Tag Archives: CPC-1232

OPEN LETTER: Oppose Valero Crude By Rail

Letter received by email from the author, Lawrence (Larnie) Reid Fox

To the Benicia City Planning Commission and City Council:

By Larnie Fox, October 12, 2015

I’m writing to request that you oppose Valero’s Crude Oil by Rail project.

The Revised Draft EIR states that:

    • Potential train derailment would result in significant and unavoidable adverse effects to people and secondary effects to biological, cultural, and hydrological resources, and geology.
    • Impacts to air quality would be significant and unavoidable because the Project would contribute to an existing or projected air quality violation and result in a cumulatively considerable increase in ozone precursor emissions.
    • Impacts to greenhouse gas emissions would be significant and unavoidable because the Project would generate significant levels of GHG and conflict with plans adopted for reducing GHG emissions.

What more do you need to know?

There have been more crude-by-rail explosions and spills in the last two years than in the previous 40 years. The new crudes are demonstrably more hazardous than the crudes that have been processed in our community in the past, and have led to many horrendous accidents in other parts of North America. Accidents can and will happen.

The Revised Draft EIR states that Valero proposes to use non-jacketed Casualty Prevention Circular (CPC)-1232-compliant tank cars.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said that the CPC-1232 standard is only a minimal improvement over the older tank DOT-111s. NTSB officials say they are “not convinced that these modifications offer significant safety improvements.”

There is overwhelming and passionate opposition to the project here in Benicia. There is also strong opposition from hundreds of individuals who live up-rail and from all over our state, and also from government entities including the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and our state’s Attorney General.

If there is a spill or an explosion and fire, I for one, do not want my community to be culpable. We need to show the state and the world that we stand for safety and environmental responsibility, even if it cuts into corporate profits and tax revenues.

The bottom line is that fossil fuels are going away, sooner or later, and Benicia will need to adapt, sooner or later. We need to take a longer-term and wider-scope view of the issue. We may reap short-term local gains by approving this project, but the cost is unacceptably high. In doing so, we would be putting our Industrial Park at risk, and inconveniencing them with the long trains. This area should be the economic engine for the next 100 years. We would be ignoring the legitimate concerns of communities up-rail from us. We would be responsible for putting environmentally sensitive areas at risk. We would be contributing to global warming and thus sea level rise, which poses a clear threat to our community and the rest of the world as well. We would be contributing to decimation of the old-growth forests in Northern Canada.

It’s up to us to guard our own welfare, and also, as a City, to be responsible citizens of California, the USA and our fragile planet.


Lawrence (Larnie) Reid Fox


    Roger Straw: Crude by rail is dangerous — and dirty!

    Repost from the Benicia Herald

    Crude by rail is dangerous — and dirty!

    By Roger Straw, August 2, 2015
    Roger Straw

    BACK IN JUNE OF 2013, I was alarmed to discover that Valero had plans to make me and all of Benicia complicit in the massive destruction taking place in the pristine forests of Alberta, Canada. With city Planning Commission approval, Valero planned to purchase crude oil taken from strip mines in Canada that are the dirtiest producers of oil on earth, then ship it on dangerous trains all across the West to our back yard.

    Since then, Benicians have learned much more about Valero’s proposal. We’ve learned that Valero would also like to ship volatile Bakken crude oil, taken from fracking facilities in North Dakota and the Upper Midwest, on these trains. Bakken oil has proven different from most other crude, based on the eight accidents since July 2013 involving derailed trains that carried Bakken oil and resulted in massive fires and explosions. Several explosive train derailments have also been loaded with diluted tar sands crude.

    Benicians have also learned much more about the trains themselves. Now we know how weak the train cars are, and how the federal government has established new rules that give industry years to strengthen them. Old DOT-111 tank cars still roll down our tracks. Updated — but still highly inadequate — DOT-1232 cars continue to roll, and retrofits of the older cars are to be spread out over the next decade. The railroads circumvent reporting requirements on their shipments to our state and county emergency responders by assembling trains that carry less than a million gallons of crude oil. And even when everything else goes right, aging railroad ties and rails will break, bridges will fail, and there aren’t enough inspectors. The accidents will continue.

    Americans are sick of seeing the huge balls of fire on TV. We pray that the next BIG ONE will not be in a highly populated area — but we can’t reasonably pray there will be no next BIG ONE. It’s a matter of when, not if.

    Finally, even if all the public safety issues could be solved, Valero’s proposal does far more harm to the environment than the company would have us think. Beginning at the source, production of these North American “extreme crudes” is beyond ugly: oil companies strip and gouge and pollute the soil, destroy wildlife habitat and contribute to soaring cancer rates in human communities. They foul the social fabric of small towns and farming communities with a disruptive boom-and-bust economy. Then come the trains, polluting the air from the upper Midwest all the way to Benicia, clattering over mountains and through gorgeous river passes and right through the hearts of our cities and towns, rattling and clattering near our schools, retirement villages, commercial and industrial centers and homes. In all this (if we give our permission), at every step along the way, the oil and rail industries contribute mightily to the warming of planet Earth.

    Valero would like us to think that crude oil trains will save on air pollution by cutting back on the number of marine oil tankers. This may hold for a small region like the San Francisco Bay Area, but the city of Benicia’s own study showed that there would be “significant and unavoidable” impacts to air quality outside the Bay Area. Experts add that there would be “toxic plumes” all along the rail lines: “This thing called ‘crude shrinkage’ happens during transport, where entrained gases escape, leading to a 0.5- to 3-percent loss of crude oil. It’s a big problem for volatile crude oils like Bakken, and coupled with the high benzene levels found in some North American crudes (up to 7 percent) …we estimate over 100 pounds per day of excess benzene emissions from the Valero proposal in the Bay Area (or 1800 times more than the draft EIR reports),” said NRDC Senior Scientist Diane Bailey. Read her blog here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/dbailey/valeros_promise_to_benicia_wel.html.

    In short, oil trains are dangerous AND dirty.

    The city of Benicia will release a revised draft environmental impact report on Valero’s proposal at the end of August. Everyone should stay tuned. Be prepared to study the document, read critical reviews, and share a comment with our Planning Commission. Together, we can make a difference.


      Most Recent Oil Train Accidents and Spills Involved ‘Safer’ CPC-1232 Tank Cars

      Repost from DeSmogBlog

      Most Recent Oil Train Accidents and Spills Involved ‘Safer’ CPC-1232 Tank Cars

      By Justin Mikulka  | July 23, 2015 – 03:58

      Roosevelt County chief deputy sheriff Corey Reum was one of the first responders to the recent Bakken oil train derailment in Montana, a few miles from the North Dakota border.

      “We’re lucky it didn’t ignite,” Reum told ABC News.

      That is just one of the things first responders have learned since the deadly accident two years ago in Lac-Megantic. As a Globe and Mail article marking that two year anniversary recently noted, when the train was on fire and rail cars were exploding in Lac-Megantic, no one could figure out why.

      The Globe detailed the questions the investigators were trying to answer in the aftermath.

      And, perhaps most puzzling of all: How did the crude oil on the train – normally thought of as difficult to light on fire – cause the kind of violent explosions it did?

      Now we know that the Bakken oil is different from most other crude, and based on the eight accidents since July 2013 involving derailed trains that involved Bakken oil and resulted in fires, first responders now know the risk the Bakken oil presents.

      In Roosevelt County they evacuated a half-mile perimeter around the crash site as a precaution even though there was no fire.

      However, despite the lack of fire in this latest accident, 35,000 gallons of oil did spill as four tank cars ruptured. And these were the newer CPC-1232 tank cars that the oil industry is currently suing to keep on the rails even longer than the new regulations allow — which for some 1232 tank cars is not until 2025.

      Click to enlarge

      There have now been six accidents involving oil trains in 2015 where tank cars derailed and were punctured and oil was spilled. In the first five, there were also fires and explosions.

      All six oil train derailments involved the new 1232 model cars that the American Petroleum Institute is suing to keep on the tracks longer than existing long timelines in the new oil-by-rail regulations.

      Even Cynthia Quarterman, the former administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the agency responsible for the regulations, was surprised by the timelines in the final regulations.

      That was the biggest surprise, by far,” Quarterman told Argus Media. “The push-back for five years for most things, I thought it was a substantial push-back in terms of dates.”

      So while we have learned quite a bit in the two years since Lac-Megantic, not much has changed in how Bakken oil is moved by rail.

      • The oil industry has not addressed the volatile nature of the Bakken oil so it still presents serious fire and explosion risks.
      • The oil and rail industries are fighting the new regulation requirements for modern braking systems on the trains starting in 2021.
      • The oil will still be transported in the obviously inadequate CPC-1232 cars for up to ten years or longer if the oil industry wins its lawsuit.

      So, as Sheriff Reum pointed out in his observation, the best strategy for communities along the oil train tracks across North America is to spend the next ten years or so hoping you get lucky.

      Image credit: NTSB Safety Recommendation report.