Tag Archives: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

KQED: Routes revealed for BNSF trains hauling volatile crude oil in California

Repost from KQED Science
[Editor: Of great interest for many in California, but lacking any comment on the Union Pacific rail line that transports freight to Benicia and over the Benicia Bridge to Contra Costa County and the East Bay.  Latest on the Union Pacific line as of 6/27/14: The Riverside Press Enterprise reports that “Union Pacific submitted a letter May 29 to the state office, saying the company was “compiling and reviewing the data.”  – RS]

Revealed: Routes for Trains Hauling Volatile Crude Oil in California

Molly Samuel, KQED Science | June 25, 2014
A BNSF train carrying crude oil passes through downtown Sacramento. (Courtesy of Jake Miille)
A BNSF train carrying crude oil passes through downtown Sacramento. (Jake Miille)

State officials have released routing information for trains carrying a volatile grade of crude oil through California.

The newly released information reveals that tank cars loaded with oil from the Bakken formation, a volatile crude that has a history of exploding, rumble through downtown Sacramento and through Stockton about once a week. Before they get there, they travel along the Feather River, a major tributary of the Sacramento and a key source of drinking water. They pass through rural Northern California counties — Modoc, Lassen, Placer, Plumas, Yuba and Butte — before reaching their destination in Contra Costa County.

This is the first time that information about the trains’ routing in California and their frequency has been made public. About once a week, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train enters the state from Oregon, headed for the Kinder Morgan rail yard in Richmond. Each train is carrying a million gallons or more of Bakken crude.

“The purpose of the information is really to give first responders better awareness of what’s coming through their counties,” says Kelly Huston, a deputy director at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The notifications (shown below) provided by BNSF to the state list the counties through which the trains pass, and the average number of trains per week. They’re retrospective, reporting what’s already happened, rather than looking ahead to what trains could be coming.

“Right now the information, because it’s not very specific, is being used as an awareness tool,” said Huston.

An emergency order issued by the federal Department of Transportation requires railroads to notify emergency responders about large shipments of Bakken crude. BNSF had asked the OES to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which state officials refused to do. After keeping the notifications secret from the public for a few weeks, the state decided to release them on Wednesday, following the lead of other states that had already done so.

“We think it is very important that those responsible for security and emergency planning have such information to ensure that proper planning and training are in place for public safety,” Roxanne Butler, a spokeswoman for BNSF, wrote in an email. “But we also continue to urge discretion in the wider distribution of specific details.”

The DOT issued the order after a series of fiery derailments involving Bakken crude in Alabama, North Dakota and Virginia, among other states. Last July, a train carrying oil from the Bakken exploded in a town in Quebec, killing 47 people.

MAP: State officials have confirmed that crude is traveling by rail in the counties shaded gray on the map, below. Also shown are rail lines owned by California’s two major railroads, BNSF and UP, which share some of the lines. Click on the rail lines or counties to see identifying information. Not all lines shown in the shaded areas carry Bakken crude. (Map produced by Lisa Pickoff-White)

California Crude-by-Rail Shipments by KQED News

“We want the rail companies to do everything they can to ensure public safety,” said Diane Bailey of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She says there are three things that would help assuage her concerns: safer rail cars, slower speed limits, and making sure the trains are always staffed.

Butler said the railroads themselves have also pushed to phase out the DOT-111 railcars that have been involved in the accidents. “The rail industry also implemented a number of additional safety operating practices several months ago to reduce the risk of moving crude by rail,” she wrote, “including lower speed limits and had addressed the train securement issue in August of 2013 as part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s emergency order.”

California lawmakers have introduced bills that would provide more money for oil spill response, and require more information from railroads about hazardous materials. The recently-passed California budget includes a fee on oil entering California by rail, which would help fund the state’s Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response. It also provides more money to the California Public Utilities Commission for rail safety inspectors.

Transporting crude oil by rail is a burgeoning business, thanks to an oil boom in North Dakota. In 2013, more than 6 million barrels of crude oil came into California by rail. In 2008, there were none.

California Crude-by-Rail Weekly Tracking

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly included Davis in the list of cities the trains pass through.

Davis and “Uprail” Communities organize to oppose Crude By Rail

Repost from Cool Davis, Davis, California

Crude-by-Rail Opportunity for Written Comments

Workshop on How to Respond to the Draft EIR
Wednesday, June 18 from 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Fellowship Hall at Davis Community Church (421 D Street)
Instruction, brainstorming, and organizing our efforts
Refreshments!

The Draft EIR for the Valero rail terminal Project in Benicia (70,000 barrels of crude oil /day or one unit train of 100 cars over 1 mile) will be released for a 45-day public comment period on June 10, with a possible extension to 60 or 90 days for review.

Our city will comment and has invited surrounding jurisdictions to join them. Other organizations and concerned individuals are also invited to make written comments during the comment period. To inform yourself about the project and begin thinking how you might respond, some recommended resources are:

http://www.beniciaindependent.com It posts all the official documents related to the proposed project as well as a plethora of articles.

 http://www.sightline.org is also a terrific resource for the bigger picture of crude-by-rail and also coal and natural gas export. http://www.sightline.org/research/the-northwests-pipeline-on-rails/ and http://daily.sightline.org/blog_series/the-northwests-pipeline-on-rails/ This blog series is outstanding, although it is aimed at Washington and Oregon which are besieged by trains compared to CA so far.

• Natural Resources Defense Council letter on safety (30 pages) http://yolanoclimateaction.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/rail-safety-comments-final-group-letter.pdf

• Two reports by Forest Ethics,    http://yolanoclimateaction.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/off-the-rails-ultimate-nw-forst-ethics-report.pdf     and http://forestethics.org//sites/forestethics.huang.radicaldesigns.org/files/ForestEthics-Refineries-Report-Sept2012.pdf

• Document by Attorney General Kamala Harris on safety and health concerns http://yolanoclimateaction.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/kamala-harris-addresses-inadequate-eir-on-wespac-in-pittsburg/#more-107

• An article on liability which is an angle that may not be addressed in the DEIR, http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/03/17/record-year-oil-train-accidents-leaves-insurers-wary
Gov. Brown added $6.7 million to the Office of Spill Prevention & Response to handle accidents.  It won’t go far in a catastrophe.

• More on risk assessment for railroads and who will be responsible for liability. http://daily.sightline.org/2014/05/19/risk-assessment-for-railroads/

• Rachel Maddow’s May 2, 2014 broadcast, “Public Safety at risk by Oil Train Shipments” at http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show

Key areas for uprail responders will most likely include public safety, the hazards of spills in terms of the environment, the insistence on the Right-to-know laws, health risks, liability issues, and the true cost of oil in terms of climate change.  Benicia has to respond to all comments in their final EIR, so the more specific, thoughtful and numerous our comments, the better.  Different people can address different aspects.

Another opportunity for citizen response: The Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo County request for a rail spur for 5 oil trains of 88 cars per week expects to release their Draft EIR possibly in July.

NRDC sues Koch brothers over handling of petcoke; Chicago adopts new regulations

Repost from The Huffington Post

Koch Brothers Face Lawsuit Over Chicago’s Toxic Black Dust

The Huffington Post  | by  Joseph Erbentraut  |  05/02/2014

Environmentalists are planning to take billionaires Charles and David Koch to court, alleging the brothers’ companies are responsible for polluting Chicago’s Southeast Side with the black, thick dust known as petroleum coke — or petcoke, a byproduct of the oil refining process.

ThinkProgress reported this week that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF) have given a 90-day notice of an intention to sue Koch-owned companies including KCBX Terminals over the pollution associated with their petcoke storage facilities located along the Calumet River in a low-income, partially industrial Chicago community.

In a press release, the groups said the lawsuit stems from neighbors complaining that the dust spewing from the facilities’ large, uncovered petcoke piles has polluted the river, “invaded” their homes and blackened area skies.

“People are complaining about finding dust from these sites inside their homes,” Peggy Salazar, SETF executive director, said in a statement. “Black dust is coating their houses and probably their lungs. This has to stop. And hopefully this suit will achieve that.”

(Read NRDC’s full notice letter.)

On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved regulations that ban new petcoke storage facilities from opening up in the city, but do not require the shutdown of the three sites currently in operation.

The Chicago Tribune reports the storage sites will be newly required to report how much petcoke and coal they ship through the city on a quarterly basis. They will also need to enclose their piles within two years and cannot expand their operations.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office described the ordinance as the toughest petcoke regulations in the nation, but environmental groups pushing for an outright ban disagree.

It is the city’s ultimate obligation to protect its residents,” Salazar said Wednesday, according to the Northwest Indiana Times. “We don’t believe they did that here.”

Most of the petcoke in Chicago is shipped in from the nearby BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, which is tripling their output of the dangerous dust after expanding their facility. Petcoke can cause health problems like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, in addition to aggravating existing respiratory conditions like asthma, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Facing similar concerns voiced by residents living near petcoke facilities there, Detroit moved to ban petcoke last year.