California’s Office of Emergency Services has issued 12 recommendations, ranging from allowing better data collection to phasing out those old tank cars to better training for first-responders.

      The railroads are already doing many of these things. Since the mid-1990s, BNSF has offered – at no charge – training for handling spilled hazardous materials and more extreme emergencies. But not enough local agencies have found the time to take the classes. A BNSF spokeswoman said the railroad would even come to town to conduct the training.

      In May, the USDOT issued an emergency order in May requiring all carriers to inform first responders about crude oil moving through their towns and for the immediate development of plans to handle spills. Unfortunately, it contains a discomforting criteria: the order applies only to trains carrying 1 million gallons of Bakken crude, or roughly 35 tank cars. And to reach USDOT’s definition of a “high-hazard flammable train,” also requiring a warning, a train must have 20 tank cars.

      Some perspective. In Virginia, one one tank car carrying Bakken crude exploded and flew an estimated 5,500 feet; a photograph of another explosion showed a fireball rising 700 feet from a single car. Our first responders ought to know when even one car carrying such material is coming through town. And that information must be shared beyond communities directly on rail lines because even our largest communities count on neighboring agencies to provide assistance during emergencies. When such cargo is moving, every emergency responder in the vicinity should be on alert.

      Currently, the railroads share that information only if a local agency asks for it. That’s not good enough. Dickinson’s bill would make notification available on a real-time basis, without asking. But his bill mirrors federal orders on the size of the train; a dangerous loophole.

      The incredible expansion of America’s oil resources is creating many positives – from more jobs to less dependence on foreign oil. But it’s happening so fast that we’re making up the safety aspects as we roll along. Federal rules don’t go nearly far enough to protect public safety in this new world.


        KQED: Benicia Extends Public Comment Period on Bay Area Crude-by-Rail

        Repost from KQED Science

        Benicia Extends Public Comment Period on Bay Area Crude-by-Rail

        Molly Samuel, KQED Science | July 11, 2014

        Benicia city officials are giving people more time to comment on a proposal to bring crude oil by rail to Valero’s refinery there. The Benicia Planning Commission made the decision on Thursday night after hearing two hours of testimony. All but three speakers were in favor of extending the comment period, citing summer vacations and the complexity of the project’s draft environmental impact report.

        Valero is looking to take advantage of the North American oil boom by bringing the crude in by rail, instead of overseas by ship.

        The Valero refinery in Benicia is one of five refineries in the Bay Area. (Craig Miller/KQED)

        The project has raised safety concerns in the community. There have been several fiery oil train derailments in other parts of the country in the past year, and last summer a train carrying crude oil exploded in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

        “That is not going to happen here,” said Dan Broadwater, business manager for the Napa and Solano County electrical workers union. He pointed out that Valero’s Benicia refinery is one of only two refineries in the state that are recognized by the California Voluntary Protection Program for its safety record. (The other is Valero’s refinery in Wilmington, a neighborhood near Long Beach.)

        Other speakers said that it’s not just about safety at the Valero plant.

        “We believe this is actually a regional issue,” Lynne Nittler, of Davis, told the commission. “Your decision here has a profound impact on those of us who live up-rail.”

        If the project is given the go-ahead, two 50-car trains a day would travel on Union Pacific tracks through the Roseville rail yard near Sacramento. Combined, they would deliver up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil a day to the Valero refinery, offsetting crude delivered by ship. The refinery also receives crude from the San Joaquin Valley via pipeline.

        Valero representatives have said the trains will be scheduled so that they don’t interfere with traffic in Benicia during rush hour. Union Pacific is responsible for dispatching trains on its tracks, including Amtrak’s Capital Corridor trains, which travel the same route.

        Valero has also said it will use upgraded tank cars, rather than older cars that have been involved in the explosive derailments.

        The public comment period on the project now ends on September 15, a 45-day extension. Comments can be submitted to Amy Million, principal planner: amillion@ci.benicia.ca.us.  Fax and snail mail address are available here.