Tag Archives: Jess Dervin-Ackerman

Billion Dollar Project Will Bring Millions Of Tons Of Coal To Area Next To Bay Bridge Toll Plaza

Repost from CBS San Francisco / 5KPIX / KCBS740AM-106.9FM

Billion Dollar Project Will Bring Millions Of Tons Of Coal To Area Next To Bay Bridge Toll Plaza

By Christin Ayers, July 1, 2015 9:15 PM


OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Coal is so polluting that demand for it as an energy source is way down in the U.S. The industry has to increase exports to survive. To do that we’ve learned it’s got its eye on the Bay Area.

On the grounds of the old Oakland Army Base a transformation is underway. A new billion dollar rail and marine terminal, called the “Trade and Logistics Center” will open in just three years as a world class hub for the export of bulk commodities, mostly to Mexico, Japan and China

“It’s going to be great for Oakland,” said Jerry Bridges. He’s been hired by the developer to run a project centerpiece, a rail to ship transfer facility right next to the Bay Bridge toll plaza. “Our goal is to have soda ash moved through the facility, pot ash, borax, umm sodium concentrate, coal.”

Coal, Bridges says will be a big part of it. He says he’s close to signing a lucrative contract with 4 counties in Utah to receive and ship out 3 million tons of coal a year. “And let me just say about the coal out of that region: It’s the highest quality coal in the country, and thereby it’s the highest quality coal in the world.”

Coal is already exported through a private transfer yard in Richmond, where it sits in open rail cars right next to homes. Residents are complaining about the coal dust, an air pollutant known to cause asthma and cancer. But Bridges says his terminal will be different. “Every commodity that ships through our facility will arrive at the facility on the railroad in covered rail cars,” he said.

But Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club is skeptical. “They could promise to do that and then not do it,” she said. “Nowhere in the U.S. is coal transported with covered rail cars so how can we know that they can actually do that and protect the community,” she said.

And she says it’s not just about Oakland and the Bay Area. The coal will release tons of greenhouse gases in Mexico and China. “What we are saying is not in anybody’s back yard. We want to leave the coal in the ground,” she said.

Oakland leaders agree. In fact they’ve voted to divest in coal. But we’ve learned they may have tied their own hands when it comes to this deal. The development agreement they signed  says “all approvals shall be made by the city administrator,” which leaves the city council and the public out of the loop, even though the city owns the land that the terminal will be built on.

“Right now we are just focusing on getting it built,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf’s spokesperson Erica Derryck. KPIX5 asked her if the mayor was comfortable with coal exports being part of the project. Her response: “I think it’s too early to say what exactly is going to be part of the commodity group that will be coming through the facility.”

But KPIX 5 obtained an email that shows the mayor is working behind the scenes to put the kabosh on the coal deal. “I was extremely disappointed to hear Jerry Bridges mention the possibility of shipping coal into Oakland,” she writes to the developer.  “Stop it immediately.”

But Jerry Bridges says he has no plans to back down. “The CEQA entitlement gives us every right to build and transport what we need to transport in order to be a viable and feasible project,” he said.

The project’s developer and landlord, prominent Oakland businessman Phil Tagami, turned down our request for an interview. In a statement he says it’s not up to him to decide what comes through the new terminal, it’s up to the man he hired to run it, Jerry Bridges.

Phil Tagami’s complete statement:

The City of Oakland approved an agreement to create the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), a multi-commodity bulk marine terminal at the former Oakland Army Base, in 2012. The City’s agreement with California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) was comprehensively analyzed and endorsed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and reflects a modern, industry-standard marine terminal facility and operation that is consistent with state and federal law. Nothing has changed since the 2012 approval.  OBOT’s construction and operations are designed consistent with the lawful expectations of potential customers – accommodating three or four of the full spectrum of approximately 15,000 bulk commodities regulated by federal law. This is standard industry practice and uniform at marine terminals throughout the United States.

In analyzing OBOT’s development under CEQA, the City imposed a comprehensive series of mitigation measures and conditions that the terminal operator will adhere to. No commodity may be transported through OBOT without full compliance with all applicable state and federal regulations.

CCIG is constructing OBOT, but is not and will not be the terminal operator. Neither CCIG nor any prospective terminal operator has made commitments to shipping any particular commodity through the terminal at this point in time. But, the issue is not about any single commodity. The City reviewed and approved OBOT as proposed. And in reliance on those approvals, CCIG and others have made binding and enforceable commitments to deliver OBOT for operations as entitled to ensure the viability of the entire revitalization plan for Oakland’s working waterfront.

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    REUTERS: California opposition to oil-by-rail mounts

    Repost from Reuters

    California opposition to oil-by-rail mounts

    By Rory Carroll, Mar 19, 2015 3:03pm EDT

    (Reuters) – A chorus of local governments across California opposed to crude oil trains grew louder this week in light of recent derailments, with a total of 14 cities and towns now trying to block the trains from running through their communities.

    Five northern California cities – Berkeley, Richmond, Oakland, Martinez and Davis – have voiced their opposition to crude by rail in general. An additional nine communities specifically oppose a Phillips 66 project to enable its refinery in San Luis Obispo to unload crude-carrying trains.

    Fiery derailments in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario in recent weeks have brought the issue back into the national spotlight. The most devastating crude by rail disaster, a July 2013 derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people, is mentioned in many of the opposition measures.

    San Luis Obispo County is weighing whether to approve the Phillips 66 project, which would use Union Pacific rail lines to bring five 80-car trains per week to the refinery, starting in 2016.

    That has prompted concern from communities along the company’s rail network, including densely populated cities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    “The opposition is growing exponentially,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter.

    On Monday the Bay Area city of San Leandro passed a resolution opposing the Phillips 66 project, noting that at least 20 schools are located in the “blast zone” along the projected route.

    Paso Robles, a city in San Luis Obispo County, could be the next to take a stand against the dangerous cargo. Its city council is expected to debate the topic at an upcoming meeting.

    While local governments lack the ability to stop the trains, which fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, they hope to put pressure on San Luis Obispo County officials.

    “Every one of the tank cars on these trains carries more flammable crude oil than any municipal fire department can fight. That’s why California cities and towns are saying no,” said Matt Krogh of environmental group ForestEthics.

    Phillips 66 said it has one of the most modern crude rail fleets in service and that every railcar used to transport crude oil in its fleet exceeds regulatory safety standards.

    “The proposed rail project is designed with safety as the top priority and with safety measures embedded in the project,” said spokesman Dennis Nuss.

    (Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Matthew Lewis)
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      Reuters Exclusive: California getting more Bakken crude by barge than rail

      Repost from Reuters
      [Editor:  At the 9/11/14 Benicia Planning Commission meeting, John Hill, vice president and general manager of the Valero Benicia Refinery, stated that Bakken crude has been refined at Valero.  Commissioner Steve Young asked Hill to confirm his statement, which he did.  Young then asked the means of transport, and Hill replied “by barge.”  Our communities might well ask when, how much, and with what new volatile emissions output, etc….  – RS]

      Exclusive: California getting more Bakken crude by barge than rail

      By Rory Carroll, SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 23, 2014
      A pumpjack brings oil to the surface  in the Monterey Shale, California, April 29, 2013.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
      A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

      (Reuters) – Shipments of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to California by barge have quietly overtaken those by train for the first time, showing how the state’s isolated refiners are using any means necessary to tap into the nation’s shale oil boom.

      While tough permitting rules and growing resistance by environmentalists have slowed efforts to build new rail terminals within California itself, a little-known barge port in Oregon has been steadily ramping up shipments to the state, a flow expected to accelerate next year.

      From January through June, California received 940,500 barrels of the North Dakota crude oil from barges loaded at terminals in the Pacific Northwest, the highest rate ever, Gordon Schrempf, senior fuels analyst for the California Energy Commission, told Reuters.

      Bakken crude transported to California on railcars, which has gained widespread attention after a series of fiery train derailments in North America, accounted for just 702,135 barrels over the same time period, according to published figures.

      “We’re seeing marine transport of Bakken crude outpace rail for the first time,” Schrempf said. In 2013, rail shipments of 1.35 million barrels exceeded barge shipments of 1.33 million barrels. The year before, almost no crude arrived by barge.

      Bakken shipments by barge and rail may only comprise a tiny portion of the crude California imports, at about 5,200 and 4,000 barrels per day respectively, with Alaska supplying over 20 times as much crude.

      But companies, including refiner Tesoro Corp and logistics company NuStar Energy LP, have plans to significantly expand that volume with new terminals along the Pacific Northwest that would unload trains from North Dakota and pump the oil onto tankers.

      They would help make California a major destination for Bakken oil, a trend that has drawn objections from environmental groups who have been seeking to stem the tide, often by blocking local permits to built oil-train offloading terminals.

      “Bringing it in by barge gets you around cumbersome permitting and the growing citizen opposition to crude-by-rail,” said Lorne Stockman, research director of Oil Change International, a research and advocacy organization working on energy, climate and environmental issues.

      To be sure, their objections may differ. The principle concern over transporting Bakken by rail is the risk that a derailment could cause a deadly explosion similar to the one in Lac Megantic, Quebec, last year that killed 47 people.

      There is no suggestion that waterborne oil transportation poses similar explosive risks, although the environmental impact of a barge spill could be much greater.

      “The barges are designed to carry the grade of oil that the Bakken is,” said Ted Mar, prevention branch chief for the state’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and a former member of the Coast Guard.

      That is small comfort to environmentalists, who oppose all forms of oil production, in particular shale crudes like Bakken, extracted through hydraulic fracking they fear contributes to global warming and poses a potential risk to water supplies.

      “Our end goal is to leave these more dangerous, unconventional fuels in the ground,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman, conservation manager for the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club.

      SMALLER BUT CLOSER

      With state production declining since the mid-80s, California’s refiners have increasingly relied on deliveries of crude by oceangoing tankers carrying 500,000 barrels or more from places like Alaska, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Iraq, which supplied two-thirds of their needs last year.

      The refiners have been scrambling for several years to get better access to cheaper domestic shale oil by any means necessary, replacing costlier imports. But with the big shale fields to the east of the Rocky Mountains and a lack of major pipelines, it has not been easy.

      The articulated tug barges (ATBs) now arriving are tiny by comparison to the tankers, carrying as little as 50,000 barrels.

      Such shipments cost more than bringing Bakken directly to California by rail, but easily plug into existing port and terminal infrastructure – avoiding the need for new permitting that can take years.

      While many are working to build out their own rail facilities, a handful of major rail-to-barge terminals along the Pacific Northwest coast that would ship over 500,000 bpd of Bakken crude have been in the works for several years. But most are incomplete, and several face delays.

      One of the few exceptions is an idled ethanol terminal and processing plant in Clatskanie, Oregon, run by Global Partners LP. The facility, on a small canal that feeds into the Columbia River, began quietly transshipping oil from trains to barges in 2012 and is now receiving so-called “unit trains”, mile-long trains that only carry crude oil.

      “Unit train volume into our Clatskanie terminal is up, and interest in the facility from prospective customers is at an all-time high,” Global Partners Chief Executive Eric Slifka said in August.

      Global Partners did not respond to a request for comment.

      Later that month, the firm received a new air permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that will allow it to ship as much as 1.84 billion gallons of volatile liquids, or some 120,000 bpd. It did not specify crude or ethanol.

      Much of those shipments moved north to refineries in Washington, including BP’s Cherry Point in Puget Sound, and Phillips 66’s Ferndale facility. But both those plants are expanding their own facilities to bring more Bakken in by rail, likely curbing some demand for barges.

      Top oil barge operator Kirby Corp, which runs vessels out of Clatskanie, is currently building two larger 185,000-barrel barges to deploy on the coast next autumn.

      Environmentalists say they are monitoring the rise in Bakken-by-barge deliveries.

      “This won’t pull our focus away from crude by rail, but rather expand the lens with which we look at dangers of Bakken entering our communities,” said the Sierra Club’s Dervin-Ackerman.

      (Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Jonathan Leff and Marguerita Choy)
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