Tag Archives: Davis CA

Vallejo Times-Herald: Why the rush on crude?

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald, Letters

Why the rush on crude?

By Kathy Kerridge, Vallejo Times-Herald, 07/08/2014

The Benicia Planning commission will take public comments tonight at City Hall on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for Valero’s Crude by Rail project. Written comments are due by Aug. 1. This project would bring 100 rail cars a day over the Donner Pass or through the Feather River Canyon, over rivers, through Truckee, Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, the Suisun Marsh and into Benicia.

These trains could be carrying the same Bakken Crude that exploded in Canada, killing 47 people and Canadian Tar Sands, which have proved impossible to clean up when it has spilled in waterways. Some have claimed this is safe. Everyone should be aware that the National Transportation Safety Board in January said that trains carrying crude oil should “where technically feasible require rerouting to avoid transportation of such hazardous materials through populated and other sensitive areas.” At this point in time it is feasible to keep these dangerous materials from going through populated areas by not approving the project. Otherwise it will not be feasible.

The new railcars that Valero says it will use are the same ones that ruptured and spilled April 30, 2014 in Lynchburg, Virginia, threatening Richmond’s water supply. The Department of Transportation is in the process of crafting new rules for rail cars carrying crude, but there is no time line for when they will be issued and it will be some time before any new cars are available. There have been two train derailments in Benicia’s Industrial Park in recent months.

Why the rush? Is Valero running out of crude oil? No. The reason Valero wants to bring in this dangerous crude, in rail cars that split and rupture in a derailment, is that this crude oil is on sale right now. The oil isn’t going anywhere. It isn’t safe to transport through populated areas and all of the communities that this crude goes through will be at risk.

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    Vallejo Times-Herald: Joint Legislative Oversight Hearing on Transport of California Crude Oil by Rail

    Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
    [Editor: Note near the end of this story, “Patterson, who joined Henke on a four-person panel addressing on-the-ground risks, did not address the merits of Valero’s proposed crude-by-rail project in Benicia.”  Patterson read a prepared statement by her personal attorney affirming her right to offer testimony, and was commended later in the hearing by Senator Wolk.  Mayor Patterson’s testimony can be viewed here – scroll ahead to minute 1:22:20 and 1:43:45.  – RS]

    Benicia Mayor Patterson testifies at hearing about oil-by-rail risks

    Lawmakers looking to address safety concern
    By Tony Burchyns, 06/19/2014

    As state lawmakers look to address the risks from a surge in oil train traffic, Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson joined others Thursday in testifying at a legislative oversight hearing in Sacramento about the need for more actions to prevent and respond to accidents that could threaten public safety.

    In her remarks, Patterson asked whether state and local agencies are prepared to deal with deadly tanker rail accidents like last year’s explosive derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people.

    “If you are in an industrial area or a cultural center or a school the actual first-responders are those people who are affected,” Patterson said. “And that’s (the) ultimate primary concern that I have that we don’t put people at risk and that we don’t have the children or the people going to a concert or workers or residents exposed to that kind of threat.”

    Driven by increased North American oil production, California and the nation are experiencing a surge in oil-by-rail traffic.

    In California, imports grew from only 70 tanker carloads in 2009 to nearly 9,5000 carloads last year, and could increase up to 230,000 carloads – a quarter of all the crude oil refined in the state – in 2016, according to the California Energy Commission.

    About 3.8 million Californians who live along train routes face increased safety risks posed by new unloading facilities planned or under construction, according to a study by the Natural Resource Defense Council.

    Thursday’s hearing provided an opportunity for regulators, community members and first-responders to look at what the risks and needs are in terms of safety and response.

    Issues raised included uncertainty over the timing and comprehensiveness of new federal rail tank car standards and operational rules, a need to more fully assess the risks from increased oil train traffic in California and a lack of timely and complete information about hazardous cargo before it passes through local communities.

    The need for more training and resources for first-responders was also identified.

    “Your immediate concern is the incident that takes place today, tomorrow and next week,” said Kurt Henke, chief of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

    Patterson, who joined Henke on a four-person panel addressing on-the-ground risks, did not address the merits of Valero’s proposed crude-by-rail project in Benicia. If approved, the project would allow Valero to bring in up to 100 tanker carloads of crude per day to its Benicia refinery.

    The project’s draft environmental impact report was released Tuesday.

    The proposed rail route would pass through rural and urban areas, including parts of Sacramento and Davis.

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      CBS TV Sacramento: uprail communities concerned as crude by rail spikes

      Repost from CBS13 Sacramento
      [Editor: Rather a poor report, with a few errors (for instance, six explosions, not three) and a pessimistic ending.  But good tv exposure on the issue.  See the excellent quote by Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza, and note how the Valero Benicia spokesperson evades the reporter’s question on “Who will pay for safety?” in the interview near the end.  – RS]

      Crude Oil Shipment Spike Has California Residents Along Railways Concerned

      May 13, 2014


      DAVIS (CBS13) — It’s been a deadly year for the oil and railroad industries as crude oil tankers on North American railways explode in three separate incidents, calling into question what dangers are we willing to accept in our insatiable quest for fuel.

      Welcome to North Dakota, where the earth is gushing oil. But the black gold blessing is quickly becoming a shipping curse.

      The number of trains carrying crude oils is rapidly expanding, putting residents like Errin Enos of Davis at risk.

      “Of course I’m scared, they go right past my house,” he said.

      About 1 million barrels of oil a day is being extracted from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota. Getting it from there to refineries in California has created a controversial and dangerous dilemma.

      “Frankly, it’s just the odds,” said California state Sen. Beth Jackson. “If we’re transporting more things by rail, it’s just going to happen at some point no matter how we try to be careful.”

      Oil industry insiders know about the controversy involving the third-largest refining state.

      For the most part, crude oil is transported around the world on ships, through pipelines and by trains. Each of those has risks.

      Three accidents involving oil trains have occurred in the last year alone:

      July 2013: A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Quebec, Canada, leveling portions of the town of Lac Megantic and killing 47 people.

      December 2013: An oil train collided with a derailed train near Casselton, North Dakota.

      April 30: A train loaded with crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia. Some cars burst into flames, others plunged into the James River.

      But even shipping has its dangers.

      November 2007: A Cosco Busan oil tanker rammed the Bay Bridge, spilling 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the San Francisco Bay—or less than two rail cars full of oil.

      March 1989: The Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound Alaska. Up to 750,000 barrels of crude oil spilled, making it one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters.

      On land, millions of barrels of crude oil are moved through pipelines and trains. So which is safer?

      Juan Acosta represents Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad and recently testified at a hearing at the state Capitol.

      Even though pipelines are safer, he says, environmental groups strongly oppose building new pipelines, meaning America’s overflowing oil reserves are now hitting the rails.

      Crude Spike Means Busy Railways

      Railroads have several lines to bring crude oil into California. Many of them converge at refineries in our part of the state in cities like Richmond and Benicia. In the coming years, officials estimate that 25 percent of crude coming into California will arrive on trains.

      Cities and towns that line these train tracks are fighting the trend, because there’s a plan to send even more crude oil through Northern California.

      That has Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza concerned.

      “If those same tracks are going to be be carrying hundreds of thousands of cars of crude oil through Davis every day, that’s absolutely a situation we can’t have in this community,” he said.

      The plan would send 82,000 barrels of North Dakota Bakken crude oil on California tracks through Roseville, West Sacramento and Davis on their way to the Valero refinery in Benicia.

      Chris Howe is the director of health, safety and environment at the refinery where they convert crude oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. They hope to build a special station where they can offload North Dakota’s oil from train cars.

      “Today about 80 percent of the crude oil that we process at the refinery comes in by marine tanker,” he said.

      Currently, a little more than five percent of oil comes into the state by rail, but that’s almost certain to increase dramatically.

      With a record amount of crude oil being extracted from North Dakota and a lack of pipelines to ship it, and with the world’s appetite for oil products increasing in places such as China and India, the oil industry says it’s a basic business principle of supply and demand.

      And it’s not just in Benicia. Oil is alreayd being offloaded from rail cars and onto tanker trucks at McClellan Park near Sacramento.

      Who Will Pay For Safety?

      At a recent hearing at the state Capitol, Lisa Stark testified for Union Pacific, saying safety is a top priority.

      “I know we’re very aggressive on safety, so it may not make a huge difference here in California because we already have a very aggressive program here,” she said.

      But at that same hearing, emergency responders from a host of state agencies were concerned about their ability to respond to a catastrophe.

      “What we did learn is that there really is no preparedness,” said State Sen. Jerry Hill.

      He says not only are local emergency crews not prepared, but he says only the railroads are willing to pay to train local firefighters, not oil companies.

      “They’re fine with most of what’s being proposed,” he said. “It’s the oil companies who are opposed to any additional fees that would be imposed on crude oil that comes.”

      Something Howe doesn’t confirm, but doesn’t deny either.

      REPORTER: So you think Union Pacific would be willing to go into some of these smaller communities and offer training?

      HOWE: I’ve read their commitment to do that and it’s my understanding …

      REPORTER: But it’s not something Valero would be willing to do?

      HOWE: I would surely encourage the railroad to help do that.

      Living along the tracks, Enos believes more trains filled with explosive crude oil will be rolling by his home in the near future.

      “They’re gonna get their way,” he said. “I mean I could talk, talk, talk and it’s not gonna make any difference, I don’t believe.”

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        Sacramento area mayors, emergency responders to send letter of concern to Valero

         Repost from KTXL FOX40 Sacramento/Stockton
        [Editor: This is an excellent video report, but I can’t post it to run here because it runs commercial ads ad nauseum.  My apologies but you really should click on the image which takes you to the KTXL page where you can view this video.  It has footage from Valero’s community meeting, brief comments by West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cobaldon and Fire Chief Rick Martinez of West Sacramento, and an update from the April 17 Sacramento Area Council of Governments.  The text below summarizes the video, if you can’t stomach the commercials.  – RS]

        Communities Concerned Over Crude Oil Train Plan

        Note - this will take you to KTXL's website for the video.  Please be patient - commercial ad content.
        Note – this will take you to KTXL’s website for the video. Please be patient – commercial ad content.

        SACRAMENTO 17 Apr 2014 – Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor train is the chauffeur-driven commute for thousands in the Sacramento region.

        But those runs to the Bay and back may soon be sharing the rails with something that could turn those trips of ease into trips of angst.

        “That could be scary. It might deter me from taking the train,” rider Mary Pierschbacher said.

        Those fears are about Valero’s plan to send up to 100 train cars full of a highly flammable crude oil through downtown Sacramento every day.

        The cars would be traveling on Union Pacific lines through Roseville, West Sacramento, Davis and on into Benicia to a proposed rail terminal at Valero’s refinery there.

        Tempers flared at public meetings in Benicia as the company and homeowners debated the potential threat that could be rolling through neighborhoods.

        “Our crew, the railroad and the community is clearly capable of responding to an incident that happens,” Valero’s Chris Howe said.

        Late notice of the impact in the Valley sent reps from targeted cities into a Thursday meeting at the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

        Mayors and emergency responders plan to draft a letter of concern to Valero.

        “We can’t plan for every eventuality, but we need to know what the range of possibilities are so we can make the appropriate preparations. And if we can’t then we need to raise our voices and object to the project,” said West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldon.

        “I think  we still have a lot of work ahead of us to come to to a real solution, but i think we’ve taken some good first steps today,” said Rick Martinez, Fire Chief of West Sacramento.

        The plan for more crude to ride the rails is a way to keep pace with increased fracking in places like northeastern North Dakota in the Bakken oil fields.

        The trouble is that explosion in production is bringing to the surface oil that is lighter and more flammable than other types.

        Bakken crude was in the 72 runaway train cars that derailed and exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec last July – killing 47 people and decimating the town’s center.

        If a crash like that happened along the Capitol Corridor route through Sacramento,  the new Kings arena could be just one of many city investments destroyed.

        And as of right now,  crews forced to respond would have little information about how many rail cars were filled with what.

        “For our first responders who are supposed to be taking care of the emergency…it doesn’t help with even less information for them to go on,” said Adams.

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