Tag Archives: California Rep. Doug LaMalfa

Rep. Garamendi and area leaders call for safer crude-by-rail transport

Repost from The Benicia Herald
[Editor:  Significant quote: “Garamendi has introduced House Bill 1679 that would prohibit the transport of North Dakota Bakken crude by train unless it has a maximum Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of 9.5 psi.”  – RS]

Rep. Garamendi to call for safer crude-by-rail transport

By Donna Beth Weilenman, April 7, 2015

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, will join industry leaders in Davis on Wednesday in calling for the U.S. Department of Transportation to make rail delivery of crude oil safer.

“Crude oil is or has until very recently been transported by rail through several cities in Congressman Garamendi’s 3rd Congressional District, including Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Suisun City and Marysville,” said his media specialists, Donald Lathbury and Matthew Kravitz, in a joint statement on the news conference.

“These routes are very close to residential communities, schools, parks, and businesses.”

Among those joining Garamendi will be Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration, and Paul W. King, deputy director of the Office of Rail Safety at the Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Municipal and other leaders also are expected to attend, including Davis Mayor Dan Wolk, Marysville Mayor Ricky Samayoa, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor and Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.

Also expected to attend are Terry Bassett, Yolo County Transportation District executive director; Dana Carey, Yolo County office of Emergency Services manager; and Terry Schmidtbauer, assistant director of Resource Management in the Solano County Office of Emergency Services.

Garamendi has introduced House Bill 1679 that would prohibit the transport of North Dakota Bakken crude by train unless it has a maximum Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of 9.5 psi.

He said this is the maximum volatility permitted by the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) for crude oil futures contracts.

By comparison, he said, a recent literature review by Sandia Labs indicates that the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s study of 152 Bakken crude samples found an average RVP of 11.7 psi and a max of 14.4 psi. A rule going into effect in North Dakota this month sets the limit at 13.7 psi.

Garamendi and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, sent a letter March 3 to the Department of Transportation in which they suggested strengthening safety improvements and asked DOT to drop any plans for weakening regulations.

Instead, they called for stronger safety standards for crude-by-rail transportation.

“Families living near oil-by-rail shipping lines are rightfully concerned about the safety of the trains that pass through their communities,” Garamendi said. “For that reason, I have repeatedly called on the Department of Transportation to use all the tools at their disposal to ensure that these shipments are as safe and secure as possible.

“Every day that strong and effective rules are delayed is another day that millions of Americans, including many in my district, are put at greater risk.”

Garamendi’s announcement will be made at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday next to the Davis Train Depot, near the corner of Second and H streets, Davis.

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    Chico editorial: Train derailment in canyon a cautionary tale

    Repost from Chico Enterprise-Record

    Editorial: Train derailment in canyon a cautionary tale

    11/29/14

    When a train derailed in the Feather River Canyon above Belden on Tuesday and dropped tons of corn in the river, it was natural to chuckle uneasily that it was only corn.

    Nobody was injured, no animals died, the river’s ecosystem will recover and Union Pacific, while on the hook for a difficult cleanup operation in a steep area, talked largely about how the company was fortunate — because it knows it could have been a whole lot worse.

    What should be worrisome to the rest of us is that only Union Pacific seems to know how bad things could get — and Union Pacific isn’t sharing, apparently not even with government officials.

    With a surge in crude oil pumped from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana and not enough pipelines to move it across the United States, oil companies have taken to moving the explosive type of oil on railroads. Union Pacific is undoubtedly being compensated handsomely to do so. But moving it from east to west means coming through the picturesque Feather River Canyon, along Highway 70 above Lake Oroville.

    Oroville residents have noticed an alarming increase in the number of oil trains, with their black tanker cars, coming through town, headed south. But nobody knows how many trains. The railroad keeps that information close to the vest. Still, the Butte and Plumas county offices of emergency services should know, just in case it has to respond to a derailment, which likely would be accompanied by an explosion. One would think …

    But Plumas County’s director of emergency services, Jerry Sipe, says Union Pacific hasn’t advised the county of when or how often the trains come through. Sipe said he’d like the rail companies to provide training and equipment needed to respond to oil train derailments.

    Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt, when asked by a reporter about the frequency of oil trains, answered in an email.

    “For safety and commercial-competitive reasons,” he wrote, “Union Pacific provides specific commodity route information for its trains only to appropriate response agencies. We cannot address what commodities may travel on other railroads. This route is one where oil may be transported based upon the needs of our customers.”

    Well, we think those who live along the route and those who might be asked to respond to a disaster deserve better answers. Local lawmakers from Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, to Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, and state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, should intervene to demand more transparency.

    Nobody should wait until after the first explosion of an oil train to say, “We need to do something about this.” The best time to act is now.

    Though Union Pacific’s Hunt points out repeatedly that UP has reduced derailments by 23 percent in the past 10 years, the fact is that trains still derail, and all it takes is one. An explosion would be disastrous. An oil spill in the river system would be as well.

    The Feather River Canyon is a treacherous stretch of track, with curves, rock slides and erosion all factors that can contribute to derailments. The fact that UP says it doesn’t know what caused last week’s derailment means, so far anyway, it will be less likely to prevent them in the immediate future.

    Let’s get out in front of this problem. As other states have learned, explosions are an increasing possibility. We like first responders to be prepared, not left in the dark.

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