Tag Archives: BP Cherry Point

Emergency Moratorium Stops All Unrefined Oil, Coal, and LNG Export Infrastructure Projects in Whatcom County, WA

Repost from the Bellingham Herald
[Editor: Here is the Whatcom County ordinance.  See also Eddie Scher’s statement from STAND.  – RS]

Whatcom County puts new unrefined fossil fuel exports on hold

By Samantha Wohlfeil, August 10, 2016
[NOTE from your Benicia Independent Editor: The Bellingham Herald story inserts a video here, which amounts to a 2-minute public relations piece for BP Cherry Point with no apparent relation to the story about Whatcom County’s August 9 emergency action. Regardless, the video is an interesting look at an industry attempt at reassuring the public that oil trains are safe. I am choosing NOT to embed this commercial video here. View it at the Bellingham Herald.]

BELLINGHAM  >  No new applications to ship unrefined fossil fuel through Cherry Point can be approved for at least the next two months after Whatcom County Council passed an emergency moratorium Tuesday night, Aug. 9.

The council unanimously passed the moratorium to address concerns about potential public health and safety risks that could come with the increased transportation of unrefined fossil fuels, such as crude oil traveling by rail through the county to two refineries at Cherry Point.

The moratorium does not impact the current refining and shipment of products through the BP Cherry Point and Phillips 66 refineries.

In July, the council directed the Planning Commission to study changes to the county’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan that could prevent any future export of unrefined fossil fuels from Cherry Point.

The council gave the commission until January to take testimony, study the issue, and make a recommendation on whether the changes should be made.

Until Tuesday night, the question of whether new applications for exports might be submitted in the meantime, in order to get ahead of any ban, was still up in the air.

In December 2015, Congress lifted a 40-year ban on exporting domestic crude oil to other countries. That created a concern for some that local refineries could shift to shipping unrefined materials abroad, eliminating local refinery jobs.

Effective immediately, the emergency moratorium prohibits the filing and acceptance of applications for county permits for new or expanded facilities that would facilitate the increased shipment of unrefined fossil fuels out of Cherry Point.

It defines unrefined fossil fuels as including, but not limited to, “all forms of crude oil whether stabilized or not; raw bitumen, diluted bitumen, or syncrude; coal; methane, propane, butane and other ‘natural gas’ in liquid or gaseous formats; and condensate.”

Environmental groups lauded the council’s move.

“It shows bold leadership that protects our community and responds to concerns that have been expressed by thousands of people throughout this process about the dangerous risks that coal, crude oil and natural gas exports pose to public health and safety in Whatcom County,” said Matt Petryni, clean energy program manager for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. RE Sources was one of several environmental organizations rallying people to comment on the proposed unrefined fossil fuel export ban.

Alex Ramel, field director for Stand’s Extreme Oil Campaign, said the moratorium showed Whatcom County was ahead of the curve in policy making.

“This is nation-leading and proactive that the council acted to protect the community from unrefined fossil fuel transport,” Ramel said.

Council members specifically wanted to ensure the moratorium and its wording recognize the positive impact existing industry and the refineries have on the community.

“I find the moratorium helpful. I particularly find it helpful because of the discussion that differentiates between raw materials like crude oil and finished products,” said Steve Garey, a former refinery worker and union president who represented workers at the refineries in Anacortes.

Earlier in the evening, when the council was taking public comment on the rest of the Comprehensive Plan update, Garey told the council that when refineries are converted into exporting facilities, most of the workers lose their jobs.

“It’s important to recognize that refineries need to move finished products, but none of us would be served if they were to shut those plants down and export crude oil,” Garey said in an interview after the moratorium was passed.

The council must hold a public hearing on the emergency moratorium within 60 days. After that, an interim emergency moratorium could be put in place for up to six months, which would allow enough time for the Planning Commission to make its recommendation in January, council member Carl Weimer said. Weimer is the member who first proposed the changes.

“That was key,” Weimer said. “I was scratching my head about whether I was going to support the whole comp plan because I felt we should support the Cherry Point amendments, but I’m fine with passing it while we have this protection in place.”

Brad Owens, president of the Northwest Jobs Alliance, said the moratorium was premature.

“The public deserves their due process through the Planning Commission, and pending the outcome of the Planning Commission’s evaluation, the council should respond accordingly,” Owens said.

The moratorium states that under the Washington State Constitution, the county has authority to provide regulation of land uses within the county.

The council also “recognizes the limits to its authority over transportation of certain goods imposed by federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution, and finds that this action is within its authority.”

If any part of the moratorium is found to be unconstitutional or invalid by a court, the rest of it will remain in effect, the ordinance states.

This story was updated at 10:05 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016.
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    Washington State rail regulators to Fine BNSF for not reporting leaks immediately

    Repost from The Bellingham Herald

    State rail regulators: Fine BNSF for not reporting leaks immediately

    By Samantha Wohlfeil, March 19, 2015 
    Ferndale Siding  PAD
    BNSF rail cars on the railroad siding in Custer, Friday Aug. 22, 2014. The railroad is building a new siding from Ferndale to Custer. PHILIP A. DWYER — The Bellingham Herald

    Washington state regulators have recommended BNSF Railway be fined up to $700,000 for failing to properly report more than a dozen hazardous materials spills in recent months despite the fact state staff had reminded the company how to do so last fall.

    On Thursday, March 19, the state Utilities and Transportation Commission staff announced it found BNSF had failed to report 14 releases of hazardous materials, including crude oil leaks, within a half hour of learning about the leaks, as required by state law.

    In one case, crews at BP Cherry Point refinery found crude oil had leaked onto the sides and wheels of a tank car, which was found to be 1,611 gallons short. That was on Nov. 5, but the UTC didn’t find out about it until Dec. 3, when it got a copy of the report BNSF sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Railroads have 30 days to file that type of report.

    When contacted about the incident by a McClatchy reporter in January, BNSF said the train was “not in transit, not on our property and not in our custody” when the spill was detected, and the company had submitted the required reports to state and federal regulators.

    In another case from Jan. 12 and 13, a train hauling 100 cars of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes had more than a dozen leaking cars discovered in multiple stops as it crossed the state.

    Although the UTC sent an investigator to look at the leaking cars as part of a Federal Railroad Administration investigation, BNSF didn’t report the incident to the state’s 24-hour hotline at the Emergency Management Division until two weeks later. The hotline duty officer is in charge of alerting the various state agencies that might need to respond to a spill.

    When asked by The Bellingham Herald in February why the January incident was reported more than a week later, BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace replied that BNSF staff members thought they were following proper protocols, and had amended their Washington reporting policy following discussions with the UTC in January.

    But the investigation released by the UTC on Thursday shows that on Oct. 22, 2014, the UTC had emailed a copy of the state’s reporting requirements to Patrick Brady, BNSF’s director of hazardous materials and special operations, in an effort to make sure BNSF knew how to report accidents.

    As copied into the body of the Oct. 22 email to Brady, the state law regulating accident reports ( WAC 480-62-310) lists the hotline number, which types of incidents must be reported, and states that railroad companies must call within 30 minutes of learning of the event.

    On Dec. 3, Brady emailed the UTC again asking, “Can you send me the regulatory reference to spill notification to the UTC?” Staff members again emailed Brady the state law on reporting requirements, according to emails included in the investigation.

    From Nov. 1, 2014, to Feb. 24, UTC staff found BNSF committed 700 violations of the reporting requirement. Every day an incident goes unreported counts as a separate violation, per state law.

    In addition to the leaking crude oil incidents, the UTC announcement lists a variety of leaks that occurred throughout the state: a tank car dripping gas/oil from a bottom valve in Spokane Valley on Dec. 8, 2014; cars leaking “primary sludge” found in incidents in Seattle, Vancouver and Everett in December; two 100-gallon spills of lube oil from locomotives in December and January, among others.

    The commission could opt to fine the company $1,000 per violation of the reporting law, but no fine has been issued yet. The commission will set a final penalty after BNSF gets the chance to have a hearing.

    “When a company fails to notify the (state Emergency Operations Center) that a hazardous material incident has occurred, critical response resources may not be deployed, causing potential harm to the public and the environment,” the UTC announcement states.

    BNSF was still reviewing the report when contacted for comment on Thursday.

    “In regards to reporting releases in Washington state, we believed we were complying in good faith with the requirements from our agency partners,” BNSF’s Wallace wrote in a statement. “Following guidance from the UTC in January 2015, BNSF reviewed its reporting notification process and amended its practices to address concerns identified by the UTC. We will continue to work closely with the UTC moving forward on this issue.”

    BNSF is the largest railroad company operating in Washington.

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      McClatchy investigative reports result in enforcement actions

      Repost from McClatchy DC and The Bellingham Herald
      [Editor:  McClatchy News investigative reports have alerted Washington State and federal officials, and resulted in fines and enforcement actions.  For background, see Washington state officials unaware at first of November oil spill (1/26); Officials say oil train leaked as it crossed Washington state (2/6); and Oil-loading facility sanctioned in Washington rail car spill (3/12).  Don’t miss the excellent video near the end of this story.  – RS]

      More oil-train fixes: Feds order defective valves replaced on leaking cars

      By Samantha Wohlfeil and Curtis Tate, March 13, 2015 
      APTOPIX Train Derailment
      Derailed oil tanker train cars burn near Mount Carbon, W.Va., Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. A CSX train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm, sending a fireball into the sky and threatening the water supply of nearby residents, authorities and residents said Tuesday. MARCUS CONSTANTINO — AP

      WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration on Friday ordered rail tank car owners to replace defective valves never approved for installation on thousands of tank cars, causing oil to spill from moving trains.

      The directive applies to a 3-inch valve installed on roughly 6,000 tank cars, and their owners have 60 days to replace them. Within 90 days, tank car owners must also replace 37,000 1-inch and 2-inch valves manufactured by the same company. While the smaller valves were not found to be defective like the larger ones, they were not approved for the tank cars.

      The affected cars can be used in the interim, but none can be loaded with hazardous materials if they are still equipped with those valves after the deadlines.

      The enforcement action comes after a story last month in McClatchy’s Bellingham Herald about 14 tank cars that were discovered leaking en route from North Dakota’s Bakken region to the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash.

      Friday’s enforcement action is the second to follow an investigation launched after McClatchy reported on leaking cars in Washington.

      On Thursday, the agency said it had sanctioned the operator of a North Dakota loading facility for not properly closing a valve on another oil car after McClatchy reported in January that the car arrived at the BP Cherry Point refinery in northwest Washington state with 1,600 gallons missing.

      That spill was discovered in early November but wasn’t reported to state officials until early December. Local emergency officials were never notified, according to a report sent by BNSF Railway to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Washington state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

      The 1-inch, 2-inch and 3-inch valves were all manufactured and sold by McKenzie Valve and Machining, a company in Tennessee. The Bellingham Herald could not immediately reach anyone at McKenzie, but left messages with the company Friday.

      The Federal Railroad Administration also announced Friday that it was launching a full audit of the approval process for tank car components to determine why the unapproved valves were installed.

      Under federal regulations, tank car valve designs must be approved by the Association of American Railroads Tank Car Committee.

      The Federal Railroad Administration said it would begin working immediately with the association, which is the rail industry’s principal trade group in the nation’s capital.

      Sarah Feinberg, the FRA’s acting chief, said Friday that removal of the valves will help reduce the number of non-derailment releases of hazardous materials.

      “Any type of hazardous materials release, no matter how small, is completely unacceptable,” she said in a statement.

      Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the railroad association, said Friday that it supported the order. Railroads don’t own most of the tank cars used to transport oil.

      “Officials from our association will be working closely with the administration in reviewing the tank car valve approval process to ensure the agency is fully satisfied with the current approval requirements that are in place,” he said in a statement.

      The Federal Railroad Administration’s order came about a month after crews discovered tank cars leaking oil from their top fittings on a handful of trains hauling different types of crude oil through Washington state.

      In mid-January, a train loaded with Bakken crude needed to have more than a dozen leaking cars removed at three separate stops as it traveled through Idaho and crossed Washington state.

      The train was headed from Tioga, N.D., to the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes.

      In a report to the U.S. Department of Transportation, BNSF reported a total of 26 gallons of oil leaking from 14 cars. Tesoro reported two more leaking cars. The oil was found only on the tops and sides of tank cars, and no oil was found on the ground.

      Crews had first noticed oil on the side of a tank car while the train was in northern Idaho, and after checking the rest of the train, removed that car, which had leaked about two gallons, according to BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace.

      After the train had crossed through the state, following the Columbia River to Vancouver, Wash., crews found that crude oil had leaked onto the top of seven more cars, which were removed from the train on Jan. 12. BNSF reported the incident to the state Department of Ecology on Jan. 23.

      BNSF also reported that about 10 gallons total had leaked from six more cars removed in Auburn on Jan. 13.

      Wallace said the railroad would work with customers and shippers to take the required actions.

      “Although BNSF does not own the tank cars, nothing is more important to us than safely operating through the communities that we serve,” she said in a statement.


      The state Utilities and Transportation Commission and the FRA investigated the cars that were pulled from the train in Vancouver, which led to the discovery that closure plugs on the valves caused damage to the valve’s seal, and when tightened, would press down on and damage the ball.

      The cars involved were CPC-1232 model cars built after 2011, which some oil companies have started using after several fiery derailments caused concerns about older DOT-111 rail cars, which have been found more likely to puncture or burst.

      However, newer CPC-1232-standard cars that lack features that reduce damage from punctures and fire exposure have performed no better in four recent oil train derailments in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario.

      The White House Office of Management and budget is reviewing a new tank car standard proposed by the Department of Transportation. It is scheduled for publication on May 12.

      Wohlfeil, of The Bellingham Herald, reported from Washington state. Tate reported from Washington, D.C.
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        Washington State report on oil train safety: new risks, more to do

        Repost from BismarckTribune.com, Bakken Breakout

        Study: more to do as oil trains pose new risks

        December 02, 2014, PHUONG LE, Associated Press

        SEATTLE — The spike in crude oil shipments by rail in Washington is creating new potential risks and will require increased safety measures and improved oil spill response and prevention, according to a state study delivered to lawmakers.

        Even as more trains carry volatile shipments of crude oil into the state, nearly 60 percent of first responders said they don’t have sufficient training or resources to handle a train derailment accompanied by a fire.

        The draft report delivered on Monday makes a dozen key recommendations to the Legislature for the upcoming two-year budget, including more training for first responders, more railroad inspectors and ensuring that those who transport oil can pay for cleanup.

        Some actions don’t require money, but the others could total more than $14 million.

        The report also outlines the environmental and safety risks from oil transport, many of which could be mitigated with additional federal and state resources.

        Derailments of oil trains have caused explosions in several states and Quebec, where 47 people were killed when a runaway train exploded in the city of Lac-Megantic in July 2013.

        In Washington, crude oil shipments went from zero in 2011 to 714 million gallons in 2013, and could reach nearly 3 billion gallons by the end of this year or in 2015, the report said.

        As many as 19 mile-long trains carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota and Montana pass through the state weekly. Nearly 3 million people live in 93 cities and towns on or near these routes, posing potential public safety, health and environmental risks, the report said.

        One train typically has about 100 rail cars and carries about 3 million gallons of oil. Some trains head south to Oregon and California without stopping to transfer oil in Washington. Others deliver oil to Washington facilities.

        By 2020, the number of trains could grow to 137 a week if all proposed crude-by-rail terminals, including projects in Longview and Grays Harbor are built out and oil continues to be exported through the state, the report said.

        Those proposed terminals could also bring more tanker and tug and barge traffic in the Columbia River and Grays Harbor area, as well as along the coast.

        BP Cherry Point Refinery in Puget Sound is currently receiving Bakken crude oil deliveries from tug-barges from the Columbia River.

        The report also raises concerns about diluted bitumen, which comes mostly from Alberta oil sands and has been shipped into the state for years. But shipments are increasing. Bitumen raises spill response challenges because it may sink or submerge in water if spilled, making recovery of the oil difficult, the report said.

        The Department of Ecology, the Utilities and Transportation Commission and the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division worked on the report.

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