PRESS RELEASE – CALIFORNIA SENATOR LOIS WOLK
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2014, Contact: Melissa Jones
Senator responds to delayed release of report on crude-by-rail shipment
Wolk urges timely disclosure to state, communities to aid planning and response
SACRAMENTO—State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) pressed for timely disclosure of crude oil shipments by railroad shipping companies, following today’s release by the State Office of Emergency Services of a report disclosing a shipment of 1 million gallons or more crude oil through Northern California by BNSF Railway, the largest crude-by-rail transporter, earlier this month.
BNSF’s June 13th disclosure of an earlier shipment followed an order last month by the U.S. Department of Transportation that railroads must begin sharing information about large shipments of crude oil with state and local officials. The federal order denied longstanding claims by railroads that this information should remain confidential, claiming the information includes “proprietary and confidential trade” secrets and poses security concerns.
“While I applaud the Office of Emergency Services’ release of BNSF Railway’s after-the-fact disclosure of a crude-by-rail shipment through nine Northern California counties earlier this month, what the public wants and what local responders need is information regarding future shipments of crude oil by rail, in order to better prepare any necessary response in the event of any potential accident or mishap with this hazardous cargo,” said Wolk. “I call on the federal and state government to require railroads to provide advance notice regarding hazardous material shipments through our communities.”
To aid planning and response by local governments to increasing shipments of these dangerous materials, Senator Wolk is authoring legislation (SB 506) with Senator Jerry Hill to provide funding to help communities like Benicia provide adequate emergency response to accidents and spills involving rail transports of crude oil and other hazardous materials.
Exclusive to The Benicia Independent
[Editor: Thanks to Benician Judi Sullivan for her monitoring of California Senate hearings and for this report. – RS]
Report on Anti-Fracking Bill in California Senate
By Judi Sullivan | May 19, 2014
SB 1132, The Oil and Gas Well Stimulation Bill (Anti fracking/acidizing), was put before it’s third committee today, the Appropriations Committee, and placed in the Suspense File. This is where all bills may be held if they are considered to have an annual cost of more than $150,000. Because of this stipulation, there was no official vote on the Bill. It is now under fiscal analysis to be reconsidered on Friday during the Suspense File Hearing, during which time no testimony is presented by the bill’s author nor by witnesses. A vote will then be taken and if the bill passes, it will go in front of the entire Senate.
The committee room, which was much larger than previous ones used for the first two hearings, was once again a packed house with supporters of the bill from all over the state. One woman who spoke said she took a nine hour Amtrak Train from L.A. just to be there to testify against fracking. ALL of the public testimonies given were in support of the bill. The Western States Petroleum Association, (WSPA), which is the biggest, wealthiest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, was the official testifying opponent.
In the course of conversation at the hearing, it was revealed that Conservative Republican Senator Ted Gaines, who appears to be against SB 1132, may become a new supporter of “No Crude by Rail.” He lives in Roseville, and has recently become seriously concerned about the transportation risks of that commodity. Roseville is a major hub of Crude by Rail’s route.
Senator Pavley, (supported by Senators Wolk and Lara) presented SB 1319, promoting “Oil Spill Prevention Response,” seeking regulations for Marine, Pipeline and Crude by Rail Transports to be under one regulation which would include having local governments informed of what is being transported through their areas at any given time.
According to her findings, Governor Brown is forming a new staff of 38 people to deal with the concerns of this Bill.
After the hearing sessions, some of the anti-fracking supporters rallied with posters and chanting in front of The California History Museum on “O” St. where Governor Brown was speaking at a Conference concerning Climate Change.
—— Later ——
Just got a request suggesting calling these Senators to try and gain their support, asking them to vote yes on SB 1132:
Senator Kevin De Leon (916) 651-4022
Senator Ricardo Lara (916) 651-4033
Senator Ed Hernandez (916) 651-4024
Senator Cathleen Galliano (916) 651-4005
Senator Ben Hueso (916) 651-4040
Senator Lou Correa (916) 651-4034
Senator Carol Liu (916) 651-4025
Senator Richard Roth (916) 651-4031
Senator Norma Torres (916-652-4032
If SB 1132 passes the Senate vote, the four committee hearing process will start all over again in the Assembly. If it passes there, then Governor Brown will have his vote. I have talked with Senator Mitchell’s and Senator Leno’s staff, the main co-sponsors of this bill, and both recommend calling Governor Brown’s office right now to demonstrate public support on this crucial issue. Writing to him is also an option.
Brown has the power to pass or veto the bill. I feel it would be wise to call him. His phone number is (916) 445-2841. As we know, he has received substantial donations from Big Oil.
Repost from The Davis Vanguard
[Editor: Note that this article appeared six weeks ago. – RS]
Council Takes Stand on Crude Oil Transport by Rail
By Michelle Millet | March 15, 2014
Last Tuesday [March 11, 2014] Mike Webb, Director of Community Development & Sustainability, presented a status update to council on the Benicia/Valero Oil by Rail Project.
In December of 2012 the City of Benicia was presented with a Land Use Permit Application from the Valero Refining Company who owns and operates an oil refinery located in Benicia, California.
Valero is proposing the “Crude by Rail Project” which would allow the refinery to receive a larger proportion of its crude oil deliveries by railcar.
The Land Use Permit Application states, ”The primary purpose of the Project is to allow Valero access to more North American sourced crudes that have recently become available. The only viable option for transporting the crude oil from the North American sources to the Refinery is by railroad. Therefore, the objective of this Project is to enable Valero to replace up to 70,000 bbl per day of the crude oil currently supplied to the Benicia Refinery by marine vessel with an equivalent amount of crude oil transported by rail cars.”
According to Webb’s staff presentation the city of Benicia is currently in the review process. It is preparing an Environmental Impact Report that is expected to be released for public review and comment in the next month. Once the report is released it is assumed that there will be a 45 day comment period, and hearings at the Benicia Planning Commission and City Council are likely.
The amount of crude oil being moved by train in this country is growing. According to an Associated Press article, “U.S. crude oil production is forecast to reach 8.5 million barrels a day by the end of 2014, up from 5 million barrels a day in 2008. The increase is overwhelmingly due to the fracking boom in the Bakken region, which is mainly in North Dakota, but also extends into parts of Montana and Canada.”
If the Benicia Valero Project is approved it is estimated that 100 rail cars carrying Bakken crude oil in tank cars could soon be coming through Davis every day. Concerns have been expressed over the fact that the older tank cars that carry much of this flammable crude oil are inadequate and prone to rupture easily.
On January 23, 2014 the National Transportation and Safety Board called for tougher standards on trains carrying crude oil “The large-scale shipment of crude oil by rail simply didn’t exist ten years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “While this energy boom is good for business, the people and the environment along rail corridors must be protected from harm.”
In February Davis citizens Lynne Nittler, Milton Kalish, and Matt Biers-Ariel wrote an article for the Vanguard where they laid out some of the concerns community members have expressed over the potential dangers that come with transporting crude oil by train car.
They stated, “In the last year there have been 10 major rail accidents involving oil trains in the U.S. and Canada. Last July, 47 people perished in a massive fireball when a train containing Bakken crude derailed and exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Four more oil trains have derailed in Canada since then. In November, a train carrying the same Bakken crude derailed in Alabama, possibly caused by trestle tracks that collapsed under the weight of the heavy tank cars. Twelve of the cars exploded, fortunately not in a populated area. In the last week of December, another 18 tank cars carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded just outside of Casselton, North Dakota, forcing the town to evacuate to avoid the plumes of toxic smoke from the ensuing fires that burned for more than a day. Another oil train derailed and exploded in New Brunswick days later.”
On January 27th over 50 people attended the Natural Resource Commission meeting where this topic was addressed. During public comment on Tuesday night NRC member Allan Pryor stated, ”The NRC had the largest turn out in over 3-4 years over this issue the chambers were packed. We have never had a crowd so large, and they were vocal and unanimous in their opposition.”
After over an hour of public comment during their January meeting NRC members voted to approve a list of recommendations to council. Among the recommendations was a request that the City of Davis submit formal comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Benicia Valero Project when it is released for public comment.
One February 12, in an open letter to the Mayor of Benicia Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk stated, ”I am writing to express my and my constituents’ serious concerns over the proposed upgrading of the rail terminal at the Valero refinery to take in as much as 70,000 barrels of crude oil a day.” He continued, “In both a literal and figurative sense, that rail line runs through the heart of our community. I myself commute along this same rail line to and from my “day job” as a Deputy County Counsel for Solano County. The thought of 100 tank cars full of Bakken Shale oil running through our community each day is absolutely disconcerting. A similar accident in Davis as the one in Quebec would likely produce even more catastrophic results, in terms of loss of life and the destruction of our downtown.”
Wolk clarified at Tuesday’s meeting that he was not against the proposed project, and spoke in favor of the jobs the project could create. But he reiterated his concerns over the safety implications that it presented.
In their report presented to council staff states that their efforts are currently focused on gathering background information and initiating collaboration with other jurisdictions and with elected representatives from Davis and the region, including the offices of State Senator Wolk, State Representative Yamada, and U.S. Representatives Garamendi, Matsui, and Thompson.
Staff presented council with two following recommendations on how to proceed:
Direct staff to continue to gather data, monitor the Benicia Valero project, and actively partner with other agencies, and State and Federal Representatives, on coordination of review and comments.
Direct staff to continue to engage with appropriate regulatory authorities regarding the safety of the existing railroad operations/speeds/curve in Davis.
Mayor Krovoza suggested a third recommendation that directed staff to prepare a resolution stating that the city of Davis would oppose crude oil by rail transport through our community.
Council member Brett Lee expressed concerns that a resolution of this sort was largely symbolic and too open ended to have the impact they were hoping for. When Korvoza disagreed Lee posed the question, “Do you really think the railroad is going to stop transporting oil on the railroad line because the Davis City Council says we don’t want it passing through our community?”
He continued, “I think a more effective way would be to focus on the safety aspects so that our community is protected and other communities are protected.” Lee clarified that he was not in favor of these cars coming through our community, and went on to say that he did not believe that having a symbolic gesture “excuses us or take us off the hook for dealing with the public safety issue.”
Ultimately Krovoza put forth a motion, that was seconded by Lee, which directed staff to begin preparation of a resolution where by the city of Davis would oppose crude by rail transport through our community due to public safety concerns until further consideration, including understanding of risks and needed mitigation measures.