Tag Archives: CPC-1232

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.

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    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.

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      Railway Age Magazine: The importance of little accidents

      Repost from Railway Age Magazine
      [Editor: At every turn, when an article mentions the North Dakota requirement for crude oil “stabilization,” I must remind the reader that North Dakota does NOT require crude oil “conditioning” as is required in Texas.  Conditioning would make the oil much safer.  – RS]

      The importance of little accidents

      By  David Schanoes, July 20, 2015 
      You know the kind I mean: the ones where nobody gets hurt, nothing blows up, and nobody shows up, except you.

      You get there. There’s no press, no NTSB “go team,” no competing reflectorized vests with initials like FBI, DHS, ATF, PHMSA, DEA, FRA, NTSB. No senators expressing shock and dismay and demanding that heads will—as the cameras do—roll.

      There’s just you. The wreckmaster is on the way. The track supervisor too. The local fire department is there, and the cops. Everybody is thinking, “What a mess.” And looking at you.

      And you know what? It’s better this way. We might actually be able to learn something. Less noise, more signal.

      We’ve had a couple of the little ones recently.

      First, on July 16, a BNSF unit crude oil train derailed 22 cars near Culbertson, Mont. Three tank cars ruptured, spilling approximately 35,000 gallons of crude. No fire, no explosion, no headlines, none of that stuff I listed above and that I would be happy to never list again.

      Now, if I were BNSF, or the NTSB, or FRA, or DOT, or PHMSA, I’d be very interested in this no-fire, no-explosion derailment. BNSF hasn’t identified the source of the crude, but since the train was loaded by Savage Bakken Oil Services in Trenton, N. Dak., I think it’s safe to assume that the contents of this train was Bakken crude.

      Last April, North Dakota required that Bakken crude be stabilized (reducing its volatility) prior to transport. So I’d be very interested in knowing if this train was transporting the stabilized crude.

      Even more recently, USDOT has established new specs for tank cars handling unpressurized flammable materials, replacing DOT 111 and 111A specs for those cars with the new 117 classification. Another “interim” car, CPC 1232, is currently in service.

      So I’d be very interested in knowing if the three cars that ruptured were 111, 111A, or 1232 models. ’d also be very interested in knowing if other cars that did derail but did not rupture are 111, 111A, or 1232 models.

      DOT has also stipulated that CBR trains be fitted for ECP, electro-pneumatic braking, meaning of course, that the CBR tank cars must be fitted for ECP braking.

      ECP braking is not a new concept. It’s been around for at least, what, 60 years? Instead of using changes in air pressure traveling throughout the entire length of the train to signal for the application of brakes, electro-pneumatic braking sends an electronic signal to receivers on each car’s air brake apparatus to initiate braking. “Lag time” is virtually eliminated; brakes set up simultaneously, smoothly, with dramatic reduction of in-train forces. Great idea—for passenger trains, where all the cars share common electrical connections with the locomotive.

      ECP may be a great idea for freight trains. It’s definitely an expensive one, as the 90,000 or so tank cars currently more or less captured in hazmat/CBR transport have no electrical connections to anything.

      So I’d be interested in knowing, with ECP braking, how many of the 22 cars that did derail would not have derailed. I’d be interested in knowing if the three tank cars that ruptured after derailing (a) wouldn’t have derailed to begin with and (b) would not have been subject to “rupture forces” due to additional impact from following cars if ECP braking had been installed.

      Sounds like a job for TTCI, if you ask me.

      And we had a second little accident on Friday, July 17, 2015, right here in New York City. Initially reported as a “sideswipe,” it was in fact a collision between two LIRR passenger trains. A westbound train was stopped at an interlocking signal at HALL. An eastbound train violated a signal displaying “stop,” and proceeded to collide with the stopped train. You can see a summary of the accident on, where else? YouTube. The summary begins around 3:31 into the video.

      Again, no injuries, no fires, no explosions. But a lot to learn, because at 13:50 into the video, the president of the LIRR says that because this stop signal violation and resulting collision took place in the interlocking, “PTC isn’t going to help.”

      This is startling news, and I hope it’s just a misunderstanding, as LIRR’s approved PTCIP (PTC Implementation Plan), available in public docket FRA-2010-0031, states:

      The LIRR PTC system will enforce a stop at every Home Signal displaying a Stop aspect. Transponders provide the onboard computer with the information that the train is approaching a Home Signal and the distance to that Home Signal. The onboard system uses this data to generate a speed profile with a 0 mph target speed at a target point in approach to the signal. . . .

      Now, back in the day, “home signals” meant the extreme outer opposing signals of an interlocking. Signals within the interlocking might be referred to as intermediate signals, although the requirements for complying with a stop indication from such a signal within the interlocking limits was exactly the same as that for the home signal.

      The distinction between “home” and “intermediate” interlocking signals has operating significance only in defining the geographical boundaries of the interlocking in which all the interlocking rules apply, including stop at every signal displaying stop.

      In addition 49 CFR 236.1005(a)(1)(i) (“Requirements for Positive Train Control systems) requires at interlockings where PTC routes intersect that PTC enforce “the stop on all routes.”

      It’s the little things that mean the most, sometimes, so I’m looking forward to the little answers.

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        Plumas Co. Grand Jury: Scathing indictment of hazardous material transportation through Feather River Canyon

        Repost from Plumas County News
        [Editor:  This Grand Jury report is thorough and well written – an excellent resource and alarming in its analysis.  Its findings and recommendations (near the end of the report) might be a valuable resource for communities everywhere.  There are a number of references to “after-action reports.”   Question for our research: how can concerned citizens obtain such reports?  – RS]

        Hazardous material transportation a roulette wheel for potential disaster

        Feather Publishing

        6/5/2015

        Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of midterm reports submitted by the 2014-15 Plumas County Civil Grand Jury.

        SUMMARY
        Early in the morning Nov. 25, 2014, a Union Pacific freight train derailed in the Feather River Canyon just east of Belden, sending 11 railcars full of corn off the tracks and down the steep embankment. In a press statement shortly afterward, a State Office of Emergency Services official was quoted as saying, “We dodged a bullet” because the train was only carrying corn.

        Based on a rash of recent derailments and spills of hazardous materials happening throughout the United States and Canada, “a bullet” in fact grossly underestimates the potential devastation, magnitude and scope of the consequences left from these horrific incidents. Luckily, it was only corn that spilled. With the recent surge in crude-by-rail domestic crude oil transports between oil fields in North Dakota, Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania and Bay Area refineries through the Feather River Canyon, the aftermath could have wrought far-reaching disaster had it been the high-flammable Bakken crude in the tanker cars.

        According to sources, the number of crude-by-rail trains passing through the Feather River Canyon has tripled in number within the past three years. With developments in hydraulic fracking technology coming about in domestic oil fields, the petroleum market has seen a profound shift from importing foreign oil to extracting it in domestic oil fields in the United States. As a result, thousands of jobs have been created and oil prices have plummeted since this recent boon in domestic oil production. In addition, other hazardous chemicals are transported throughout the United States by rail and by truck. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, only the railroads are required to know what’s in the cars they’re shipping.

        The grand jury found it extremely important to examine the recent corn derailment other recent crude-by-rail disasters in the U.S. and Canada to determine whether Plumas County agencies and private transportation operators are adequately prepared in “worst-case” scenarios. In respect to the Plumas County corn derailment, because the corn was relatively harmless and could be immediately dealt with without invoking hazardous material protocols, local, state and railroad officials and crews did an excellent job in containment of the spill and clearing and repairing the tracks within the impact area.

        As a result of a quick and well-coordinated response, the Feather River Canyon rail route was restored and passing rail traffic three days after the initial derailment. Nonetheless, the grand jury has found the incident to be a practical review for a county hazardous material spill and useful opportunity to compare and contrast the corn spill with other recent more disastrous spills. Plumas County did indeed “dodge the bullet,” and from this incident the grand jury believes it will provide valuable findings and recommendations which may in turn act as a catalyst and cast fresh perspectives and insights on dealing with future potential spills and hazardous material disasters.

        BACKGROUND
        In review of the Feather River Canyon corn spill Nov. 25, 2014, a total of 11 cars full of raw corn derailed and spilled down a steep embankment near Rich Bar. Luckily, the spill was only tons of kernels and husks, and the incident proved to have had only a minimal impact, environmentally speaking.

        The corn spill turned out to be good opportunity to test the Plumas County emergency response system. The incident was first reported by Union Pacific Railroad Dispatch in Omaha, Nebraska, to the Plumas County Warning Center, stating, “12 rail cars close to Rich Bar at Hwy 70 MPM 265 on the Canyon Sub,” and that “12 rail cars loaded with grain derailed, it is unknown whether the cars are upright or on their sides, and that the derailment occurred in a canyon next to a stream or river and it is unknown at this time if the waterway was impacted.”

        According to the after-action report on the incident, the State Warning Center notification included the Plumas County sheriff, California Highway Patrol, Plumas County Environmental Health, State Water Quality Board, State Department of Toxics, State Drinking Water, Cal Office of Emergency Services, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The accident occurred around 3 a.m. Nov. 25. By 8 a.m. Union Pacific had placed containment booms 100 feet down the Feather River. Fortunately, none of the cars landed in the river and only a small amount of corn spilled into the river.

        One of the important facts that should be emphasized here concerns containment supplies and where they are located. It took roughly five hours for the railroad to have containment booms in place. According the Plumas County officials, Union Pacific does not have any spill containment kits in Plumas County. A formal request from the grand jury was emailed to Union Pacific safety representatives asking about the whereabouts of containment kits — according to their response (the grand jury received a very quick email reply that day), Chico, Roseville and Reno, Nevada, were the closest railroad facilities that had emergency containment kits.

        Other revelations from the after-action report revealed that the Union Pacific Railroad Dispatch Center could not pinpoint the exact location in the Feather River Canyon to the Warning Center. In addition, dispatch was not “forthcoming” on what was spilled, although the center did state that the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department was notified that “there were no injuries, no hazardous materials released, and that no assistance was needed.” The corn spill after-action report in its conclusion posted its “corrective actions from railroad incident” review. Some of the recommendations are summarized here:

        —Push Union Pacific dispatch for better initial report information.

        —Use GPS to pinpoint incident location.

        —Coordinate with the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for any incident in the Feather River Canyon.

        —The incident commander for any hazardous materials incident is designated as the primary law enforcement authority.

        —Follow Plumas County Hazardous Materials Response Plan.

        —The Office of Emergency Services will try to find a local Union Pacific dispatch contact person.

        Evidently, the cause of the corn derailment was a section of the railroad track breaking or separating. Ironically, Union Pacific reported that all railroad ties along the Feather River Canyon were replaced in 2013. Union Pacific conducts track inspections at regular intervals and reportedly it conducts Feather River Canyon inspections every three months. Nonetheless, the corn derailment exemplifies that rail accidents can happen at any time.

        In respect to the other crude-by-rail spills, the same results were concluded. Train speed was not a factor and rail and bridge inspections were documented before the incidents occurred. The crude-by-rail derailments were all on relatively flat landscapes. The Feather River Canyon route, with its rocky and unstable terrain, is much more prone to outside factors that can lead to derailments.

        According to 2013 Plumas County Hazard Mitigation Plan, in 2007 and in 2012 a rockslide struck and derailed passing trains. The 2007 slide derailed 22 rail cars; 20,000 gallons of peanut oil ruptured from several cars and 30,000 gallons of highly flammable denatured alcohol also spilled down the embankment. The 2012 incident was caused by a large boulder that fell onto the tracks and was struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train. Over 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from the train into the Feather River.

        The recent crude-by-rail spills throughout the U.S. showcase the dramatic rise in domestic oil production and rail shipments to coastal refineries. According to railroad data, in 2008 there were reportedly about 10,000 oil cars carrying domestic crude. In 2014, there were over 400,000 crude-by-rail train cars, representing a 4,000 percent increase. Furthermore, the type of crude oil coming from shale deposits from Bakken oil fields (commonly referred as “light crude”) is high combustible. In almost every instance in which trains carrying Bakken crude derail and tanker cars are punctured, fiery detonation results. First responders and emergency service crews can merely watch it burn and concentrate on containment perimeters rather than extinguishing the oil fire. Without sensationalizing a disaster that occurred in another place, had any of the recent oil tanker disasters happened along the Feather River route, particularly at locations near population areas including downtown Portola, Blairsden, Twain and Keddie, where the railroad tracks are relatively close, the extent of the damage could have been far different.

        The grand jury would first like to acknowledge as a matter of fact that hazardous chemical hauling is an integral part of our economy. As potentially dangerous as they are, crude oil, gasoline and chemicals are used safely every day. Without them our economy and all the things we do, all the products we require in our daily lives, the way we move would be changed; just about everything revolves around the consumer and the safe use of chemicals and their byproducts.

        That being said, the vital role of both the national carriers of hazardous materials and our public safety officials at each level is to make safety the No. 1 priority. Safety, defined here, entails the complete processing of any particular product, from its extraction and refinement to transportation, delivery and ultimate usage.

        Railroads carry over 40 percent of our nation’s freight. When conducted safely and securely, commodity transport over rail is proven to be economically the best and most efficient mode of transportation in terms of fuel efficiency, supply chain costs and safety. Intermodal traffic refers to the transport of goods on trains. Today, two major rail companies, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, transport intermodal goods through Plumas County. According to the Union Pacific Railroad, chemical transport is roughly 17 percent of total payload being carried. The breakdown of goods, however, is not representative of actual train payloads. In other words, trains passing through the county could have any number of railcars full of one particular commodity or another and the cars may be full or empty.

        The grand jury has found that the mission statements, top priorities, primary focus and action plans are remarkably similar in commitment, scope and language between hazardous material producers, transport carriers and government officials at every level. In other words, everyone directly engaged in the production and distribution of everything delivered over rail, by air or on pavement — as well as their overseers — share a common pledge to make safety their top priority in the public domain and the environment.

        In addition, the grand jury has studied the after-action reports of many of the most recent crude-by-rail derailments and public highway chemical transport accidents and learned that in nearly every case, there were inspections completed days or weeks before the incidents, rail and highway speeds were under the mandated limits and handling of the volatile payloads were properly done according to federal safety mandates.

        According to official published reports, there has been more oil spilled from trains in the past two years than in the previous four decades. Between 1975 and 2012, around 800,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled in the U.S. By comparison, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration data, over 1.5 million gallons of crude oil was spilled from rail cars.

        As a result of the series of ruptures and fires that have recently plagued the U.S., federal regulators are considering higher safety standards and further upgrades such as thicker tanks, rollover protection for chemical carrying tanker cars, electronic braking systems on individual rail cars and increased track inspections.

        The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a notice for crude oil and high-hazard flammable trains tanker cars, calling for a phaseout of the older CTC-111A tanker car (commonly known as the DOT-111). Currently there are still around 300,000 CTC-111A cars still being used throughout the U.S. These tanker cars each generally carry between 20,000 and 30,000 gallons of oil. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation the older CTC-111As have the following safety flaws:

        —Thin skins: Upon derailment, tanks often rupture.

        —No head shields: Shields on both ends of tanker cars can prevent puncturing during collisions.

        —Poor protection over valves and fittings.

        —Lack of pressure relief devices for boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions.

        In short, the older CTC-111A tanker cars were not designed for hauling flammable materials.

        The new replacement tanker car, called the CPC-1232 (CPC is a railroad industry standard that stands for casualty prevention circular), features new standards for hazardous material railway transport. As of November 2011, all new tank cars built for transporting crude oil and ethanol must follow new standards, including half-height shields, thicker tank and head material, normalized steel, top fitting and gauge protection and recloseable pressure relief valves.

        As of March 2015, there are reportedly 60,000 of the newer CPC-1232 tanker cars hauling crude in the U.S. In response to all the recent crude-by-rail derailments, Union Pacific, CSX and Burlington Northern Santa Fe have all stepped up in increased safety inspections and adapting new safety standards. The railroads are now relying on distributed power units, which place locomotives in the middle and/or both ends of the trains. Studies show that placing power locomotives on both ends and in the middle enhances safety because it even spreads physical forces on the train.

        This revelation is significant — the 1991 Dunsmuir toxic chemical derailment was caused by this very reason. The power locomotive was placed in the rear of a 97-car train and light and empty cars flanked a full tanker car filled with 19,000 gallons of metam sodium. The investigation of the Dunsmuir disaster found that because all the power was placed at the rear of the large train, the uneven power distribution caused the train to buckle.

        Metam sodium is a soil fumigant. When it spilled into the upper Sacramento River — because of poor containment action and the nature of toxicity of the chemical — it killed every plant and fish for approximately 40 miles downstream.

        Railroads also use wayside electronic detectors to monitor railroad tracks. New safety detecting technology is also being used in their prevention and risk reduction process that features use of lasers and ultrasound to identify rail defects.

        The grand jury has learned that many of the hazardous material railcars do not belong to the rail carrier but to the company producing and transporting the product. For example, most of the older CTC-111A and newer CPC-1232 tanker cars are actually owned by the crude oil fracking companies and refineries.

        The number of trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials is actually based on sheer economics. For example, in 2014, when oil prices hovered around $100 a barrel, the price sent domestic oil production to an all-time high. Crude-by-rail oil shipments though Plumas County increased substantially as coastal refineries in Martinez and Benicia purchased more oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and other domestic oil fields in Texas and Oklahoma.

        DISCUSSION
        The grand jury chose a review of several recent U.S. crude-by-rail derailments for comparative reasons. The after-action reports provide valuable findings and recommendations from disasters that can happen anywhere, anytime. The reports are particularly invaluable to first responders, and public safety agencies.

        After-action reports detail each incident from the time of the initial report that entails the scope and severity of the incident. In response to the above disastrous incidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a “call to action” in January, calling on “rail company executives, associations, shippers and state and federal agencies to discuss how stakeholders can prevent and mitigate the consequences of rail accidents that involve flammable liquids.”

        The grand jury also believes that examining the recent corn spill in Plumas County and comparing it with the way other derailments were handled can lead to information and recommendations that enhance and hopefully improve upon the vanguards (prevention, preparedness, response, recovery) of any future local potential disaster.

        The tenets from the PHMSA call to action report produced similar recommendations — a strategic approach that promotes “effective preincident planning, preparedness, response, outreach and training.” One important point that the grand jury kept hearing was a difficulty and lack of communication between the railroad and local emergency management officials. One of the key elements the PHMSA call to action report specifically addresses is the absolute need for interaction and relevant guidance to first responders and local emergency management teams to “safely and effectively manage incidents.”

        The report also called for preincident planning and communication with all organizations to learn about what is being transported. Emergency response teams must have the training to safely contain and protect themselves and the contaminate zone affected. The need for a local hazmat team cannot be overemphasized.

        The following crude-by-rail disasters summarized in this grand jury report illustrate some of the potential circumstances other public safety agencies have had to deal with. Despite all the mandated safeguards dealing with hazardous material hauling, i.e., safe speeds, upgraded rail cars, railcar and track inspections, specialized training, etc., accidents can happen anytime and anywhere within transportation routes of hazardous materials.

        Plumas County and the surrounding 12 counties in northeastern California lie within Region 3 of the State Emergency Services System. At the time of this report, Plumas County has no hazmat team. Upon any need for hazmat response, Plumas County must contact nearby Butte or Shasta teams. In more serious incidents, Plumas County would have to enlist state or federal emergency service agencies.

        Lac-Megantic, Canada: In July 2013 a train carrying 72 tank cars full of crude oil exploded after the train braking system released, sending the unmanned train on a downhill run into the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The runaway train crashed into a crowded downtown pub, killing 47 people and destroying over 30 buildings. According to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, the train had been idling and unmanned for over seven hours and the emergency braking system disengaged. The train then rolled down the tracks for several miles, picking up speed and eventually derailing into downtown Lac-Megantic. Of the four disaster crude-by-rail spills mentioned in this report, the results from the official investigation determined that sheer neglect (train left running and unattended and braking system released, causing a runaway unmanned train) was the primary factor in the disaster.

        Aliceville, Alabama: A 90-car train carrying Bakken crude derailed in November 2013 and exploded. Nearly 750,000 gallons of its 2 million gallon load spilled in wetlands in Alabama. Officials still assail cleanup operations today and report that containment booms and absorbent products were ineffective.

        Lynchburg, Virginia: In April 2014 a CSX train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the James River. Oil fires from the ruptured tanker cars burned for two days. Reports indicate that the tanker cars were all the new CPC-1232 model.

        Casselton, North Dakota: In December 2013 a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train hauling grain derailed and fell across another set of tracks. Shortly after, a crude oil train heading in the opposite direction struck the derailed cars and derailed itself. Several tanker cars exploded. A slow response to the first incident set up the chain of events for the explosive second incident.

        Montgomery, West Virginia: In February 2015 a train carrying crude oil in West Virginia derailed sending 27 tanker cars off the tracks. Twelve of those rail cars exploded, not at once, but randomly for up to 12 hours. The cause is still under investigation.

        In the event of a local hazardous material disaster, the Plumas County Office of Emergency Services is notified and it determines the scope and magnitude of the incident and then contacts the Plumas County Board of Supervisors. Depending on the incident assessment of the Plumas County OES, the BOS has the authority to officially declare an emergency, which allows the Plumas County OES to request help from relevant local, state and federal agencies.

        Through leadership and partnership with all first responders, each incident goes through a foundational process that includes prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. The first three steps of the mitigation process rely on the safe containment of the hazardous material as quickly as possible with a special focus on protecting human life (isolate, deny entry, protect life safely, mitigate). The recovery phase, however, can last for years. The Dunsmuir toxic spill, for example, seriously impacted the area for several years after. At the time of this report, the crude-by-rail spills were all still in the recovery phase. Fortunately, the Plumas County corn derailment had a minimal effect on the environment. The first three phases of emergency services mitigation at the corn spill served as a great training exercise for all agencies and first responders involved.

        Recovery, in this case, was at a minimum in terms of environmental impact.

        In regard to Plumas County hazmat, the grand jury has learned that the county must rely on local volunteers to devote their time as first responders.

        Plumas County has had a difficult time finding enough volunteers to cover the entire county, and retaining volunteers after hazmat certification and specialized training has not worked out. All the local fire districts within Plumas County have been actively seeking volunteers.

        FINDINGS
        F1) The grand jury finds that communication between Plumas County public safety agencies and railroad officials is profoundly inadequate.

        F2) The grand jury finds that the lack of spill and containment equipment along rail routes in Plumas County poses a direct threat to public safety and the natural environment.

        F3) The grand jury finds that relying on hazmat response teams from surrounding counties compromises response times and threatens Plumas County public safety and natural resources.

        F4) The grand jury finds that the lack of training of first responders concerning hazardous materials that they may have to deal with could have profound consequences.

        F5) The grand jury finds that population centers within Plumas County that are in close proximity to railroads have grossly inadequate protection resources.

        RECOMMENDATIONS
        R1) The grand jury recommends Plumas County Emergency Services and the Plumas County Environment Health Agency establish direct local contact with Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe and any hazardous material carrier that operates within the county.

        R2) The grand jury recommends that Plumas County negotiate with railroad officials to have spill containment booms and absorbent kits in key strategic storage facilities in Plumas County.

        R3) The grand jury recommends that the BOS find the means to provide hazmat training and certification to in-county first responders.

        R4) The grand jury recommends more hazardous material training between first responders and all those involved in mitigating hazardous material disasters. Union Pacific, for example, offers tank car safety training in Roseville at the California Office of Emergency Services Specialized Training Institute every year. The training involves practically all aspects of hazardous material incident mitigation.

        R5) The grand jury recommends that the BOS and Plumas County OES conduct a “what-if” evaluation for population centers within Plumas County that are within potential “blast zones” of crude-by-rail tanker cars.

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