Repost from The Portland Press Herald [Editor: Interesting summary of various effects on rail companies following the Lac-Mégantic disaster. – RS]
Irving ends rail shipping of crude oil through Maine
The cutback is due to a drop in global demand and is not related to the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, the firm says.
By Tom Bell, July 15, 2015
Irving Oil has stopped shipping crude oil on railroads through Maine and has no plans to revive the practice.
The Canadian company, which operates an oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, confirmed the policy change in a June 30 email to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.
The change means there will be no more oil shipments though New Hampshire and southern and central Maine on Pan Am Railways. In addition, there will be no more oil shipments on the Eastern Maine Railway, which connects with Pan Am at Mattawamkeag and continues through Washington County to the Canadian border.
The cutback is because of global oil-supply-and-demand issues and is not related to the fallout from the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, Mark Sherman, Irving’s chief operating officer, told the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. The U.S. demand for Canadian-produced petroleum products has declined in the wake of an oversupply of oil from domestic and Mideast sources.
In 2012, Maine railroads shipped 5.2 million barrels of crude oil, but shipments declined sharply after the July 6, 2013 accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude oil rolled and derailed, resulting in a fire and explosion that killed 47 people.
The railroad involved in the disaster, the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, never carried oil again and went bankrupt. Its successor, the Central Maine & Quebec Railway, also has never carried oil because of political opposition in Lac-Megantic.
Pan Am, whose trains travel through Portland, carried just 15,545 barrels of oil in all of 2014, according to records the company filed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. In 2015, Pan Am has carried 37,128 barrels. All those shipments occurred in February, the last month the railroad delivered oil to the Irving refinery, according to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.
An official with Pan Am could not immediately be reached for comment.
John Giles, CEO of Central Maine & Quebec Railway, had been seeking an agreement with Lac-Megantic officials to restart oil train shipments through the Canadian town. On Tuesday, Giles said the railroad does not need to carry oil to be profitable.
“I was never counting on moving crude oil in the first place,” Giles said.
Giles said his railroad spent $10 million to upgrade the rail line last year and is spending $6 million this year, with about half of that investment in Maine.
An investigation after the Lac-Megantic accident found that the tank-car labels understated the flammability of the oil. Twenty-five companies have offered a total of $431 million (Canadian) to settle lawsuits arising out of the disaster. Irving Oil’s contribution is $75 million. The settlement is being considered by U.S. and Canadian courts.
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.
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.
2 States Beef Up Oil-by-Rail and Pipeline Safety After String of Accidents
Other states that have surging oil-by-rail traffic and pipelines carrying tar sands are expected to consider similar safety requirements.
By Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News | Jun 16, 2014
Alarmed by a string of explosive and disastrous oil spills, two states recently passed laws aimed at forcing rail and pipeline companies to abide by more rigorous emergency response measures instead of relying on the federal government.
The moves by New Hampshire and Minnesota reflect a desire for more control over in-state hazards, as well as mounting frustration over gaps in federal law involving oil pipelines and oil trains, superficial federal reviews and the secrecy surrounding spill response plans submitted to U.S. regulators.
“At this point, lots of states are looking at oil-by-rail and thinking about how they would respond—whether they have the resources, whether their first responders have the resources, and whether their laws are sufficient to protect their communities,” said Rebecca Craven, program director at the Pipeline Safety Trust, a safety advocacy group based in Washington State.
It’s the same with pipelines. “States are becoming more aware of new pipelines being proposed in their states, or expansion of existing pipelines, or changes in [a pipeline’s] products,” Craven said. “As a result of public concerns being raised, they’re starting to respond by undertaking state-level spill response plans. I think it could be a trend.”
Under New Hampshire’s law, which the governor is expected to sign, the state gains the power to establish its own, more stringent requirements for inland pipeline spill response plans and equipment. Minnesota’s law creates tougher emergency preparedness standards for pipelines and oil-carrying railroads. It also charges rail and pipeline companies a fee to help equip and train local fire departments to handle oil accidents.
“I think it’s pretty much indisputable at this point that what exists at the federal level is not adequate,” said Sheridan Brown, legislative coordinator for the New Hampshire Audubon. “We’re happy that there’s going to be some state level oversight.”
The concern over the safety of oil transport has been building with each major oil pipeline spill and train derailment.
The most catastrophic incident was the July 6, 2013 accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where a train derailed, causing 63 railcars full of North Dakota light crude oil to explode and killing 47 people. Since then, a series of other oil train derailments have resulted in fires or explosions, including in Aliceville, Ala.; Casselton, N.D.; Plaster Rock, New Brunswick; and Lynchburg, Va.
Major pipeline spills have been in the public spotlight, too. The most notable of them is the July 2010 pipeline rupture in Marshall, Mich., where more than one million gallons of tar sands oil spilled, fouling the Kalamazoo River—a disaster that has yet to be fully cleaned up. In April 2013, a pipeline split open and dumped tar sands oil into a Mayflower, Ark., neighborhood.
“Essentially, there’s no meaningful regulation or requirements or standards for oil spill response for railroads,” said Paul Blackburn, an attorney and consultant who helped push for Minnesota’s new law. “Instead, decades old federal regulations continue…[that] for all practical purposes exempt railroads from federal oil spill response standards.”
Urgency Felt in Wash., N.H.
Under the federal 1990 Oil Pollution Act, states are allowed to enact their own rules for spill preparedness as long as they are equal to or more rigorous than the federal regulations. Several, including California, Washington, and Oregon, did so years ago.
Now, railroads carrying crude oil through Minnesota have to submit spill prevention and response plans to the state pollution control agency, carry out practice drills and comply with other requirements in an emergency. Companies that move oil in the state via rail or pipeline also have to pay a fee to fund training and buy equipment for emergency crews to respond to an oil-train explosion or pipeline rupture.
“Minnesota recognized that scores of its cities and towns are threatened by crude oil shipments by rail and pipeline, and that local first responders are almost always the first on the scene,” said Blackburn. “To respond to a major spill—such as from an oil unit train [of around 100 tank cars]—is well beyond the abilities of most rural fire departments.”
Blackburn said he expects other states that have growing oil-by-rail traffic to consider similar fees and requirements.
In New Hampshire, lawmakers were focused on preventing and cleaning up oil possible spills from just one pipeline: the Portland-Montreal Pipeline, the only hazardous liquids pipeline in the state. It is partly owned by Portland Pipe Line Corp.
“They have, by and large, been good neighbors, but you look around the country and you see some of the problems that have occurred,” said state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, who sponsored the New Hampshire bill. “I think it’s pretty important to take steps toward giving more authority, more autonomy, to the states to be more engaged in the potential of a spill.”
The 236-mile line consists of three separate pipes built to carry conventional crude oil from Maine, through New Hampshire and Vermont, and on to refineries in Montreal and Ontario. Two of the pipes are still carrying varying amounts of oil, while a third was retired in 1984.
What worries state officials and environmentalists is that the Portland-Montreal pipeline could be reversed and used to carry tar sands oil to Maine’s coast for export. Canada approved what could be the first part of this plan—a reversal on Enbridge Inc.’s Line 9b so it can deliver Alberta’s tar sands to Montreal.
The Portland-Montreal pipeline runs through New Hampshire’s picturesque northern region, crossing more than 70 streams and wetlands, including two major rivers, according to Brown, the legislative coordinator for New Hampshire Audubon. Brown and others are concerned that oil spills involving dilbit are harder to clean because globules tend to sink in water.
“Our North Country economy is primarily based on recreation, so to have something up there that damages wetlands and rivers would really be catastrophic for those communities,” said Brown.
“That got us looking at what [protections are] in place,” he said. “And there really isn’t a lot at the state level…there is a heavy reliance or faith in the federal government that it’s going to take care of things. But the spill in [Michigan] and some of these other spills have shown that that is not the case.”
Once the governor signs it, the New Hampshire law will give the state’s department of environmental services the authority to craft pipeline spill regulations to cover inland oil transit. Currently, that agency is in charge of marine spill prevention and response.
The catch is that the new law won’t come with any new funding—and least not yet. A proposed fee ran into opposition and was dropped from the legislation.
“Our department of environmental services was very generous to accept additional responsibility without additional money,” said Brown. “They saw enough urgency there to doing this, enough benefit to doing it that they said, ‘let’s go forward, and we’ll figure out the funding part of it some other time’…they were eager to have that tool to make sure the plans are better here in the state.”