Tag Archives: Los Angeles CA

Communities Fight to Prevent ‘Bomb Trains’ from Passing by the L.A. River

Repost from KCET, Los Angeles CA

Communities Fight to Prevent ‘Bomb Trains’ from Passing by the L.A. River

By Carren Jao, July 9, 2015
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A train on the Union Pacific tracks a long the L.A. River | Photo: ATOMIC Hot Links/Flickr/Creative Commons

Church bells rang 47 times last Monday in Lac-Mégantic as locals came together to remember each of the victims of a horrific rail disaster in the Quebec town two years ago. Aside from the cost to human life, all but three of the buildings in downtown had to be demolished due to petroleum contamination when an unmanned 72-car train rolled downhill and derailed, spilling and igniting six million liters of carrying volatile fracked shale oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota.

These trains have become known as “bomb trains” due to their destructive track record. At any given time about 9 million barrels of crude oil are moving over the rail lines of North America. In less than a decade, there has also been 43 times more oil moved through U.S. railways, increasing the likelihood of tragic explosions and spills.

SoCal environmentalists are trying to prevent the same type of tragedy from happening in Los Angeles and by the Los Angeles River, an area slated for a $1-billion facelift in the coming years.

“We don’t need to put our water sources and communities at risk from bomb trains when we can invest further in public transit, more efficient cars that would run from solar power or advanced biofuels, heating and cooling using renewable energy sources,” says Jack Eidt, urban planner and environmental designer. He is also the publisher of Wilder Utopia and directs Wild Heritage Planners.

He, along with about thirty organizations such as Burbank Green Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, SoCal 350 Climate Action, and Tar Sands Action Southern California, are working hard to oppose the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery crude expansion, which would extend the existing rail track by 6,915-foot east on the Union Pacific rail mainline and install equipment needed to enable rail delivery of North American crude oil. It would up the volume of oil transported via rail through major cities on its way to Philips’ Santa Maria Refinery, a 1,780-acre property adjacent to State Highway 1 on the Nipomo Mesa.

They are holding a Stop Oil Trains Day of Action at Union Station this July 11, as part of the National Week of Action to Stop Oil Trains. Environmentalists, community organizers, people from the indigenous community, as well as poets and musicians, will be present to educate the public about this looming issue.

They’re hoping that the Los Angeles City Council will join in the chorus of over 30 city and county governments to stop this project expansion. “We would love to see Councilmember Huizar sponsor the measure, because his district encompasses many neighborhoods that could be affected by a rail accident,” says Eidt.  Resolutions have already been introduced and approved Mar Vista Community Council, as well as the Echo Park and Silver Lake Neighborhood Councils the City to take action.

With the extension, the company to plans to move 20,800 crude tankers to and from their Nipomo facility every year. These can be 80-car trains that stretch a mile-long.

Environmentalists worry this would jack up the risks for communities that exist along the Union Pacific Rail lines. “Maps in the EIR show these trains proposed to pass back and forth between Colton and the Central Coast, passing right through downtown, along the L.A. River and out toward Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley,” says Eidt, “In the future, we are sure that the trains would also be running south toward the Port of Los Angeles.”

Mainline Rail UPRR Routes to the Santa Maria Refinery | Image: SLO County

Mainline Rail UPRR Routes to the Santa Maria Refinery | Image: SLO County

 

The project’s required environmental review offered no reassurance either. A document released last November garnered 20,000 comments from organizations and individuals across the state opposing the project. The review showed that more than 20 significant and unavoidable adverse impacts to the environment, including rail accident risks along the main line that could result in oil spills, and fires and explosions near populated areas.

There have already been six major accidents across North America in this year alone, including one last week in Tennessee when a train carrying hazardous material derailed and caught fire. Five thousand people living within a mile and a half of the site had to be evacuated.

Atwater Village residents will remember the oil spill last year, when above-ground pipeline burst in the 5100 block of West San Fernando Road. It sent a geyser 20 to 50 feet into the air. Quick action prevented the oil from spilling into the Los Angeles River, but we might not be so fortunate the next time.

“The project is part of a wider expansion to bring tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada, into West Coast ports for processing and export,” says Eidt. “Because activists, like our coalition, have fought hard to stop projects like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline across the middle of the U.S., the oil industry has turned to shipping crude by barge and rail.”

Though the project isn’t in the city, “this is a health and safety issue for the City of Los Angeles,” says Eidt. “The P66 Santa Maria EIR stated that emergency responders would not be equipped to deal with a derailment or explosion of a 100-car train carrying toxic crude. We need to focus on optimizing our rail transportation network with high-speed rail and Metrolink/Amtrak, which will use the same right-of-way/rails respectively. Metrolink has had a difficult history of accidents that have caused a significant toll on communities. Factor in volatile crude oil into the mix and we are looking at trouble.”

Rather than invest in these projects, Eidt says we should find more sustainable methods of transportation, heating, cooling, and manufacturing. Eidt recommends looking at Mark Z. Jacobsen’s Solutions Project and Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute, both of which say we can transition to an economy that doesn’t degrade the environment, but uplifts it. For example, if cars were made out of fiber composites as opposed to 19th century steel, it would keep them moving faster and longer.

“Crude oil, natural gas, and coal need to be phased out today, and the workforce must be retrained, our consumer choices must be more informed and in most cases curtailed,” says Eidt. “We should consider eating lower on the food chain, we must pass a carbon tax to get the fossil fuel companies to pay for their pollution, and that dividend should be given back to households to meet the cost of a just transition off fossil fuels.”

Learn more about the event here.

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    NRDC Attorney: The tar sands invasion that can be stopped

    Repost from NRDC Switchboard, Danielle Droitsch’s Blog

    The tar sands invasion that can be stopped

    Danielle Droitsch
    Danielle Droitsch, senior attorney with NRDC, Canada Project Director, International Program.

    By Danielle Droitsch, April 28, 2015

    Many across the United States are aware of the tar sands threat posed by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline but what many may not know is the U.S. faces a looming threat that is bigger than just this one pipeline. We call it a tar sands invasion. The plan would be to complete a network of pipelines (both new and expanded), supertankers and barges, and a fleet of explosive railway tank cars. What is at risk? San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and other places we all call home. While the threat of this invasion is already here with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the good news is that citizens across North America are rising up to respond and repeal the assault with a clear message: Not by pipeline, not by rail, not by tanker. The good news is that public opposition to tar sands oil is rising and projects like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway have been delayed. The tar sands assault is not inevitable. In fact, the U.S. doesn’t need this dirty form of fuel and neither does Canada. The time has come to limit tar sands expansion in favor of a cleaner and brighter energy future.

    Tar Sands Invasion Map 4-27-15.jpg

    A new report released by NRDC reveals that the amount of tar sands crude moving into and through the North American West Coast could increase by more than 1.7 million barrels per day if industry proposals for pipelines, tankers and rail facilities move forward. For more information about this new information see posts by my colleagues Anthony Swift and Josh Axelrod. Why the west coast? With the majority of the world’s heavy oil refinery capacity, the United States including the west coast is a critical market for the tar sands industry. To be clear, Keystone XL still remains at the heart of the industry plan to expand tar sands and gain access to the global market. But industry is still pushing hard for other ways to expand especially as KXL flounders. It is important to keep in mind the tar sands industry – which currently produces about 2 million barrels per day (bpd) – plans to triple production to exceed 6 million bpd in the next fifteen years. The oil industry has made clear it needs all of its rail and pipeline proposals to achieve its massive production goals.

    We know that the tar sands industry and Canadian government has long had a plan to quadruple or more tar sands extraction in Canada. KXL has always been a huge part of that. But it is now very clear that they also plan to access the U.S. and global market through every means possible.

    This threatened invasion puts our communities, waters, air and climate in jeopardy. The Tar Sands Solutions Network has done an outstanding job outlining many of the different campaigns that are emerging across North America. This plan threatens to expose communities from California to New York to health, safety and environmental risks unless the public rallies to stop it. Here are some of the specific impacts that North America faces as a result of the tar sands invasion:

    • Across the West Coast, tar sands laden tanker and barge traffic could increase twenty-five fold, with a projected 2,000 vessels along the Pacific West Coast– including the Salish Sea and the Columbia River–shipping nearly two million barrels of tar sands crude every day.
    • A dozen proposed rail terminals would substantially increase tar sands by rail traffic going through densely populated American citizens like Los Angeles and Albany New York risking explosive derailments of hazardous crude unit trains
    • Nearly a million barrels of tar sands would be destined for California and Washington refineries, exposing fenceline communities in Anacortes, San Francisco and Los Angeles to increasing toxic air pollution.
    • In the Midwest, the pipeline company Enbridge is moving to nearly double the flow of tar sands moving through the Great Lakes region, an area that already has suffered from a 2010 spill of more than 800,000 gallons of the tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan sending hundreds of residents to the hospital. Four years later, the cleanup, which has cost more than $1 billion, is still unfinished.
    • On the East Coast, the tar sands industry is seeking to build the Energy East pipeline across Canada. The pipeline would run from Alberta east across Canada to New Brunswick and Quebec, carry 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil per day and require hundreds of oil tankers traveling along the East Coast and Gulf Coast annually, through critical habitat of the extremely endangered Right Whale.
    • In Albany, New York, a proposed oil transfer facility could lead to the shipment of tar sands oil on barges down the Hudson River or rail cars along the river destined for facilities in the New Jersey and Philadelphia areas.
    • In Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, the constant threat of a proposed reversal of the aging Portland-Montreal Pipeline is likely to arise again as Enbridge completes work on a pipeline reversal that will connect the tar sands directly to Montreal this summer.
    • This network of pipelines will feed refineries that produce millions of tons of hazardous petroleum coke waste – known as “petcoke” – which are piling up in residential neighborhoods like Chicago.
    • In Canada, pipeline companies are trying to access the west and east costs with pipeline proposals that would ship the heavy tar sands oil across pristine landscapes in British Columbia or across the Prairies into Ontario and Quebec. Communities are raising concerns about the threat of a spill to waters from the pipeline or tankers leaving the Bay of Fundy of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
    • And last but not least, communities in Alberta at ground zero have been facing the enormous consequences of tar sands development which has brought about significant contamination of water, air, and land. Increasingly, there are calls for a moratorium on development.

    Targeting at risk communities

    The tar sands invasion puts a high toll on low-income and aboriginal communities located in railway corridors, near oil refineries, and next to petcoke waste sites. In refinery fence-line communities, emissions associated with tar sands are suspected to be even more detrimental to human health than existing harmful emissions from conventional crude. Derailments of tar sands unit trains – mile long trains carrying over a hundred tankers full of explosive tar sands crude – pose a catastrophic risk for communities throughout the country. And as more tar sands oil is refined in the United States, the public will also face increased health and environmental risks from massive piles of petroleum coke, a coal-like waste full of heavy metals that results from tar sands oil refining and can cause serious damage to the respiratory system.

    Industry would like for you to believe that tar sands development is inevitable and there is nothing that can be done. Wherever they turn today they are being faced with public opposition. Expansion is not inevitable, especially because of this growing and formidable opposition.

    A climate problem

    It is clear that tar sands reserves – some of the world’s most carbon intensive – are at the top of the list of reserves that must remain in the ground. Mounting scientific and economic analysis shows that the tar sands industry’s proposed expansion plan is incompatible with global efforts to address climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that 75% or more of discovered fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground in order to limit warming to the international two degrees Celsius goal. The clear inconsistency between tar sands expansion and efforts to address climate change have made opposition to tar sands expansion projects a clear rallying point for a broad group of allies advocating for action on climate.

    A water problem

    A tar sands spill from train, pipeline, or tanker could devastate local economies, pristine wilderness, harm human health, and lead to an especially costly and challenging cleanup. Tar sands spills have proven more damaging than conventional spills, as heavy tar sands bitumen sinks below the water surface making it difficult to contain or recover. A spill from shipping the tar sands crude could devastate communities, contaminate freshwater supplies or marine habitats and damaging local economies.

    Undermining efforts to grow our clean energy economy

    The growing exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands threatens to undermine North American efforts to build a clean energy economy and combat global climate change. Because most tar sands crude is destined for the United States, its expansion would create a greater dependence on the world’s dirtiest crude oil and undermine our transition to environmentally sustainable energy and a cleaner transportation fleet. Responding to the tar sands invasion will require solutions reduce fossil fuel use and spur low-carbon transportation and energy solutions such as broadened electric vehicle use and development of renewable and clean fuels.

    This tar sands invasion can be stopped: Clean Transportation Solutions

    The good news is this tar sands invasion can be stopped starting with leadership from government officials to embrace climate and sustainable transportation solutions. NRDC’s report for the west coast outlines detailed recommendations for decision-makers at all levels. The first step is for decision-makers at all levels to become familiar with the unique issues associated with tar sands oil and then to actively identify the full range of solutions to confront this problem. Without action, the U.S. will unintentionally become a thoroughfare for this oil undermining climate policies and presenting risks to communities and water. With support for regional clean energy policies, we can prevent the influx of tar sands crude and build the green infrastructure and public support necessary to begin transitioning to a clean energy economy.

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      California imports of Bakken crude by BARGE sets record in 2014

      Repost from Reuters
      [Editor:  Significant quote: “Bakken transported on water poses unique risks since it is lighter and more volatile than other crudes…. ‘An oil barge accident in San Francisco Bay or off the coast of Los Angeles would be catastrophic,’ said Matt Krogh, a director at environmental group ForestEthics.  ‘Bakken is simply too dangerous to move by barge or train and we don’t need this extreme oil,’ he said.”  (emph. added)  – RS]

      California imports of Bakken crude by barge sets record in 2014

      By Rory Carroll, SAN FRANCISCO, April 16, 2015

      (Reuters) – California imports of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota on barges totaled a record 1.5 million barrels last year, 27 percent greater than the amount that reached the state by rail, the California Energy Commission told Reuters on Thursday.

      The transport of Bakken crude by rail is controversial, with fiery derailments in recent years prompting safety and environmental concerns. In California, 15 cities and towns have passed resolutions opposing the trains in their towns.

      But many California refineries do not have the infrastructure necessary to unload crude oil trains. Attempts to add rail extensions to those refineries have in some cases been delayed due to opposition from environmental groups.

      To get the low-cost Bakken crude to California refineries, producers load it onto trains in North Dakota bound for transport terminals in the Pacific Northwest. From there it is loaded onto barges bound for California refineries, which are better equipped to receive crude from sea vessels.

      David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, a refining consultancy, said the Global Partners LP transport terminal in Clatskanie, Oregon, is a key departure point for barges carrying Bakken to California.

      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.

      Global Partners did not respond to a request for comment.

      Hackett said refineries such as Tesoro Corp’s facility in Carson, California, are likely destination points for the barges.

      Tesoro declined to discuss its movements of crude oil, saying the information is commercially sensitive.

      Hackett noted that imports of Bakken either by rail or barge represent only a fraction of California’s total crude imports. California imported nearly 300 million barrels of crude from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq last year, he noted.

      But Bakken transported on water poses unique risks since it is lighter and more volatile than other crudes, environmentalists say.

      “An oil barge accident in San Francisco Bay or off the coast of Los Angeles would be catastrophic,” said Matt Krogh, a director at environmental group ForestEthics.

      “Bakken is simply too dangerous to move by barge or train and we don’t need this extreme oil,” he said.

      (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Wills)
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