Tag Archives: Marysville CA

Rep. Garamendi and area leaders call for safer crude-by-rail transport

Repost from The Benicia Herald
[Editor:  Significant quote: “Garamendi has introduced House Bill 1679 that would prohibit the transport of North Dakota Bakken crude by train unless it has a maximum Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of 9.5 psi.”  – RS]

Rep. Garamendi to call for safer crude-by-rail transport

By Donna Beth Weilenman, April 7, 2015

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, will join industry leaders in Davis on Wednesday in calling for the U.S. Department of Transportation to make rail delivery of crude oil safer.

“Crude oil is or has until very recently been transported by rail through several cities in Congressman Garamendi’s 3rd Congressional District, including Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Suisun City and Marysville,” said his media specialists, Donald Lathbury and Matthew Kravitz, in a joint statement on the news conference.

“These routes are very close to residential communities, schools, parks, and businesses.”

Among those joining Garamendi will be Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration, and Paul W. King, deputy director of the Office of Rail Safety at the Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Municipal and other leaders also are expected to attend, including Davis Mayor Dan Wolk, Marysville Mayor Ricky Samayoa, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor and Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.

Also expected to attend are Terry Bassett, Yolo County Transportation District executive director; Dana Carey, Yolo County office of Emergency Services manager; and Terry Schmidtbauer, assistant director of Resource Management in the Solano County Office of Emergency Services.

Garamendi has introduced House Bill 1679 that would prohibit the transport of North Dakota Bakken crude by train unless it has a maximum Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of 9.5 psi.

He said this is the maximum volatility permitted by the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) for crude oil futures contracts.

By comparison, he said, a recent literature review by Sandia Labs indicates that the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s study of 152 Bakken crude samples found an average RVP of 11.7 psi and a max of 14.4 psi. A rule going into effect in North Dakota this month sets the limit at 13.7 psi.

Garamendi and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, sent a letter March 3 to the Department of Transportation in which they suggested strengthening safety improvements and asked DOT to drop any plans for weakening regulations.

Instead, they called for stronger safety standards for crude-by-rail transportation.

“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.

“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.”

Garamendi’s announcement will be made at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday next to the Davis Train Depot, near the corner of Second and H streets, Davis.

Share...

    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...

      Sacramento Bee video: Union Pacific Rail Inspection Car

      Repost from The Sacramento Bee (on YouTube)
      [Editor: See Tony Bizjak’s story that accompanies this video here.  – RS]

      VIDEO: Union Pacific Rail Inspection Car

      Tony Bizjak, Oct 19, 2014 

      Union Pacific’s “geometry” car on the Valley Subdivision rail line in Roseville and Marysville is a key resource for keeping the rails safe.

      Union Pacific Railroad’s EC-4.  The EC-4 is a 96-ton, 82-foot-long rolling track inspection car which travels 800-1500 miles a week making sure that heavily used railroad tracks are in good working order.
      Share...

        Region north of Sacramento sees 200-300 tank cars carrying crude oil on a given day

        Repost from The Appeal-Democrat (Sutter & Yuba counties in California)

        Tracking trouble: Recent accidents highlight the dangers of transporting flammables on trains – including crude oil through Marysville

        June 29, 2014, by David Bitton

        It might be scarier to know how much of anything is being hauled through the Yuba-Sutter region via railroad. But it might be for the best to know exactly how much crude oil is going through; and it might help to put it into perspective.

        Crude oil has been on the minds of communities with rails running through them since the booming of oil exploration and drilling in North Dakota. There have been a few high-profile accidents involving trains pulling tankers full of the crude oil.

        It is now public record that Burlington Northern Santa Fe tank cars carrying North Dakota Bakken crude oil pass through Marysville about once a week. The information was released this past week from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

        Railroad companies sought to to restrict such information to just emergency responders, citing security concerns, but the state, after some time, went ahead and released the information.

        The transporting of crude oil from the Bakken Fields in North Dakota has come under greater scrutiny in the past year, with fears over the potential problems with the crude oil that is more volatile and flammable than oil from other regions.

        There have been fiery derailments in North Dakota, Virginia, Alabama and Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, all involving Bakken crude oil.

        The likelihood of a train derailment in Yuba-Sutter isn’t any greater or different than much of the rest of the country, area emergency responders agreed. But that doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen — they do. And due to those accidents, state and federal agencies are scrambling to tighten regulations.

        Much of the concern comes from the ever-increasing quantity of crude oil entering the state by rail.

        Crude oil heading to California refineries via rail has spiked in recent years from 498,000 barrels in 2010 to 6.3 million barrels in 2013, according to the California Energy Commission (a barrel contains 42 gallons of crude oil).

        And by 2016, as much as 150 million barrels of crude oil, or 25 percent of total imports, could be coming into the state on rail, according to the California Energy Commission.

        Less than 1 percent

        Despite the increases, Aaron Hunt, director of corporate relations and media for Union Pacific, said crude oil entering California currently accounts for less than 1 percent of its business.

        “Though we ship more grain, cement and timber than crude oil, Union Pacific has safely moved crude oil on behalf of our customers for decades,” Hunt said. “Seeking energy independence, U.S. companies have enthusiastically developed crude oil resources and rail has played a role in getting those resources to the right markets.”

        Both Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific move commodities through Yuba-Sutter ranging from fruits and vegetables to sulfuric acid, anhydrous ammonia, chlorine and crude oil.

        U.P. does not currently move crude oil in California originating from the Bakken region, Hunt said. But the rail company does move crude from other areas through this region.

        The quantity is hard to pin down as Union Pacific isn’t releasing figures, but Bill Fuller, chairman of the Region 3 local emergency planning commission, which includes 13 Northern California counties and falls under the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, was told by the Union Pacific that as many as 200-300 tank cars carrying crude oil could be moving through Yuba-Sutter on a given day.

        Well-traveled lines

        Lt. Aaron Easton, deputy chief of the Marysville Police Department, said the two Union Pacific rail lines that pass through Marysville are well traveled.

        “Amtrak’s passenger lines come through twice each day in the pre-dawn hours,” Easton said. “The cargo lines pass numerous times at all hours of the day and night,” he said. “Cargo includes large volumes of fuels, chemicals, and a variety of other potentially hazardous types of cargo.”

        Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered the railroad carriers to notify the State Emergency Response Commission when a single train is transporting more than 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil into their state.

        Railroad companies including Union Pacific support more stringent standards for tank cars, which are used to transport flammable liquids, including crude oil.

        Tank cars are owned or leased by the companies shipping products, not by the railroad companies.

        The Association of America of Railroads has standards for tank cars that currently exceed the federal requirements and have been pressing the Department of Transportation to upgrade.

        Existing tank cars would need to be retrofitted or phased out, Hunt said.

        “The new standard requires a thicker, more puncture-resistant shell, jacket, and thermal protection,” Hunt said. “It also requires extra-protective head shields at both ends of the tank car and additional protection for top fittings.”

        Y-S ready in case of emergency

        The stories are scary and run the gamut.

        In April, a fire erupted after more than a dozen tanker cars carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Va. No one was injured.

        But last July, 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, were killed when a train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and erupted in flames that destroyed part of the downtown area.

        Though a derailment and fire of that magnitude isn’t likely in Yuba-Sutter, emergency procedures are in place in case of a train derailment.

        The Yuba-Sutter Hazmat Response Team, which was formed in 2012, is made up of six fire agencies — Marysville, Linda, Olivehurst, Wheatland, Yuba City and Sutter County.

        Many of its members are hazardous materials technicians or specialists and have received training on rail car emergencies including leaks, spills and derailments.

        “The concept was to pool the resources of local hazardous materials response teams for better protection of Yuba and Sutter Counties,” said Sutter County Fire Chief Dan Yager. “A large-scale incident involving any release of known or unknown substances would trigger the activation of this team.”

        The six agencies agreed that their immediate course of action would be to determine the scope of the incident, call for mutual aid and help those in need.

        “Our mission is to protect life, the environment and property, in that order,” Yager said.

        If a large-scale evacuation is necessary, Yuba County Undersheriff Jerry Read said his department and the California Highway Patrol have worked together to create routes based on the scenario.

        A unified command structure would be established with fire, law enforcement, county office of emergency services and railroad representatives working together, said Linda Fire Chief Richard Webb.

        “Continued training and planning are the mechanisms we will continue to use in an effort to mitigate the risks associated with a derailment,” Webb said. “The projection is for Bakken crude oil shipments by rail to spike up dramatically over the next several years, which would increase the risk of a derailment possibilities.”

        Share...