Tag Archives: Big Rail

Andrés Soto letter: Not fooled by Big Oil and Big Rail

Letter to the editor, The Benicia Herald
[Editor: Note that letters do not appear in the online edition of the Benicia Herald.  Andrés Soto lives in Benicia and is well-known throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for his environmental justice advocacy and his mastery of the saxophone.  I particularly like Andrés’ focus on 19th century historical context.  – RS]

Not fooled by Big Oil and Big Rail

By Andrés Soto, July 23, 2015

Dear Editor:

Andres Soto
Andrés Soto

The recent phenomenon of transporting dangerous, volatile Bakken Crude by rail has created an opportunity for the American people to learn the true motives of Big Oil and Big Rail and what we as impacted communities can do about it.

Continuing derailments, explosions, fires and evacuations have shined the light on the Profit At Any Cost attitude of Big Oil and Big Rail. These industries grew up together in the late 19th century and led to some of the most egregious periods of income inequality, corruption and social conflict in US history.

Now these industries are asking us to trust them and allow them to bring Bomb Trains through our communities, putting our town’s economic viability at risk for a short-term economic gain. Exploding trains all over North America tell us a different story and we are not fooled.

Currently, the Valero Crude By Rail Project and the Phillips 66 San Luis Obispo Crude By Rail Project both put our town at risk for a catastrophe. Communities all over the country are standing up to oppose this high risk venture by Big Oil and Big Rail. Recently, the WesPAC Crude By Rail Project in Pittsburg, California removed the rail part of the project to make it a straight pipeline project.

Fracked Bakken Crude and strip mined Alberta Tar Sands Crude are just two of the Extreme Extracted Crude strategies by Big Oil to bring oil to market that would be better left in the ground. An intelligent global cooling plan to save our planet for future generations and all species requires the we leave the oil beneath the soil!.

Valero has already admitted it can and is bringing Extreme Crude in by barge to the Port of Benicia, thus it does not need the Valero Crude By Rail Project to be profitable. Therefore, it begs the question: Why would we, the people of Benicia, allow this project to proceed when it is just too dangerous?

Global warming is going to cause significant parts of Benicia to be underwater. Shouldn’t we be working on preventing that, rather than trying find ways to contribute to the problem?

We are the people of Benicia and our voices need to be heard! The Benicia Planning Commission and the Benicia City Council have a responsibility to listen to us and do what is in the best interests of ALL Benicians. Stop Valero’s Dangerous Crude By rail Project!!!

Andrés Soto
Benicia, CA
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    Federal Court Order: Explosive DOT-111 “Bomb Train” Oil Tank Cars Can Continue to Roll

    Repost from DeSmogBlog
    [Editor: see also related story at SputnikNews.  – RS]

    Federal Court Order: Explosive DOT-111 “Bomb Train” Oil Tank Cars Can Continue to Roll

    By Steve Horn, 1/23/15

    A U.S. federal court has ordered a halt in proceedings until May in a case centering around oil-by-rail tankers pitting the Sierra Club and ForestEthics against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). As a result, potentially explosive DOT-111 oil tank cars, dubbed “bomb trains” by activists, can continue to roll through towns and cities across the U.S. indefinitely.  

    “The briefing schedule previously established by the court is vacated,” wrote Chris Goelz, a mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “This appeal is stayed until May 12, 2015, or pending publication in the Federal Register of the final tank car standards and phase out of DOT-111 tank cars, whichever occurs first.”

    Order to Delay DOT-111 Bomb Trains Case
    Image Credit: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

    Filing its initial petition for review on December 2, the Sierra Club/ForestEthics lawsuit had barely gotten off the ground before being delayed.

    That initial petition called for a judicial review of the DOT‘s denial of a July 15, 2014 Petition to Issue an Emergency Order Prohibiting the Shipment of Bakken Crude Oil in Unsafe Tank Cars written by EarthJustice on behalf of the two groups. On November 7, DOT denied Earthjustice’s petition, leading the groups to file the lawsuit.

    Initially, DOT told the public it would release its draft updated oil-by-rail regulations by March 31, but now will wait until May 12 to do so. As reported by The Journal News, the delay came in the aftermath of pressure from Big Oil and Big Rail.

    “In a joint filing, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) contend the tank car industry doesn’t have the capacity to retrofit the estimated 143,000 tank cars that would need to be modernized to meet the new specifications,” wrote The Journal News. “Nor can manufacturers build new tank cars fast enough, they say.”

    The “bomb trains” carrying volatile crude oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the Bakken Shale, then, will continue to roll unimpeded for the foreseeable future. They will do so in the same DOT-111 rail cars that put the fracked oil-by-rail safety issue on the map to begin with — the July 2013 deadly explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

    And as DeSmogBlog has reported, industry promises to phase-out DOT-111s on a voluntary basis have rung hollow.

    “The courts and the administration are dragging their feet on common sense safety steps that will take the most dangerous oil tanker cars off the tracks, slow down these trains, and help emergency responders prepare for accidents,” Eddie Scher, communications director for ForestEthics, told DeSmogBlog.

    “We filed our lawsuit because the DOT is not moving fast enough on safety. This court’s decision ignored the imminent threat to the 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone and the communities around the nation that don’t have the luxury of waiting for DOT and the rail and oil industry lobbyists to finish their rule.”

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      National Round-up: Calls to Ban Bomb Trains Ramp Up While Communities Await New Regulations

      Repost from DeSmogBlog

      Calls to Ban Bomb Trains Ramp Up While Communities Await New Regulations

      By Justin Mikulka, 2014-12-15
      ban bomb trains

      Earthjustice has challenged the Department of Transportation’s denial of a petition by Sierra Club and Forest Ethics to ban the transportation of Bakken crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars.

      Most of the explosive crude oil on U.S. rails is moving in tanker cars that are almost guaranteed to fail in an accident,” explained Patti Goldman of Earthjustice.

      The risks are too great to keep shipping explosive Bakken crude in defective DOT-111s. The National Transportation Safety Board called them unsafe two decades ago, and by the Department of Transportation’s own estimates, the U.S. could see 15 rail accidents every year involving these cars until we get them off the tracks.”

      At the same time Earthjustice was bringing this challenge, the Canadian government was announcing that it will ban 3,000 of the riskiest DOT-111s from carrying materials like Bakken crude.

      And in California, where last week a train carrying grain derailed into the Feather River, democratic state senator Jerry Hill called on Governor Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on oil trains in the state. The Feather River rail line is also used for Bakken crude oil trains.

      In Toronto, the new mayor called for an end to these dangerous trains passing through the city.

      I said during the campaign and I’ll repeat it now, that I think we should be moving in the direction, in negotiation with the railways and the federal government, to stop movement of toxic and dangerous substances through the city at all,” reported The Star.

      Perhaps the fact that the new mayor isn’t smoking crack like his predecessor has something to do with this rather clear-headed assessment. You would, after all, have to be on crack to think running DOT-111s filled with Bakken crude through highly populated areas was an acceptable practice.

      Meanwhile in Baltimore, residents are fighting a new proposal for an oil-by-rail facility that would bring these trains right through their neighborhoods.

      In addition to calls for outright bans of the DOT-111s, two states recently released new studies about the oil train issue.

      In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking for ways to fund the oil spill clean up fund for the state. The fund is projected to be in the red financially by 2016 and currently collects no fees from the oil companies transporting the Bakken and tar sands oil through the state. As many as 44 oil trains carrying at least 1,000,000 gallons of oil, and often more than 3,000,000 gallons, cross New York each week.

      Cuomo criticized the federal government’s lack of movement on new oil-by-rail regulations referring to their progress as “unacceptably slow” according to The Record Online.

      Over the past six months, our administration has taken swift and decisive action to increase the state’s preparedness and better protect New Yorkers from the possibility of a crude oil disaster,” Cuomo said. “Now it is time for our federal partners to do the same.”

      Cuomo’s self-assessment of New York’s actions didn’t impress oil train activists. Sandy Steubing of Albany, NY, based group PAUSE isn’t pleased with the state’s progress.

      “The Governor’s response is lame; he’s either urging other entities like the railroad and the Federal government to protect New Yorkers or he’s trying to appear like the measures he’s taking will protect us,” Steubing said. “There’s not enough foam in the entire state to protect us from an explosive derailment the likes of which we’ve seen five times since July of 2013.”

      Meanwhile in Washington State, the draft of the 500-page 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study was released. The report contains some staggering growth projections for oil-by-rail transportation in the state, as reported by The News Tribune.

      The Department of Ecology’s report estimates that 12.7 billion gallons of oil were moved through the state by rail in 2013 alone and says 19 trains of roughly 100 tank cars each are passing through the state each week today. It predicts that traffic could mushroom to 137 weekly trains by 2020 if all proposed oil terminals and refinery expansion projects are permitted and utilized.

      Facing this onslaught of oil-by-rail traffic for the state, Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee is proposing a new tax on oil transported through the state by rail.

      In North Dakota, the birthplace of the modern oil-by-rail industry, meaningless new rail regulations will keep the bomb trains rolling. There is also a legal battle going on between the town of Enderlin and the rail operator Canadian Pacific. Canadian Pacific moves as many as 28 trains through Enderlin every day. Many stop and block roads and traffic in Enderlin causing traffic delays one would expect in Los Angeles but not in a town of 900 people in North Dakota.

      In response, the town council made it illegal for trains to stop for more than 10 minutes in town. Now the town is being sued by Canadian Pacific. Unfortunately for the residents of Enderlin, Canadian Pacific has a strong argument that many municipalities are learning about now that they have become the home to oil train operations.

      Kansas interstate commerce attorney Bob Pottroff explained the reality to Reuters, “Right now cities don’t have the right to tell a railroad it can’t park in the middle of their town.” If Enderlin were to win, Pottroff predicted the result could have far reaching effects as other municipalities opted to take some level of control over rail traffic within their borders.

      In the face of this widespread opposition to the dangers posed by the oil-by-rail industry, there just happens to be a new industry-funded study showing that no new regulations are warranted.

      The Railway Supply Institute funded a report prepared by The Brattle Group that concludes that all of the proposed regulations may have benefits but in every case they have found that the costs outweigh these benefits. In addition to this conclusion, Natural Gas Intelligence reports that The Brattle Group proposes one of the other favorite industry tactics for delaying new regulations. More research.

      As communities across the country await new oil-by-rail regulations and continue to hear about close calls regarding oil train accidents the level of opposition to the dangers of transporting explosive oil in DOT-111s continues to grow. Unfortunately for them, the lobbyists for Big Oil and Big Rail are still hard at work protecting their profits above all else.

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