Tag Archives: Ontario

Feds warn railroads to comply with oil train notification requirement

Repost from McClatchyDC
[Editor:  Significant quote: “Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania told McClatchy last month that they had received no updated oil train reports from CSX since June 2014.”  See also the Federal Railroad Administration press release AND letter.  – RS]

Feds warn railroads to comply with oil train notification requirement

By Curtis Tate, July 22,2015
This Feb. 17, 2015, photo made available by the Office of the Governor of West Virginia shows a derailed train in Mount Carbon, W.Va. U.S. transportation officials predict many more catastrophic wrecks involving flammable fuels in coming years absent new regulations.
This Feb. 17, 2015, photo made available by the Office of the Governor of West Virginia shows a derailed train in Mount Carbon, W.Va. U.S. transportation officials predict many more catastrophic wrecks involving flammable fuels in coming years absent new regulations. | Steven Wayne Rotsch AP

The U.S. Department of Transportation warned railroads that they must continue to notify states of large crude oil shipments after several states reported not getting updated information for as long as a year.

The department imposed the requirement in May 2014 following a series of fiery oil train derailments, and it was designed to help state and local emergency officials assess their risk and training needs.

In spite of increased public concern about the derailments, railroads have opposed the public release of the oil train information by numerous states, and two companies sued Maryland last July to prevent the state from releasing the oil train data to McClatchy.

The rail industry fought to have the requirement dropped, and it appeared that they got their wish three months ago in the department’s new oil train rule.

We strongly support transparency and public notification to the fullest extent possible. Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator, Federal Railroad Administration

But facing backlash from lawmakers, firefighters and some states, the department announced it would continue to enforce the notification requirement indefinitely and take new steps make it permanent.

There have been six major oil train derailments in North America this year, the most recent last week near Culbertson, Mont. While that derailment only resulted in a spill, others in Ontario, West Virginia, Illinois and North Dakota involved fires, explosions and evacuations.

In a letter to the companies Wednesday, Sarah Feinberg, the acting chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, told them that the notifications were “crucial” to first responders and state and local officials in developing emergency plans.

“We strongly support transparency and public notification to the fullest extent possible,” she wrote. “And we understand the public’s interest in knowing what is traveling through their communities.”

The letter was written after lawyers for Norfolk Southern and CSX used the new federal oil train rules to support their position in the Maryland court case that public release of the information creates security risks and exposes the companies to competitive harm.

Feinberg added that the notifications must be updated “in a timely manner.”

States such as California, Washington and Illinois have received updated reports regularly from BNSF Railway, the nation’s leading hauler of crude oil in trains. Most of it is light, sweet crude from North Dakota’s Bakken region and is produced by hydraulic fracturing of shale rock.

But to get to refineries on the east coast, BNSF must hand off the trains to connecting railroads in Chicago or other points. Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania told McClatchy last month that they had received no updated oil train reports from CSX since June 2014.

The emergency order requires the railroads to report the weekly frequency of shipments of 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude, the routes they use and the counties through which they pass. The railroads must update the reports when the volume increases or decreases by 25 percent.

Railroads found to be in violation of the requirement face a maximum penalty of $175,000 a day for each incident. The Federal Railroad Administration periodically audits railroads for compliance.

6 – Number of major oil train derailments in North America in 2015.

Though publicly available data on the exact volume of crude oil moved by railroads is difficult to come by, in an April earnings call, Norfolk Southern, the principal rival of CSX, reported that its crude oil volumes increased 34 percent from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015.

That’s not a reliable indicator of the increase in Bakken crude oil on any one route, but Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania did say they received updated oil train reports from Norfolk Southern in the past year.

Of the states on the CSX crude oil network McClatchy asked, only Virginia reported receiving an update in the year between June 2014 and June 2015, and that was a week after a CSX oil train derailed and caught fire in February near Mount Carbon, W.Va.

Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX, said the railroad continues to be “in full compliance” with the emergency order. He added that the railroad “recently” sent new notifications to the affected states, “regardless of whether there was any material change in the number of trains transported.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article28078114.html#storylink=cp

 

    California governor orders aggressive greenhouse gas cuts by 2030

    Repost from Reuters
    [Editor:  See also local coverage in The Contra Costa Times.  – RS]

    California governor orders aggressive greenhouse gas cuts by 2030

    By Rory Carroll, Apr 29, 2015 11:28pm IST 
    California Governor Jerry Brown looks on during a news conference at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
    California Governor Jerry Brown looks on during a news conference at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

    (Reuters) – California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order on Wednesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, a move he said was necessary to combat the growing threat of climate change.

    The targeted reduction was tied to 1990 levels and is “the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions,” Brown said in a statement.

    California operates the nation’s largest carbon cap and trade system. The state sets an overall limit on carbon emissions and allows businesses to hand in tradeable permits to meet their obligations.

    Achieving the new target will require reductions from sectors including industry, agriculture, energy and state and local governments, Brown said.

    “I’ve set a very high bar, but it’s a bar we must meet,” Brown told a carbon market conference in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

    Brown said the new target will position California as a leader in combating climate change in the United States and internationally.

    Brown said he has spoken to leaders in Oregon, Washington and Northeastern states about collaborating with California to cut their output of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Those states could potentially link to California’s carbon market in future years.

    He said he has had similar discussions with leaders in the Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario, as well as in Germany, China and Mexico.

    Quebec is already linked to the California market. Leaders in Ontario this month signaled their intention to join the program.

    “This will be a local policy but it will be globally focused,” Brown told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the news and encouraged other states and cities around the world to also take action, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

    “California’s bold commitment to tackling climate change is a strong example to states and regions all over the world that they can join their national governments in taking ownership of this critical issue and in showing leadership,” Haq said.

    The plan for how California will achieve the 2030 target will be hammered out over the next year by the California Air Resources Board (ARB), which oversees the cap-and-trade program.

    “With this bold action by the governor, California extends its leadership role and joins the community of states and nations that are committed to slash carbon pollution through 2030 and beyond,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the ARB.

    (Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Susan Heavey and David Gregorio)

      Lower Speed Limits Part of U.S. Safety Proposal for Oil Trains

      Repost from Bloomberg
      [Editor:  See also:  OregonLive, Minnesota Public Radio, U.S. News & World Report, others….  – RS]

      Lower Speed Limits Part of U.S. Safety Proposal for Oil Trains

      by Jim Snyder, April 17, 2015 10:00 AM PDT

      Trains carrying crude oil will be restricted to a 40 mile-per-hour speed limit in populated areas such as New York under an order by the U.S. Department of Transportation in response to a series of derailments. Railroads voluntarily agreed to that speed limit in so-called High Threat Urban Areas, a designation that covers more than three dozen cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington. The emergency order issued Friday makes that agreement mandatory for all railroads hauling 20 or more tank cars linked together or 35 cars in total that are filled with oil or other flammable liquids. It applies to both older model DOT-111 tank cars and CPC-1232s the industry has been voluntarily building since 2011. “This order is necessary due to the recent occurrence of railroad accidents involving trains transporting petroleum crude oil and ethanol and the increasing reliance on railroads to transport voluminous amounts of those hazardous material in recent years,” the notice states. The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a proposal from the Transportation Department that would require a more durable type of tank car be used to transport oil and other flammable liquids. That rule may be released next month. A draft of that rule calls for tank cars with a thicker steel shell, more robust top fittings and better brakes.

      Quebec Disaster

      Questions about the safety of the growing fleet of trains carrying oil arose after an unattended train broke from its moorings in 2013 and rolled into Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. This year, oil trains have derailed in Ontario and in West Virginia and Illinois, creating dramatic images of fireballs billowing from rumpled tank cars. The Transportation Department also issued a notice Friday to ensure railroads provide information to investigators after an accident within 90 minutes, including about the volatility of the oil being hauled and the type of rail car in the train. Investigators suspect an accident last month in Galena, Illinois, was related to a broken wheel, and in another step announced today, the Transportation Department recommended tighter standards for replacing wheels than the industry currently observes. Railroads should “provide special attention” to the condition of the tank cars they haul, the order states.