Tag Archives: Fayette County WV

Northern California Representatives call for no delay in or weakening of new oil-by-rail safety standards

Repost from The Benicia Herald
[Editor: In an otherwise excellent report, this story fails to mention that Benicia’s own Representative Mike Thompson and 5 other Northern California legislators joined with Reps. Garamendi and Matsui in signing the letter.  Note as well that the fires in the West Virginia explosion burned for nearly 3 days (not 24 hours per this article).  See also Rep. Garamendi’s Press Release.  A PDF copy of the signed letter is available here.  See also coverage in The Sacramento Bee.  – RS]

Garamendi calls for no delay in oil-by-rail safety improvements

By Donna Beth Weilenman, March 4, 2015

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, is urging the Department of Transportation to issue stronger safety standards for transporting oil by train “without delay.”

Garamendi, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, made his call in a letter he authored after working with U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and circulated among members of the House.

He said the letter responds to news that the DOT may consider weakening oil train safety regulations and delaying a deadline for companies to comply with certain safety guidelines.

He said he also has been making his appeal to DOT officials in person as well as in committee hearings and in speaking with reporters, urging the department to adopt stronger safety measures designed to protect communities near rail lines.

He said several key intercontinental rail lines that reach West Coast ports and refineries lie within his Third District.

Those rail lines go through Fairfield, Suisun City, Dixon, Davis, Marysville and Sacramento, he said.

Garamendi is the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

He pointed to a February accident in West Virginia in which a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, and said that was just the latest in a series of more frequently occurring incidents.

That accident happened in Fayette County, in which Garamendi said 28 tanker rail cars in a CSX train went off the tracks and 20 caught fire, accompanied by explosions and 100-yard-high flames.

Nearby residents were evacuated, and the fires burned for 24 hours.

West Virginia’s governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, issued a statement saying the train was carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va. The train had two locomotives and 109 rail cars, according to a CSX statement.

CSX originally said one car entered the Kanawha River, but later said none had done so.

The company reported at least one rail car ruptured and caught fire. One home was destroyed, and at least one person was treated for potential inhalation of fumes.

The rail line said it was using newer-model tank cars, called CPC 1232, which are described as tougher than DOT-111 cars made before 2011. Garamendi confirmed that.

He also said the train was traveling at 33 mph, well below the 50-mph speed limit for that portion of the track.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal and a statement from the North Dakota Industrial Commission, the oil contained volatile gases, and its vapor pressure was 13.9 pounds per square inch. A new limit of 13.7 pounds per square inch is expected to be set by North Dakota in April on oil carried by truck or rail from the Bakken Shale fields, though Brad Leone, a spokesperson from Plains All American Pipeline, the company that shipped the oil, said his company had followed all regulations that govern crude shipping and testing.

A few days before, another Canadian National Railways train derailed in Ontario.

“Families living near oil-by-rail shipping lines are rightfully concerned about the safety of the trains that pass through their communities,” Garamendi said.

“For that reason, I have repeatedly called on the Department of Transportation to use all the tools at their disposal to ensure that these shipments are as safe and secure as possible.”

He said he also wants the DOT to act quickly.

“Every day that strong and effective rules are delayed is another day that millions of Americans, including many in my district, are put at greater risk.

“While the Department has made this a priority, they must move with greater urgency to address this matter.”

He and Matsui have written Timothy Butters, acting administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, expressing “our strong concern that despite increased train car derailments and an overall delay in the issuance of oil-train safety regulations, the Department of Transportation may be considering a revision that could delay the deadline for companies to comply with important safety guidelines, including upgrading CPC-1232 tank cars to new standards.”

Citing the frequency of derailments, they wrote that such measures as stabilizing crude and track maintenance before transport should be added to those standards. “Any weakening of the proposed rule would be ill-advised,” they wrote.

The two wrote that the West Virginia accident was the third reported in February.

In addition to that one and the Ontario accident, another train carrying ethanol derailed and caught fire in Iowa.

“These are in addition to recent derailments in Northern California’s Feather River Canyon, Plumas County, and Antelope region where three train cars derailed earlier this year while en route from Stockton to Roseville,” they wrote.

The two said the need for safer train cars “has long been documented and is overdue.”

They said the DOT began updating rules in April 2012. Meanwhile, from 2006 to April 2014, 281 tank cars derailed in the United States and Canada.

They wrote that 48 people died and nearly 5 million gallons of crude oil and ethanol were released.

“Serious crude-carrying train incidents are occurring once every seven weeks on average, and a DOT report predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing billions of dollars in damage and possibly costing hundreds of lives,” they wrote.

In the wake of “this alarming news,” they wrote of their “great concern” that Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration failed to meet its Jan. 15 deadline to release a final rule on crude-by-rail regulations.

They urged the DOT to maintain the timeline that gives companies two years to retrofit cars and to have provisions in place or additional regulations drafted to require stabilization of crude as well as better track maintenance technology.

“We understand that more than 3,000 comments to the rule were analyzed and we commend the DOT for its work with industry thus far on information sharing, slower speeds, and reinforced railcars, but the multi-pronged solutions for this important safety issue must be implemented as quickly as possible,” they wrote.

“We also believe that DOT should issue a rule that requires stripping out the most volatile elements from Bakken crude before it is loaded onto rail cars.

“This operation may be able to lower the vapor pressure of crude oil, making it less volatile and therefore safer to transport by pipeline or rail tank car,” they wrote.

In addition, they wrote that greater priority must be placed on track maintenance and improvement.

“We need safer rail lines that are built for the 21st century, including more advanced technology in maintaining railroad tracks and trains so that faulty axles and tracks do not lead to further derailments,” they wrote.

Saying 16 million Americans live near oil-by-rail shipping lanes, Garamendi and Matsui wrote that if “dangerous and volatile crude” is to be shipped through municipalities and along sensitive waters and wildlife habitat, “the rail and shipping industries must do more.”

The two praised the National Transportation Safety Board for investigating the accidents thoroughly.

But they added that those living near crude-by-rail tracks “should not have to live with the fear that it is only a matter of time.”

Instead, they wrote, the DOT should work toward “release of a strong and robust safety rule as soon as possible.”

Share...

    UPDATE: Latest on West Virginia derailment, explosion

    Two recent stories in the media:

    1.  WEST VIRGINIA METRO NEWS: No change for CSX, Bakkan oil will continue to roll through area where derailment took place
    By Chris Lawrence, February 27, 2015 at 2:47PM

    MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. — There will be another CSX train carrying Bakkan oil going through eastern Kanawha and Fayette counties soon now that the track has been repaired following the Feb. 19 derailment of an oil train near Mount Carbon.

    “It’s part of the freight that goes over that line,” CSX Spokesman Gary Sease told MetroNews Friday. “Those shipments, along with all the other freight we haul, have resumed.”

    The rebuilt line, just a few miles from Montgomery, reopened Thursday afternoon following a week long cleanup.  [CONTINUED]


    2.  PBS NEWSHOUR: Fiery train wrecks put pressure on safety standards for oil transport
    February 27, 2015 – 8:43am
    A combination photo shows a sequence of an explosion erupting from a CSX Corp train derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia pictured across the Kanawha River in Boomer, West Virginia February 16, 2015. Photo by Steve Keenan/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Fiery wrecks of trains hauling crude oil have intensified pressure on the Obama administration to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries.

    On Feb. 5, the Transportation Department sent the White House draft rules that would require oil trains to use stronger tank cars and make other safety improvements.

    Nine days later a 100-car train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed and caught fire in a remote part of Ontario, Canada. Less than 48 hours later, a 109-car oil train derailed and caught fire in West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation. As the fire spread across 19 of the cars, a nearby resident said the explosions sounded like an “atomic bomb.” Both fires burned for nearly a week.  [CONTINUED]


    Share...

      Media explosion over West Virginia oil train explosion

      Editor: I have never seen an upsurge in media coverage like this.  There may be a national consensus forming that oil trains are disasters in waiting.  There are simply too many stories “out there” to post them all.  Here is a summary of many of the best NEW stories (as of late 2/19/15) from media outlets across the country.  ALL are important and worthy of your attention.  – RS

      Share...

        NPR: What we know three days after the Fayette Co. oil train derailment

        Repost from WMKY FM, Morehead, KYNational Public Radio

        What We Know Three Days After the Fayette Co. Oil Train Derailment

        By Dave Mistich, Thu February 19, 2015 2:25 pm
        Credit U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier

        Investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are on the scene of Monday’s oil train derailment near Mount Carbon, W.Va. The incident sparked massive fireballs stretching hundreds of feet in the air. One home was destroyed in the incident and the homeowner was treated for smoke inhalation and then released.

        1. Some initial reports from the scene turned out to be incorrect.

        Department of Military Affairs and Public safety spokesman Lawrence Messina said Monday that one and possibly more cars fell into the Kanawha River.

        As a result, West Virginia American Water shut down intakes at their Montgomery and Cedar Grove. Those intakes were reopened after no evidence of crude oil was detected in the river. 

        Messina and other officials, including the state Department of Environmental Protection, later said no tanker cars fell into the river and no evidence of oil could be detected.

        2. Federal Authorities and CSX say the train was not speeding.

        The Federal Railroad Administration said Thursday that the CSX-owned train that derailed was traveling at 33 mph. They said the speed limit in the area where the incident occurred was 50 mph.

        3. Fires continue to burn and containment is the focus of the response.

        Kelley Gillenwater of the DEP said at least one small fire continued to burn Thursday morning.

        Environmental protective and monitoring measures on land, air, the Kanawha River and Armstrong Creek. Gillenwater said response crews vacuumed about 5,000 gallons of an oil-water mixture on Wednesday. CSX contractors, overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard and DEP, were able to deploy about 500 feet of containment boom as a precautionary measure to limit potential impact on the environment.

        Response teams are beginning to remove derailed cars that have not been involved in the fires. says they will begin transferring oil from the damaged cars to other tanks for removal from the site when it is safe to do so.

        4. Quick Facts: Numbers on the Derailment

        • The train consisted of two locomotives and 109 rail cars (107 tank cars and two buffer cars).
        • 27 cars derailed and 19 were involved in fires.
        • The train was carrying a total of 3 million gallons of Bakken crude oil, according to the Associated Press.
        • Each of the tankers contained 29,500 gallons of oil.
        Share...