Tag Archives: Rep. Doris Matsui

Davis Enterprise: Garamendi calls for greater Bakken oil-by-rail safety

Repost from The Davis Enterprise
[Editor:  Significant quote: “‘DOT began working on updated rules in April of 2012 and from 2006 to April of 2014, a total of 281 tank cars derailed in the U.S. and Canada, claiming 48 lives and releasing almost 5 million gallons of crude and ethanol,’ the letter reads.  ‘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.'”   That said, Mayor Wolk joined the long list of officials who say they don’t want to STOP oil trains, only make them “safer.”  Good luck.  More photos here.  – RS]

Garamendi calls for greater Bakken oil-by-rail safety

By Dave Ryan, April 9, 2015
Rail1W
Davis Mayor Dan Wolk speaks at a news conference Wednesday organized by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, to promote the congressman’s legislation that aims to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil. As many as 100 tank cars filled with the volatile oil could come through Davis every day if a proposed Valero oil refinery expansion is OK’d. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, called for less volatile Bakken crude oil — which is transported across the country by rail — on Wednesday morning, using the backdrop of the Davis Amtrak station to drive his point home.

Garamendi introduced the Bakken Crude Stabilization Act on March 26 in a bid to protect what he said are 16 million Americans living and working near railroad shipment lines. If approved, the bill will require lower vapor pressure for transported Bakken crude to reduce its volatility, a practice currently required in Texas and to some degree in North Dakota.

An oil tanker rumbles past the Davis train depot at Second and H streets Wednesday morning, interrupting a news conference organized by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, to address oil-by-rail safety. Sue Cockrell/ Enterprise photo

Vapors like propane and butane add to the unstable nature of Bakken crude during train derailments.

On Wednesday, Garamendi and other government officials explained why requiring more safety for railroad tank cars is essential to communities along rail lines like Davis and Fairfield, should there be an explosion. As if on cue, freight trains carrying black tank cars rumbled by as Garamendi spoke.

“You’d wipe out downtown Davis and possibly hundreds of people,” he said, adding that stripping out volatile vapors would prevent a fireball rising what he said was a hundred feet in the air.

Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson said there are refineries and pipelines in his county, but also populations along rail lines and an environmentally sensitive marshland.

“If we de-gas the oil, that is a huge thing for safety,” Thomson said. “We need to ask that legislation be passed. … We need to move this quickly.”

Environmental groups say Bakken crude oil is transported through Yolo and Solano counties along Union Pacific Railroad lines that run through Davis, Dixon, Fairfield and Suisun City on their way to the Valero oil refinery in Benicia. A proposal is pending before the Benicia City Council that could increase the number of rail tank cars moving through those cities, increasing shipments to about 70,000 barrels of oil a day in two, 50-car-long shipments.

So-called “up-rail” community groups are fighting the proposal, and local governments in Yolo and Solano counties are working for better safety and oversight of the Valero project, which is still in the environmental review process.

Davis Mayor Dan Wolk said local agencies’ goal in the Valero project is not to stop commerce, but to ensure that adequate safety measures are in place.

Meanwhile, at the state level, a warren of rules protecting rail commerce prohibit states and localities from enacting restrictions on rail traffic, leading to calls for the federal government to step in.

However, laws protecting railroads, some more than a century old, ensure that railroads have a strong hand in approving any new regulations that the federal Department of Transportation or the Federal Railroad Administration may impose on their industry. Most regulations are created by consensus with the railroads.

Garamendi said a legislative approach is the quickest way to get the railroads to implement safety standards.

“Every day we delay the implementation of a stronger safety standard for the transport of Bakken crude oil by rail, lives and communities are at risk,” the congressman said in a prepared statement released at the news conference.

“We need the federal government to step in and ensure that the vapor pressure of transported crude oil is lower, making it more stable and safer to transport. We also need to upgrade and ensure the maintenance of rail lines, tank cars, brake systems and our emergency response plans.”

Getting railroads to help beef up local safety planning is a big part of what state and local governments are trying to wring out of the rail industry. One key demand is to get the railroads to disclose to emergency first responders what is inside their tank cars.

In a March 3 letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation written by Garamendi and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D- Sacramento, the pair said the need for safer train cars has long been documented and is overdue.

“DOT began working on updated rules in April of 2012 and from 2006 to April of 2014, a total of 281 tank cars derailed in the U.S. and Canada, claiming 48 lives and releasing almost 5 million gallons of crude and ethanol,” the letter reads.

“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.”

Asked Wednesday what the chances are of a railroad safety bill passing through a Republican-controlled Congress, Garamendi said “excellent,” evoking some chuckles from other government officials standing by.

 

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    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.

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      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.”

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        7 Northern California Congress members call on feds to upgrade oil train safety now

        Repost from The Sacramento Bee
        [Editor: See also, Rep. Garamendi’s Press Release.  A PDF copy of the signed letter is available here.  See also coverage in The Benicia Herald.  – RS]

        Sacramento area Congress members call on feds to upgrade oil train safety now

        By Tony Bizjak, 03/02/2015 10:59 AM 
        A BNSF train carrying 98 tankers of crude oil passes through midtown Sacramento from the North Dakota Bakken oil fields to a refinery in the Bay Area city of Richmond.
        A BNSF train carrying 98 tankers of crude oil passes through midtown Sacramento from the North Dakota Bakken oil fields to a refinery in the Bay Area city of Richmond. | Jake Miille

        Several Northern California representatives in Congress have sent a letter to the Obama Administration expressing displeasure that federal officials missed a self-imposed deadline to propose stronger safety regulations on trains shipping crude oil.

        The Sacramento area is among many in the country that is seeing growing numbers of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude oil. Elsewhere in North America, several trains have crashed and exploded, including one carrying highly volatile Bakken crude in West Virginia several weeks ago that spilled oil into a river and set a forested area on fire.

        Pressure is growing on federal officials to impose safety regulations. The federal government last year announced a series of potential rule changes, including requiring stronger tank cars, and set a January 2015 date for a likely ruling.

        “Clearly action needs to be taken to increase the safety standards for rail cars transporting Bakken crude oil, and it must be taken now,” Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, said in a press statement about the letter. “Our communities simply cannot afford any delay in implementation of stringent safety guidelines.”

        The group, which includes Matsui, John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, sent its letter Friday to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration, asking them to take action to make rail shipments safer.

        “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,” the group wrote in the letter.

        “We also believe that DOT should issue a rulemaking 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. Additionally, we believe that track maintenance and improvements must be a priority.

        “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. If more dangerous and volatile crude is to be transported through cities and towns and along sensitive waterways and wildlife habitat, the rail and shipping industries must do more.”

        The letter from local leaders came a day after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf sent a similar, high-profile plea to the president.

        “The pace of federal rulemaking on rail safety is too slow,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Obama. “We urge that new federal safety rules be developed and implemented with a sense of urgency appropriate to the risk presented.”

        Federal transportation officials said they are taking the final steps now in the process, but that the issue is complex.

        “I’ve made the tank car rule a top priority for this department because the American people must have confidence that when hazardous materials are transported through their communities, we’ve done everything in our power to make that train as safe as possible, “ Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

        “This is a highly complex issue, consuming massive staff time, scientific study, dialogue with stakeholders and experts, and coordination across borders,” Foxx said. “The department has and will continue to put a premium on getting this critical rule done as quickly as possible, but we’ve always committed ourselves to getting it done right.”

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