Tag Archives: Colfax CA

Senator calls on Jerry Brown to halt crude oil trains in ‘treacherous’ California mountain passes

Repost from the Sacramento Bee
[Editor: See also KQED News: Call for Suspension of Crude-by-Rail Shipments After Feather River Derailment (including an embedded copy of Senator Hill’s letter).  – RS]

Senator calls on Jerry Brown to halt crude oil trains in ‘treacherous’ California mountain passes

By Tony Bizjak, 12/02/2014
A crude oil train operated by BNSF snakes its way west through James, Ca., just outside of the Feather River Canyon in the foothills into the Sacramento Valley on June 5, 2014.
A crude oil train operated by BNSF snakes its way west through James, Ca., just outside of the Feather River Canyon in the foothills into the Sacramento Valley on June 5, 2014. JAKE MIILLE SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Sen. Jerry Hill on Tuesday called on Gov. Jerry Brown to halt the transport of crude oil on trains and other hazardous materials “through our most treacherous passes.”

The request by Hill, D-San Mateo, comes in reaction to a corn train derailment last week in the Feather River Canyon that sent train cars and corn spilling down an embankment into the river. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

The Feather River route through Plumas and Butte counties is used by at least one train a week carrying up to 2.9 million gallons of highly flammable Bakken crude oil from North Dakota. More crude oil trains are expected to be coming into the state in the next few years, most of them traversing mountains passes deemed “high-risk” for derailments by the state Public Utilities Commission. State officials have said they do not believe California is ready to deal with the consequences of a major oil spill and fire.

“This incident serves as a warning alarm to the state of California,” Hill wrote in a letter to the governor. “Had Tuesday’s derailment resulted in a spill of oil, the spill could have caused serious contamination” in Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir, a source of drinking water for millions in the state.

Other “high-risk” derailment sections in Northern California include UP lines outside of Dunsmuir and Colfax.

Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said the state cannot stop interstate commerce, but said the state needs to continue to work with the railroads to assure safer shipments. “These trains are going to come through,” he said. “We need to work together with the industry to put every safety precaution possible in place.”

Several environmental groups filed a petition Tuesday in San Francisco federal court seeking to force the federal government to ban older railroad cars – DOT-111s built before 2011 – from transporting crude oil. The U.S. Department of Transportation last month rejected the groups’ demand. DOT says it’s developing new guidelines that will phase out the older cars.

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    Sacramento Area Council of Governments: Letter critical of Valero DEIR approved

    SACOG – representing 6 counties and 22 cities – to file objections by Sept 15 deadline

    August 21, 2014
    [Editor: This is an edited version of an email by Lynne Nittler of Davis, CA, who attended the meeting.  – RS]

    The 28-member Board of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) met on August 21, 2014, and listened to 15 community member comments from Davis, Sacramento, Dixon and Benicia who thanked them for their thorough and well-documented letter on uprail concerns not adequately addressed in the Benicia Valero Crude-by-Rail Project DEIR.  All urged the Board to submit the letter.

    In addition, SACOG counsel Kirk Trost, who researched and wrote the letter, explained his efforts to execute their directions and stood by his letter.  A spokesperson from Valero claimed that many of the requests in the letter should be directed to the federal government due to federal preemption.  Union Pacific offered to serve as an information resource as they are not technically involved; however their letter to SACOG (also submitted to the DEIR) stresses federal preemption and states outright, with citations of similar cases, that ”neither SACOG nor its member agencies has authority to  impose the mitigation measures or conditions proposed in the draft Comment Letter on Valero Crude by Rail Project Environmental Impact Report.”

    The SACOG Board held to their original plan to submit the letter which they commended and believed stated the truth of the inadequacies of the DEIR.   With just one substitute Director attempting to dismiss or weaken the letter unsuccessfully, the rest of the Board voted to submit the letter.

    In the next item on their agenda, the SACOG Board agreed to look at the comments developed by Mr. Trost on the federal DOT Rule-making document presently open for public comment through the end of September.   (For information on how to send your comment to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, see Two-month comment period starts for new federal oil train rules.)

    It remains to be seen how this all plays out legally, as Valero and UP are powerful players who are used to winning.

    The Sacramento Air Quality Management District will shortly send their letter, another strong one, but more narrowly focused on air quality issues.  Also, watch for letters from the cities of Davis (city council on Sept. 2), Sacramento, Roseville, and Colfax.

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