Brave the blast zone to make a pointBy Lynne Nittler, July 08, 2015
There is no safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude oil. Two years after Lac-Mégantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising. Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety and our climate.
On Saturday, July 11, Davis residents will remember the 2013 oil derailment that took 47 lives in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Davis faces the threat of a similar accident. Currently, at least one oil train per week passes through Davis headed to the Bay Area.
Two more 100-car trains per day are planned for the near future for the Valero Refinery in Benicia and the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo … unless citizens stop them.
The ForestEthics map at www.Blast-Zone.org shows endangered homes and businesses along Second Street in Davis, including the police station, Carlton Plaza senior community and Rancho Yolo. The entire Davis downtown is vulnerable, along with parts of UC Davis campus and apartments complexes along Olive Drive.
Saturday’s vigil and rally highlight public opposition to oil trains passing through Davis. Too many residents live in the oil train blast zone, the 1-mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.
“My home is in the oil train blast zone,” says Frances Burke, a downtown resident and oil train activist. “I have to breathe the extra particulates in the air from each additional daily train. Meanwhile, the new federal regulations do little to protect me.
“In the event of an accident, first responders can only evacuate people from fireballs that happen despite trains moving at slower speeds in the supposedly safer tank cars. Oil trains are too dangerous for communities.”
Wearing fiery red, yellow and orange shirts, Davisites are invited to meet at the train station and walk through the Davis blast zone downtown to the Rotary Stage in Central Park.
“Five times in the first five months of 2015 we’ve watched oil trains derail and explode into toxic fireballs,” said Elizabeth Lasensky of Yolo MoveOn, as she made her sign for Saturday’s event. “The Department of Transportation reported in July 2014 that we can expect 10 to 12 derailments a year! It’s only a matter of time before an oil train derails in a major urban area, and the railroads don’t carry sufficient liability for such a disaster!”
After rousing songs by the Raging Grannies, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk will speak of the City Council’s resolution opposing oil by rail, available at http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20140422/04B-Opposing-Oil-By-Rail.pdf followed by Councilman Lucas Frerichs, speaking about the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ nearly unanimous decision to confront the issue: http://www.sacog.org/calendar/2014/08/rail/pdf/2-Valero%20EIR%20Comments.pdf. SACOG is made up of 22 cities and six counties.
At the state level, Sen. Lois Wolk will share the legislative response to the sudden surge of crude-by-rail transport into California, which is aimed at protecting the public as well as sensitive habitat and waterways.
Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza and Damien Luzzo will focus on the extraction side of the issue in Yolo County. Luzzo offers his story about how he came to oppose fracking at http://tinyurl.com/CAFrackWars and the Pledge of Resistance at http://tinyurl.com/FrackingPledgeOfResistance.
“With well over 100 pledges signed on and 500 visitors online, this fracking pledge of resistance is starting to take off,” Luzzo says of his plan to make California fracking-free. “My article explaining the origins of the pledge has attracted over 1,000 people. The word is definitely getting out there.”
Information on oil trains and the proposed ban on fracking in Yolo County will be available at the Cool Davis booth at the Farmers Market in Central Park.
“The truth is, we don’t need any of the extreme oil,” says Reeda Palmer of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. “The explosive Bakken and the toxic tar sands crude that moves by rail is a small percent of total U.S. oil consumption.
“As we move our economy to clean energy, we can’t allow oil companies to bring Bakken, tar sands and other fracked oil — the dirtiest, most dangerous sources of oil — onto the market to pollute the atmosphere when we have clean alternatives.”
Given the unresolved dangers of crude oil transport by rail and the overload of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere, a more prudent path is to leave all extreme crude in the ground, transition to clean, renewable energy and practice energy conservation in an effort to live sustainably on a finite planet.
— Lynne Nittler is a Davis resident, the founder of Yolano Climate Action Central and an active member of Cool Davis.