Tag Archives: Rep. John Garamendi

ENDORSEMENT: Don Saylor for California Assembly (with appreciation for Dan Wolk)

Editor:  The Benicia Independent endorses Don Saylor of Davis for Assembly District 4 this November (Don Saylor.org). Lynne Nittler’s letter speaks for me – see below. Another good candidate, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk, has expressed strong concerns about oil train safety and joined with the Davis City Council in opposing crude by rail, but has not risen to the level of diligence, outreach and follow-through that Mr. Saylor has shown on Valero’s proposal (DanWolk.org).  Many thanks to both for their efforts.  – RS

Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor for California Assembly, District 4

By Lynne Nittler, in her email of May 15, 2016
Don Saylor for California Assembly District 4
Don Saylor for California Assembly District 4

Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor stands out as an uprail public official committed from early on to stopping the dangerous transport of crude oil through our natural habitat and populated areas.  He wasted no time in directing his staff to research and compose a letter insisting that uprail concerns had to be addressed in the EIR.  On the draft EIR, Yolo County wrote a second letter detailing the impacts of the unsafe oil trains, and when the response was inadequate, added a third letter response to the revised draft EIR.

Meanwhile, as President of Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), Don Saylor also led the 22 cities and 6 counties of SACOG to respond to the regional threat of oil trains with a series of hard-hitting letters during the EIR process.

His deep concerns even took him to Washington DC where he conferred with our local Congressman John Garamendi on stabilizing crude at the loading site as perhaps the only acceptable method of making the Bakken crude safe to transport by rail.

Don continues to monitor the volatile issue closely, as 500,000 of the 2.4 million SACOG residents live at risk in the blast zone.   Most recently, he took time to testify before the Benicia City Council in hopes of convincing them of the enormous impacts to uprail communities and to our state.

We are fortunate to have such a diligent public official.  While an independent PAC of outside oil corporations including Valero as well as other PACS have intruded with huge campaign contributions to one candidate for the District 4 Assembly race (including Lake and Napa Counties, most of Yolo County, and part of Colusa, Solano, and Sonoma Counties ), Don Saylor has not been chosen for such outside support.

If elected, we can count on Don to work and vote as he always has for programs that benefit our region.  Don Saylor will continue to keep a watchful eye on oil trains if he is elected to the CA Assembly.

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    Rules on oil train, pipeline safety not moving fast enough, lawmakers say

    Repost from The Tri-City Herald

    Rules on oil train, pipeline safety not moving fast enough, lawmakers say

    By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, April 14, 2015

    A chorus of lawmakers expressed frustration Tuesday with the delays in approving and implementing various regulations related to the movement of hazardous materials by rail and pipeline.

    The acting chiefs of two U.S. Department of Transportation agencies heard Republicans and Democrats in the House Transportation Committee complain that rules on railroad tank cars and oil and gas pipelines had been on the table for as long as four years.

    “It’s just unacceptable,” said Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

    Sarah Feinberg of the Federal Railroad Administration and Tim Butters of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration noted that they have little choice but to work within a multi-step process that involves public comment, industry participation and multiple layers of review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

    “It’s not built for speed,” Feinberg testified. “I wish that it was.”

    Butters said that his agency had received 30,000 comments on its proposed rule to improve the safety of oil trains. He said the agency needed to evaluate them as part of its process.

    “We have to go through all of those,” he said. “And that takes time.”

    But a series of train derailments and pipeline failures in recent years has caught the attention of members of Congress, who are hearing concerns from their constituents.

    “That’s just an excuse,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., the panel’s chairman. “Four years is too long.”

    Last week, Feinberg visited Denham’s district in Central California to discuss pending rules on the construction of tank cars used to carry flammable liquids, the way the trains are operated and the way the tracks are inspected and maintained.

    She also visited the Sacramento-area district of Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat who last month introduced legislation to regulate the volatility of crude oil loaded into tank cars. Texas and North Dakota, the nation’s leading oil producers, currently set such limits.

    Garamendi proposed that the committee write the new rules into the larger surface transportation bill Congress needs to pass this year.

    “We could write laws that protect the public,” he said. “Why don’t we do that?”

    Acts of Congress don’t always make things go faster. In 2008, lawmakers mandated that railroads install a GPS-based collision-avoidance system called Positive Train Control by the end of 2015. But the nation’s freight and passenger railroads are likely to miss the Dec. 31 deadline.

    Once the new oil train rules become final, it could take years to retrofit or replace tens of thousands of tank cars used to transport the country’s supply of crude oil and ethanol.

    As a sign of how slowly the process moves, Capuano noted that BNSF, the nation’s biggest hauler of crude oil in trains, has gotten ahead of regulators by voluntarily lowering train speeds, increasing track inspections and encouraging shippers to use better tank cars.

    “Whose butt do we have to kick?” he asked. “Whose budget do we have to cut? Whose budget do we have to enhance to make this work?”

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      Rail car safety concerns Stockton CA, San Joaquin County officials

      Repost from The Record, Stockton CA
      [Editor:  Significant quote: “Central California Traction Co., the short-line railroad operating in and around Stockton, each month handles about 600 rail tank cars bringing ethanol from the Midwest to petroleum terminals at the Port of Stockton.”  ALSO THIS: “Stockton’s own ethanol plant, Pacific Ethanol, doesn’t ship the fuel by rail…They bring in the corn by rail and then from there (ethanol) either goes by pipeline or truck, but it doesn’t go out again by rail.”  AND THIS: “There is a company that looks to build an oil terminal at the port — one that would receive crude oil shipments by rail then move them out to Bay Area refineries by barge — but that remains in planning….”- RS]

      Rail car safety concerns SJ officials

      By Reed Fujii, Record Staff Writer, Apr. 11, 2015 at 7:04 PM

      Calls for improved railroad tank car safety, following a string of derailments and explosive fires involving flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol, could help protect residents of San Joaquin County where hundreds of such tank cars move each month.

      Area government and railroad officials agree safer tank cars are needed but also say they are working to limit the risk of derailments locally and prepared to respond should such an incident occur.

      The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday issued an urgent call for stronger and more fire-resistant tank cars, saying current designs might rupture too quickly when exposed to a fire resulting from a derailment.

      “We can’t wait a decade for safer rail cars,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a statement, in lobbying for a rapid upgrade of the existing tank car fleet.

      And Wednesday, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, issued a similar call while announcing federal legislation to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil shipments.

      “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,” he warned.

      Central California Traction Co., the short-line railroad operating in and around Stockton, each month handles about 600 rail tank cars bringing ethanol from the Midwest to petroleum terminals at the Port of Stockton, said Dave Buccolo, CCT general manager.

      Buccolo, who also is deeply involved in railroad safety issues, said the industry has sought improved tank car designs for several years, but the effort has been stalled in the federal bureaucracy.

      But he said area residents should not be overly concerned about the safety of flammable liquid shipments, as the railroads limit trains carrying such materials to speeds under 30 mph in urban areas. Because of that, leaks or spills are less likely in the event of a derailment.

      “We’re pretty safe here in Stockton, and people shouldn’t be worried,” Buccolo said. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the hazardous materials shipped by rail makes it safely to its destination.”

      Michael Cockrell, director of emergency operations for San Joaquin County, sounded a slightly different note.

      “I think everybody should be concerned,” he said about rail tank car safety.

      The movement of volatile liquids, especially for products such as crude oil and ethanol, is on the increase. But at the same time, Cockrell said, the statements from the NTSB and Garamendi, as well as other ongoing efforts at state and federal levels, are a sign that safety issues will be addressed and change is on the way.

      In addition, he said, the county, area cities and other agencies have formed a task force to provide a coordinated response to any major hazardous materials spills.

      In related news, North Dakota’s new oil train safety checks seen missing risks.

      So what’s the bottom line?

      Cockrell said: “There has been a concerted effort to make transportation safer. And … in this county there is a real active hazardous materials joint team that acts together, trains together and plans together to make sure we’re the best prepared we can be to respond to a hazardous incident.”

      Stockton’s own ethanol plant, Pacific Ethanol, doesn’t ship the fuel by rail, said Richard Aschieris, Port of Stockton director.

      “They bring in the corn by rail and then from there (ethanol) either goes by pipeline or truck, but it doesn’t go out again by rail,” he said.

      There is a company that looks to build an oil terminal at the port — one that would receive crude oil shipments by rail then move them out to Bay Area refineries by barge — but that remains in planning, Aschieris said.

      And he’s unsure what impact the recent drop in oil prices and resulting shifts in petroleum markets may have had on the terminal proposal.

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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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