Tag Archives: James River

State denies permit for Baltimore crude oil terminal

Email from John Kenney, Chesapeake Climate Action Network:

Great news out of Baltimore: Maryland puts proposed crude oil terminal on hold

Great news out of Baltimore! Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) put the permits for the proposed crude oil terminal that we’ve been fighting on hold! MDE actually listened to our public comments saying that crude oil trains were way more dangerous than they previously thought, so they asked more questions for the company before issuing a final permit in the future. There will be plenty of opportunities to comment if the company decides to proceed with their plan to ship crude oil.

For now, the expansion of crude by rail in Maryland is on hold.

However, the fight isn’t over. Advocates throughout our region are continuing to organize. Crude oil still runs through Maryland, is still shipped out of Baltimore, and we still don’t have route transparency. Our goal is to continue pushing city and state legislators to take action, and will send updates along the way. Please see article [at right] for more details.

Repost from the Baltimore Sun

State denies permit for Baltimore crude oil terminal

By Jeff Barker, June 3, 2015 8:24 P.M.
Targa Resources
Targa Terminals, located at 1955 Chesapeake Avenue along the Patapsco River, has applied for an air-quality permit with the Maryland Department of Environment to begin handling crude oil at the Baltimore facility. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

The state Department of the Environment has denied, for now, a Houston-based company’s application to permit crude oil to be shipped through its port of Baltimore terminal in Fairfield — a proposal that nearby residents say poses a safety threat.

The agency said it needs more information from Targa Resources, a Houston-based firm that handles and stores oil, natural gas and petroleum products.

MDE “is not moving forward with any further review of the crude oil related application submitted in February until the department receives additional information from the company,” it said in a summary of its decision.

A bill that would have required a study of crude oil rail shipments in Maryland, such as the one above in Cecil County, has stalled.

A bill that would have required a study of crude oil rail shipments in Maryland, such as the one above in Cecil County, has stalled. (Photo by Amy Davis)

“Before any decision is made on a crude oil related project at the Targa facility, there will be additional public review opportunities beyond the public meeting already held,” the agency said.

If MDE had approved the permit, Targa would have become the second Fairfield-area terminal to handle crude oil shipments. Axeon Specialty Products, based in Stamford, Conn., ships tens of millions of gallons of crude oil through its nearby terminal just north of Interstate 895.

Axeon brings crude oil in by rail from the west and ships it by barge to refineries in the Northeast. But even those shipments are relatively new. While it moved nearly 57 million gallons of crude through Baltimore in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and 53 million gallons the year before, it handled none the previous two years, according to data from MDE’s Oil Control Program.

Substantially more crude oil passes through the state, much of it through Cecil County, but is not captured by the oil-control program because it is not unloaded.

Shipments of domestic crude oil have boomed in recent years because of the surge in production from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. So much oil is coming out of the ground there and from the Canadian oil sands that a global glut has suppressed prices.

Another derailment of a train carrying Bakken crude in Lynchburg, Va., in April 2014 caused an explosion and an evacuation and spilled thousands of gallons of crude into the James River, but no one was injured.

Other incidents have occurred in West Virginia and North Dakota.

While it denied the crude oil permit, MDE did grant Targa an air-quality permit May 26 allowing other products to be transported through the terminal. The permit will enable the company to offload fuel oils, noncrude oils and distillates from rail cars onto tanker trucks.

At Targa’s request, MDE considered the crude oil request separately. The agency said in its decision that Targa asked it to split the application “in order to meet current customer demand for storage and transport of the other types of fuel oils and distillates.”

Vincent DiCosimo, Targa’s senior vice president for petroleum logistics, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

He has said previously that the company takes safety seriously and has the record to prove it.

“Targa is just as interested in safety as you are,” he said in December at a public hearing hosted by the department and attended by about 25 residents and environmentalists.

But residents have expressed concerns and environmental advocacy organizations said the new facility would increase the threat crude oil shipments pose to the Chesapeake Bay’s fragile ecosystem, since Targa would transfer the oil from trains onto barges for transport to East Coast refineries.

The company purchased the Fairfield terminal, previously owned by Chevron, in 2011.

“This decision by the Maryland Department of the Environment is good news,” said Leah Kelly, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, in a statement Wednesday.

“Shipping crude oil through this terminal in Baltimore could have increased the risk of accidents and potentially explosions, such as have happened in Virginia, West Virginia and Canada,” she said. “Targa Terminals’ application for the crude oil permit was full of holes. MDE has said that it will not move forward with the crude oil permit unless the company provides more information about the air pollution that would be created by its operations.”


    Lynchburg VA Task Force issues 32 draft recommendations on railroad safety

    Repost from WSLS 10, Roanoke VA

    McAuliffe’s Railroad & Security Task Force presents draft of rail safety proposal

    By Margaret Grigsby, Apr 09, 2015 5:18 PM
    Flames and black smoke were seen at a train derailment in downtown Lynchburg in 2014.
    Flames and black smoke were seen at a train derailment in downtown Lynchburg in 2014.

    RICHMOND (WSLS 10) – Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Railroad Safety and Security Task Force presented its recommendations on railroad safety and how to protect lives, property and the environment at a meeting in Richmond Thursday. The task force was created after the Lynchburg train derailment in 2014. Its report is a result of eight months of research and input multiple sources.

    In a draft of the group’s report are key findings of its investigation into the current state of rail safety in Virginia as well as recommendations on how to make the tracks safer for people and the environment. The report says Virginia railroads are generally safe, efficient and reliable, however recent derailments involving Bakken crude oil and other flammable liquids is cause for concern.

    Included in the recommendations section of the draft were 32 items in the areas of planning, organization, training, information sharing, response, funding and regulatory/legislative. The recommendations covered everything from prioritization of areas where a derailment would have high impact to the purchase and implementation of training equipment and procedures.

    Read the full report draft here.

    In a statement released by the James River Association on the task force’s report draft, Policy Specialist for the JRA Adrienne Kotula said the recommendations were a “key step forward in addressing the risks posed by transporting crude oil by rail through Virginia.”

    Kotula noted what the report lacks is focus on recommendations to prevent accidents through inspections of railways.

    The report noted federal studies by the U.S. Department of Transportation conclude rail transport of crude oil and ethanol could result major financial and environmental damages. The report quotes the USDOT’s 2014 research, saying:

    The analysis shows that expected damages based on the historical safety record could be $4.5 billion and damages from higher-consequence events could reach $14 billion over a 20-year period in the absence of the rule.

    The final recommendations from the task force are set to be issued on April 30, the anniversary of the Lynchburg Bakken crude oil train derailment. The draft is available for public comment through April 19.


      Lessons from Lynchburg – Get ready for the next one!

      Repost from The Daily Press, Newport News VA
      [Editor:  This article turns into a promo for CSX with too-easy suggestions of safer times ahead, but it details a good overview of events immediately following a major derailment with explosion and fire.  See “Responders had to…” highlighted below.   – RS]

      Virginia, CSX offer advice for crude-by-rail accidents

      Symposium session addresses preventing, responding to train derailments

      By Tamara Dietrich, March 21, 2015

      A big lesson from the crude oil train that derailed in Lynchburg last April, sparked a raging fire and spilled fuel into the James River is this: Get ready for the next one.

      Not that emergency response experts are predicting another derailment in Virginia, but since up to five CSX trains each week carry Bakken crude across the width of the state to a fuel terminal in Yorktown, the possibility exists.

      And residents should understand the risks, how to mitigate them and how to respond.

      “I would think they would engage with their emergency manager for that region and say, ‘Hey, what do we need to know?’ ” said Wade Collins, hazardous materials supervisor with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). ” ‘What do we need to do? How are we prepared for that?’ ”

      Collins regaled first-responders from around the area with a blow-by-blow of the combined emergency response to the Lynchburg derailment, part of a presentation Friday morning at the 2015 Virginia Emergency Management Symposium in Hampton. The symposium ran from Wednesday through Friday.

      Appearing with him was Bryan Rhode, vice president for state government affairs for the Mid-Atlantic region for CSX Transportation. Rhode spoke on measures that CSX and the industry are taking to prevent derailments, the safety training they offer and the ways they assist in the response when an accident occurs.

      Those measures include reducing maximum train speeds, enhancing braking systems, conducting more track inspections, offering training for first-responders around the country, pressing for improved tank car regulations and better testing and classification for Bakken crude oil, which is more volatile than typical crude.

      “Safety is our absolutely No. 1 priority,” said Rhode, a former Virginia secretary for public safety. “Nothing takes a back seat to safety.

      Lynchburg was lucky

      The Lynchburg derailment made national headlines when 17 cars out of a 105-car tanker train carrying about 3 million gallons of crude suddenly jumped the tracks in the downtown area.

      Three tankers careened down the banks of the James River and into the water. One tanker burst open, spilling its fuel.

      Something sparked, setting off a fireball so intense it burned itself out after 49 minutes, Collins said.

      But Lynchburg was lucky.

      “If we had to have a crude oil derailment in Virginia, everything was in our favor that day, actually,” Collins said.

      Two days of rain had put the James at flood stage, which helped douse the flames and cool the tankers.

      The weather was bad, so residents weren’t milling at the riverside park. No anglers were hanging out at popular fishing holes.

      And the tankers ran into the river rather than crash into the commercial area.

      Of the 30,000 gallons of fuel contained in the broken tanker, Collins said 29,245 gallons were consumed by the fire. Another 390 gallons were released to the river, and less than 200 gallons into the soil. What little remained was recovered.

      And no one was hurt.

      Emergency responders at the scene ranged from the local fire department to state hazardous materials teams, the National Guard to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CSX immediately deployed its own group of hazardous materials professionals and special agents to set up an outreach center for local residents and business owners impacted by the accident.

      “We bring an enormous amount of resources to the table,” Rhode said. “If we have an incident, we’re going to be there from that point until it is effectively resolved. And we’re going to get the job done.”

      Responders had to evacuate the area, notify local municipalities, identify water intakes downstream and access points on the river for vehicles and boats. Booms were spread across the river to stop the flow of residual oil.

      The toppled tanker cars still on the tracks were up-righted, put on flatbed cars and shipped off. The ones in the water were drained of fuel, then hauled from the river.

      Contractors hired by state and federal authorities as well as CSX began testing the water and soil. Collins said monthly tests are still conducted.

      “They monitored it very closely,” Collins said. “They looked for fish kill or damage or injury, and we found nothing.”

      The initial response took nine days and has cost about $4 million, he said. The investigation into the cause of the derailment is still ongoing.

      Be prepared

      Among the lessons learned, Collins said, is the value of relationships, partnerships and training. And keeping up on current issues.

      “Know what’s coming through your community,” he said.

      And know if you have the resources to respond to a rail emergency.

      “As we look along that crude oil route, many of those jurisdictions are rural,” Collins said. “They have volunteer emergency services. They may or may not have the capability to do an effective response. If you know you don’t have that capability, then be planning — where can I get that?”

      CSX offers hazardous materials safety training at the local level, and hosts a trainer training facility in Pueblo, Colo., that handles 4,000 first-responders a year, said Rhode. Tuition and travel costs are covered.

      The company hosted a three-day safety training event in Richmond last year and will try to conduct another in Virginia next year. It also offers online training opportunities on its website.

      On Thursday, Rhode said, CSX presented a $25,000 donation to the Virginia Hazardous Materials Training Facility in York County.

      The rail company also offers a system “unique” in the industry, that provides emergency response officials near real-time information on what’s on a particular train, he said. The company is also piloting a mobile app for first-responders to get that information “when you need it.”

      Letting the public know what’s being carried on a train, however, is more problematic.

      “Railroads are not allowed to disseminate customer information, but are able to do it in terms of our emergency response,” Rhode said. “It’s a security matter. You don’t want real-time information about very hazardous materials necessarily out there in the wrong hands.”

      CSX operates in 23 states and two provinces of Canada. It runs 13,000 trains a day, two of which carry crude oil.

      In Virginia, it operates 2,000 miles of track and four major rail yards, including one in Newport News. The company employs 1,200 people in the state. About 40 percent of the cargo unloaded at the Port of Virginia is transported on CSX trains, Rhode said.