Tag Archives: Lac-Mégantic

Oil Train Response 2015 – activists gather in Pittsburgh

Repost from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
[Editor:  The report below is the only mainstream media coverage of the Nov. 14-15 event “Oil Train Response 2015” that I could find.   Facebook users can check out photos and brief comments at Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition and IWW Environmental Unionist Caucus.  Tweeters can catch a few pics via past tweets by Ethan Buckner.  Here is the agenda, and here is a related 1-hour video “Oil Train Webinar” organized in advance of the event by ForestEthics.  – RS]

Local officials tout alliances to push for stronger oil train regs

By Daniel Moore / November 14, 2015 12:00 AM

What Marilaine Savard remembers most is hearing the blast, seeing the flames out her window and a plume of black smoke dimming the sky — but being unable to do anything about it.

It was July 2013 and Ms. Savard was visiting a friend in Lac-Mégantic, a town in rural eastern Quebec that serves as the central hub for about a dozen small communities. It had banks, post offices and bars. Now, she said, the downtown is a desert with all the buildings demolished and the soil contaminated.

The town is now eponymous with the worst rail disaster since a boom in North American oil production put more of the commodity on the rails.

Ms. Savard, who said she now lives and works in Lac-Mégantic to help the community rebuild, was one of dozens of people who gathered in Pittsburgh on Friday to hear from panels of elected officials and academics on what is being done to prevent and respond to derailments of trains carrying crude oil.

The Heinz Endowments organized the daylong conference in a packed hotel ballroom in Oakland. Roughly 60 to 70 trains carrying crude oil — mainly extracted from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota and destined for refineries on the East Coast — travel through Pennsylvania each week.

In February, a train carrying crude oil derailed and displaced 100 people near Charleston, W.Va.

The two main carriers, Norfolk Southern Corp. and CSX Corp., were not present as organizers wanted to focus the conversation on community engagement with elected officials.

“Individual communities are largely powerless,” said Grant Oliphant, president of the Heinz Endowments, in an interview. “I think what you are beginning to see is momentum building nationally to address the issue.”

Local officials who flew in from places like New York and Washington state stressed the importance of forming partnerships to put pressure on the U.S. Department of Transportation — the sole regulatory authority over the railroad industry — to enact stricter rules.

Ben Stuckart, chair of the city council in Spokane, Wash., said he helped start the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance, a coalition of local, state and tribal leaders across the Pacific Northwest united by concerns over traffic from coal and oil trains.

“So then, when I go to D.C. and sit with Transportation Secretary (Anthony) Foxx, I’m not just representing citizens of Spokane. I say I’m representing SELA,” Mr. Stuckart said.

“By us all acting together, we make a stronger case for it,” he said.

The conversation was at times testy, as local and state emergency management officials sought to assure the audience they were prepared for a range of disasters.

Environmental groups and others have demanded railroads publicly release specific information on what hazardous materials are being transported on what lines. Local emergency officials have insisted railroads provide them with enough information to respond to incidents, but that information has never been divulged publicly.

Raymond DeMichiei, deputy coordinator for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, defended keeping the information private, citing the potential for acts of terrorism.

“We have an obligation to make sure the bad guys don’t get the information,” Mr. DeMichiei said.

During a later question-and-answer session, members of the crowd raised the question of secrecy again. “What advantage does it provide for you to know in Downtown Pittsburgh how many day care centers are within a mile on either side of the railroad tracks?” Mr. DeMichiei countered to a question about why such information is private.

“Because this is a democracy,” responded one audience member.

Ms. Savard, who was not on a panel, said most residents who haven’t been forced to relocate away from Lac-Mégantic, she said, are still in a state of shock. Without a downtown hub, the entire region is coping with where to go for basic services.

She hopes, by sharing the struggles of residents two and half years after the explosion, that a movement can begin to influence real change.

“They are not able to see the big picture right now,” she said. “They are trying to survive.”

This story was updated on November 18, 2015 with the correct number of crude oil trains that travel through Pennsylvania.

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Davis, California: Brave the blast zone to make a point – Saturday, July 11

Repost from The Davis Enterprise
[Editor:  Details at CoolDavis and Yolano Climate Action.  – RS]

Brave the blast zone to make a point

By Lynne Nittler, July 08, 2015
Lac Megantic
Protesters in Portland carry placards bearing the names of 47 people who died two years ago when an oil train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Courtesy photo

There is no safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude oil. Two years after Lac-Mégantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising. Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety and our climate.

On Saturday, July 11, Davis residents will remember the 2013 oil derailment that took 47 lives in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Davis faces the threat of a similar accident. Currently, at least one oil train per week passes through Davis headed to the Bay Area.

Two more 100-car trains per day are planned for the near future for the Valero Refinery in Benicia and the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo … unless citizens stop them.

The ForestEthics map at www.Blast-Zone.org shows endangered homes and businesses along Second Street in Davis, including the police station, Carlton Plaza senior community and Rancho Yolo. The entire Davis downtown is vulnerable, along with parts of UC Davis campus and apartments complexes along Olive Drive.

Saturday’s vigil and rally highlight public opposition to oil trains passing through Davis. Too many residents live in the oil train blast zone, the 1-mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.

“My home is in the oil train blast zone,” says Frances Burke, a downtown resident and oil train activist. “I have to breathe the extra particulates in the air from each additional daily train. Meanwhile, the new federal regulations do little to protect me.

“In the event of an accident, first responders can only evacuate people from fireballs that happen despite trains moving at slower speeds in the supposedly safer tank cars. Oil trains are too dangerous for communities.”

Wearing fiery red, yellow and orange shirts, Davisites are invited to meet at the train station and walk through the Davis blast zone downtown to the Rotary Stage in Central Park.

“Five times in the first five months of 2015 we’ve watched oil trains derail and explode into toxic fireballs,” said Elizabeth Lasensky of Yolo MoveOn, as she made her sign for Saturday’s event. “The Department of Transportation reported in July 2014 that we can expect 10 to 12 derailments a year! It’s only a matter of time before an oil train derails in a major urban area, and the railroads don’t carry sufficient liability for such a disaster!”

After rousing songs by the Raging Grannies, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk will speak of the City Council’s resolution opposing oil by rail, available at http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20140422/04B-Opposing-Oil-By-Rail.pdf followed by Councilman Lucas Frerichs, speaking about the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ nearly unanimous decision to confront the issue: http://www.sacog.org/calendar/2014/08/rail/pdf/2-Valero%20EIR%20Comments.pdf. SACOG is made up of 22 cities and six counties.

At the state level, Sen. Lois Wolk will share the legislative response to the sudden surge of crude-by-rail transport into California, which is aimed at protecting the public as well as sensitive habitat and waterways.

Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza and Damien Luzzo will focus on the extraction side of the issue in Yolo County. Luzzo offers his story about how he came to oppose fracking at http://tinyurl.com/CAFrackWars and the Pledge of Resistance at http://tinyurl.com/FrackingPledgeOfResistance.

“With well over 100 pledges signed on and 500 visitors online, this fracking pledge of resistance is starting to take off,” Luzzo says of his plan to make California fracking-free. “My article explaining the origins of the pledge has attracted over 1,000 people. The word is definitely getting out there.”

Information on oil trains and the proposed ban on fracking in Yolo County will be available at the Cool Davis booth at the Farmers Market in Central Park.

“The truth is, we don’t need any of the extreme oil,” says Reeda Palmer of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. “The explosive Bakken and the toxic tar sands crude that moves by rail is a small percent of total U.S. oil consumption.

“As we move our economy to clean energy, we can’t allow oil companies to bring Bakken, tar sands and other fracked oil — the dirtiest, most dangerous sources of oil — onto the market to pollute the atmosphere when we have clean alternatives.”

Given the unresolved dangers of crude oil transport by rail and the overload of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere, a more prudent path is to leave all extreme crude in the ground, transition to clean, renewable energy and practice energy conservation in an effort to live sustainably on a finite planet.

— Lynne Nittler is a Davis resident, the founder of Yolano Climate Action Central and an active member of Cool Davis.

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Milwaukee’s ticking oil train time bomb

Repost from The Progressive Midwesterner

Milwaukee’s ticking oil train time bomb

by Aaron Camp, 07.09.15

Two years and three days ago, a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken rock formation along the border between the United States and Canada in the northern Great Plains derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, causing explosions of oil tank cars that destroyed dozens of buildings in the central part of Lac-Mégantic and killed 47 people.

The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic passed through Milwaukee, the largest city in the American state of Wisconsin, where a railroad bridge responsible for carrying trains loaded with oil tank cars has deteriorated so badly, some of the beams supported the place have been rusted hollow. Earlier this week, a protest was held at the bridge, which runs right next to lofts in the Fifth Ward area of Milwaukee that would likely be destroyed in the event that an oil train derails and explodes, whether it occurs because of the bridge collapsing or for some other reason. Protesters were critical of both the deteriorating condition of the bridge and the oil trains that use it frequently, and they called for the release of bridge inspection reports and for the development of an evacuation plan in the event that either an oil train or other type of train carrying hazardous materials were to derail.

The deteriorating railroad bridge in Milwaukee is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, a company, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, that runs freight trains through the United States and Canada. Under United States federal law, Canadian Pacific is legally responsible for inspecting the bridge and maintaining inspection reports. However, because the bridge has rusted and deteriorated so badly, a proper inspection of the bridge is impossible, according to a steel engineer that WITI-TV, a local television station in Milwaukee, brought to the bridge with them. Despite requests from WITI, Canadian Pacific has repeatedly refused to make the bridge inspection reports available to them. Additionally, the United States Federal Railroad Administration, the only government entity in the United States that can demand the release of bridge audits from Canadian Pacific, has claimed to have never asked for the Milwaukee bridge inspection reports from Canadian Pacific.

Because of deteriorating railroad infrastructure and more trains carrying tank cars full of highly-explosive oil across America, places like Milwaukee could become the next Lac-Mégantic if action isn’t taken to fix our crumbling infrastructure and increase the amount of energy being generated from renewable sources like solar and wind.

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