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.