Tag Archives: San Luis Obispo County

REUTERS: California opposition to oil-by-rail mounts

Repost from Reuters

California opposition to oil-by-rail mounts

By Rory Carroll, Mar 19, 2015 3:03pm EDT

(Reuters) – A chorus of local governments across California opposed to crude oil trains grew louder this week in light of recent derailments, with a total of 14 cities and towns now trying to block the trains from running through their communities.

Five northern California cities – Berkeley, Richmond, Oakland, Martinez and Davis – have voiced their opposition to crude by rail in general. An additional nine communities specifically oppose a Phillips 66 project to enable its refinery in San Luis Obispo to unload crude-carrying trains.

Fiery derailments in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario in recent weeks have brought the issue back into the national spotlight. The most devastating crude by rail disaster, a July 2013 derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people, is mentioned in many of the opposition measures.

San Luis Obispo County is weighing whether to approve the Phillips 66 project, which would use Union Pacific rail lines to bring five 80-car trains per week to the refinery, starting in 2016.

That has prompted concern from communities along the company’s rail network, including densely populated cities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“The opposition is growing exponentially,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter.

On Monday the Bay Area city of San Leandro passed a resolution opposing the Phillips 66 project, noting that at least 20 schools are located in the “blast zone” along the projected route.

Paso Robles, a city in San Luis Obispo County, could be the next to take a stand against the dangerous cargo. Its city council is expected to debate the topic at an upcoming meeting.

While local governments lack the ability to stop the trains, which fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, they hope to put pressure on San Luis Obispo County officials.

“Every one of the tank cars on these trains carries more flammable crude oil than any municipal fire department can fight. That’s why California cities and towns are saying no,” said Matt Krogh of environmental group ForestEthics.

Phillips 66 said it has one of the most modern crude rail fleets in service and that every railcar used to transport crude oil in its fleet exceeds regulatory safety standards.

“The proposed rail project is designed with safety as the top priority and with safety measures embedded in the project,” said spokesman Dennis Nuss.

(Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Matthew Lewis)

    San Jose State’s Spartan Daily on last week’s derailment: University is in potential impact zone

    Repost from The Spartan Daily at San Jose State University
    [Quote: “Last Wednesday a Union Pacific train pulling empty gravel cars derailed near Taylor and Seventh streets in Japantown. There were no injuries, but stalled traffic forced public transit to reroute, according to a report by NBC Bay Area.”   Editor:  See also the NBC report.  – RS]

    Trains will bring oil through Downtown San Jose

    By Jeremy Cummings Mar 18, 2015 2:36 am

    Despite growing public opposition to transportation of crude oil by rail since serious accidents such as the Lac-Megantic crash in 2013 a proposal to the Santa Maria Planning Commission might bring a crude oil train directly through Downtown San Jose.

    Jill and Jack Sardegna, two concerned San Jose natives who live close to the train tracks, worry about pollution and other risks the trains could bring.

    “We didn’t think that this was a possibility here, and certainly not through a residential area,” Jill Sardegna said, “But here it is.”

    San Jose State is in the potential impact zone of fires that could result from a derailment downtown, according to blast-zone.org, but the school’s administration is unprepared at this point to respond to such an event, according to SJSU Chief of Staff Stacy Gleixner at a press conference with student media last Wednesday.

    “I don’t think we’ve given thought yet to what kind of precautions we might need to have in place,” Gleixner said.

    The train, run by Union Pacific Railroad, will carry oil to the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo County and was proposed in 2013.

    According to a draft of the proposal’s environmental impact report on slocounty.ca.gov, up to five 80-car trains will run to the Mesa refinery a week.

    The commission has the final say on whether or not the oil trains will run, a decision which will impact some citizens’ lives all throughout California, according to Council member Ash Kalra.

    Safety risks of oil trains

    Complete safety cannot be guaranteed when transporting oil by rail, according to Francisco J. Castillo, director of corporate relations and media at Union Pacific Railroad.

    Castillo said although oil by rail arrives safely 99.99 percent of the time, there is a risk associated with this shipping method as there is with any other.

    In July 2013 an oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, killing 47 and causing significant damage to the city.

    The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported that this crash was a result of simple human error. A conductor failed to set the train’s brakes correctly, allowing it to run out of control into the town center.

    Data from a report released by environmental watchdog Mesa Refinery Watch Group shows that approximately 462,000 gallons of crude oil are confirmed to have spilled in the United States alone since 2013.

    Unconfirmed amounts of oil have been spilled in other derailments such as one that occurred in Aliceville, Alabama, in December 2013.

    The most commonly used tank car by the Department of Transportation is the DOT-111.

    According to data from dot111.org and 2014 North American Freight Railcar review, DOT-111s make up approximately 75 percent of the North American Rail Fleet.

    These tank cars are a big concern to environmental groups such as the Mesa Refinery Watch Group, which say DOT-111s follow outdated safety standards and leak large quantities of hazardous materials during transit.

    Carol Ziegler, a representative of Phillips 66, said all of the cars in its fleet meet the newest safety standards for oil transportation.

    Local Impact

    Last Wednesday a Union Pacific train pulling empty gravel cars derailed near Taylor and Seventh streets in Japantown.

    There were no injuries, but stalled traffic forced public transit to reroute, according to a report by NBC Bay Area.

    The Lac-Megantic accident shows the potential consequences of an oil train derailing in a populated area.

    According to San Jose Fire Department Chief Curtis Jacobsen, San Jose Fire is not equipped to contain the fires that could result from a derailment.

    The Sardegnas are worried by the lack of publicized information about this issue, and have contacted multiple news outlets including the Mercury News trying to get the word out.

    “This is a big concern for us that students don’t even know this is happening,” Jill Sardegna said.

    Councilmember Kalra said it’s important for SJSU students to educate themselves about this and other issues so they might make a difference going into the future.


      ABC7 News: San Jose public forum opposes plan for oil trains through East Bay

      Repost from ABC 7 News
      [Editor: Significant quote: “Phillips 66 says it must increase oil production in California and detouring trains around the Bay Area isn’t possible.”  – RS]

      San Jose opposes rail shipments of crude oil

      By Cornell Barnard, January 25, 2015

      SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — A plan to allow oil trains to pass through San Jose is facing opposition.

      Phillips 66 would build a rail terminal at its Santa Maria refinery that would send trains with up to 80 cars of crude oil through Southern California and the Bay Area.

      Millions of gallons of crude oil would move through the Bay Area weekly if this plan is approved. The city of San Jose opposes the idea and held a public forum at City Hall Sunday to educate residents.

      Trains move through San Jose 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some carry people and others move freight. But a proposal by Phillips 66 could allow heavy crude oil to be transported by rail from Canada to a refinery in San Luis Obispo County, right through the Bay Area and Coleen Huffman’s downtown neighborhood. “Really scary, I mean the loud noise, the pollution, the fear of what if it crashed,” she said.

      “This project if approved is a disaster waiting to happen,” Center for Biological Diversity spokesperson Valerie Love said.

      The group held a public forum to educate residents about the dangers of so called oil trains. “We’re talking primarily about tar sands oil, heavy crudes from Canada, so this is one of the most toxic, the most carbon intensive, the dirtiest fuels on the planet,” Love said.

      There have been accidents. A train carrying crude oil derailed near Quebec, Canada in 2013 killing dozens nearby.

      Doug Sunlin has concerns about crude moving through large cities like San Jose. “Primarily the safety, if they are old cars they could have leaks,” he said.

      In a statement, Phillips 66 says, “We have one of the most modern crude rail fleets in the industry, which exceed regulatory standards. Safety is our top priority.”

      Phillips 66 says it must increase oil production in California and detouring trains around the Bay Area isn’t possible.

      San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra opposes the idea, which he says won’t help keep gas prices low in the Bay Area. “It’s not benefiting us. It’s not lowering gas prices for Californians or Americans and yet we have to suffer the consequences.”

      Folks signed a petition urging the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission to deny the oil train project.