Repost from SolanoCounty.com News Details [Editor: this event has been referred to alternately as a “discussion” a “forum,” an “information session,” a “public meeting,” and a “community conversation,” Very little has been published to indicate that the County is eager to hear from the public at this meeting. Nonetheless, governmental meetings always provide an opportunity for the public to be heard. If you go, plan to learn something from emergency professionals, government officials and staff … and to offer your own sage advice on the best way to contain catastrophic emergencies…. – RS]
Rail safety discussion planned for Sept. 29
September 8, 2014
SOLANO COUNTY – How can emergency responders increase their capabilities to respond to potential incidents that could happen along the 73 miles of railway that cross Solano County?
That is the question to be discussed at an information session from
6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the County Administration Center, 675 Texas St. in Fairfield.
“As we prepare for and anticipate the transportation of crude oil through our county, a community conversation about our preparedness and the potential impact from an incident is essential,” said Supervisor Linda Seifert.
The meeting’s objective will be to raise awareness of the existing safety measures already in place throughout the county and to identify potential gaps and mitigations based on potential changes in rail traffic.
Invited speakers include representatives from Valero, Union Pacific Railroad, Solano County Office of Emergency Services, the Solano County Fire Chiefs Association, and local air quality management districts. Congressman John Garamendi and state Senator Lois Wolk have also been invited to participate.
County officials said the timing of the event was two-fold. September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. In addition, the City of Benicia is considering an application that would allow Valero to receive and process crude oil delivered by rail.
“We know emergency responders from across the county, including the Hazardous Materials Response Team, are prepared for a wide array of potential incidents. Proposals to process crude oil delivered by rail will change the mix of materials coming into and passing through Solano County. It is only prudent for us to explore how to increase our capability to handle the risks associated with these changes,” Supervisor Seifert said.
Repost from The Sacramento Bee [Editor: The Bee’s editorial board hit the nail on the head, but not hard enough. Which is to say, the editors have joined with the chorus of legislators who want a good patch job for train wrecks that they presume are unstoppable. Oil train safety would be best guaranteed by pressing the federal government to ban oil trains. Allowing these “bomb trains” to rumble through our communities approaches criminal recklessness, and should be stopped. Big business does not – or at least should not – dictate the direction we take as a nation. – RS]
Editorial: First steps on oil train safety, but more to do
By the Editorial Board | Jun. 19, 2014
These are not all the steps that are needed, but it’s good to see the Legislature trying to get ahead of a potential (oil) train wreck. As part of the budget they approved Sunday, legislators added seven rail safety inspectors. They also included a 6.5-cent fee proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown on each barrel of crude oil that comes to California by rail. The $11 million or so raised annually will be used to prevent and clean up oil spills, especially in inland waterways.
On Monday, the state Senate passed a resolution urging the federal government to pass laws and rules to protect communities from oil train accidents, including tougher standards on tank cars, and to put “safety over cost effectiveness.” That sends an important message because so far, federal officials have not required enough of railroads and oil companies – either in safety measures or public disclosure – to keep pace with a rapid increase in rail shipments of oil extracted through hydraulic fracturing, especially in Canada and North Dakota.
But there’s more that California officials can do.
Sens. Jerry Hill of San Mateo and Lois Wolk of Davis have a bill for a second as-yet unspecified shipping fee on oil companies to fund training and equipment for firefighters and other first responders. A recent state report found that 40 percent of local firefighters are volunteers who generally don’t have the resources to handle major hazardous material spills.
First responders often don’t have all the information they need, either, as reporting by The Sacramento Bee has made clear. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento is pushing a bill to require companies to tell emergency officials about crude oil shipments. The latest version does away with an exemption from the state public records law; instead it says reports would be deemed “proprietary information” that could only be shared with “government personnel with emergency response, planning or security-related responsibilities on a need-to-know basis.”
Time is of the essence since oil trains could be running through the Sacramento region later this year. Valero Refining Co. is seeking approval to route two 50-car oil trains a day through Roseville, Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis to its refinery in Benicia.
An environmental impact report released Tuesday offers some reassurances but no guarantees. The draft report concludes that while a crash or spill could be catastrophic, the likelihood of an incident is “very low.” The probability of a spill of 100 gallons or more along the 69 miles between Roseville and Benicia is calculated at once every 111 years.
Yet, it has happened elsewhere – six major oil train crashes in North America just in the last year, including the horrific fireball in Quebec that killed 47 residents.
More than 135,000 people in Sacramento and 25,000 in Davis live within a half-mile of rail tracks, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported Wednesday. They’re counting on legislators to do all they can to make sure oil trains pass safely through our cities.
Senator Lois Wolk responds to draft environmental report on crude shipments
By DigitalFirst, 06/20/2014
Environmental documents released this week report that there are “significant and unavoidable” air quality impacts if a project from a local refinery to move crude-by-rail moves forward.
That’s not going far enough, however, according to Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis.
The Valero Benicia Refinery is seeking approval to bring two 50-tanker car trains of crude oil in and out of Benicia every day, replacing crude shipments by boat. A draft environmental impact report on the plan was released earlier this week.
Valero officials have said the project is necessary to remain competitive on the West Coast. Opponents, however, have raised concerns about the type of crude that could be coming in those tanker cars, such as highly flammable oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, or Canadian tars sands oil, regarded as more polluting than other crude stocks.
Wolk, who has authored a bill to provide funding for cities to adequately respond to rail emergencies, weighed in on the Draft Environmental Impact Report Thursday.
“The community was wise to demand an EIR for this project,” Wolk said in a prepared statement. “Now that we have one, I seriously question whether the EIR has adequately evaluated the true risk of an accident or a spill involved with this project. In the past year there have been six major incidents across North America where rail accidents resulted in millions of gallons of spilled crude oil. Yet the EIR estimates the risk of oil train spills between Roseville and Benicia would be about only once per 111 years? That defies logic and is a risky assumption based on recent experience. It only takes one minor mishap to cause a major accident or spill and potentially catastrophic impacts to the heavily populated communities through which these trains will run.”
Wolk said the risk requires more action.
“Given the risk from possible spills and accidents involving this hazardous cargo and the project’s anticipated effect on air quality, I urge the City of Benicia, Valero, and Union Pacific to work with the community to implement extraordinary safety measures to guarantee public safety if this project moves forward,” she said.
Wolk, along with Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, authored Senate Bill 506 to provide funding to help communities like Benicia provide adequate emergency response to accidents and spills involving rail transports of crude oil and other hazardous materials.
“California needs to keep in step with the significant increase in shipments of these dangerous materials in order to respond to the growing risk to California’s citizens,” she said.
The EIR also noted that the project would result in “no impact” or “less-than-significant” impacts locally to biological resources, cultural resources, energy conservation, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards and hazardous materials, water quality, land use and planning and noise.
The roughly 1,500-page report will be circulated for a 45-day public comment period ending on Aug. 1, city officials said.
Repost from The Sacramento Bee [Editor: Significant quote: “The resulting funds, estimated at $11 million in the first full year, will be allocated for oil spill prevention and preparation work, and for emergency cleanup costs. The efforts will be focused on spills that threaten waterways, and will allow officials to conduct response drills.” Of course, we won’t need this fund if we simply STOP crude by rail and move toward clean energy. – RS]
California to impose fee on crude oil rail shipments; funds to be used for spill prevention, cleanup
By Tony Bizjak, The Sacramento Bee | Jun. 16, 2014
California leaders have included several safety provisions in this year’s state budget with the aim of preventing toxic spills and fires as oil companies ship more crude oil on trains through cities and wildland areas.
Beginning in the coming fiscal year, the state will apply a 6.5-cent fee on oil companies for every barrel of crude that arrives in California on rail, or that is piped to refineries from inside the state. The resulting funds, estimated at $11 million in the first full year, will be allocated for oil spill prevention and preparation work, and for emergency cleanup costs. The efforts will be focused on spills that threaten waterways, and will allow officials to conduct response drills.
The budget also separately includes funds to hire seven more rail safety inspectors for the California Public Utilities Commission, PUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said.
The 6.5-cent shipping charge will be administered by the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response. “We consider this a great victory,” office administrator Tom Cullen said Monday. Until now, the office’s scope has been confined mainly to coastal areas. “We weren’t positioned in California to prepare for and respond to oil spills on the interior of the state.”
Cullen and others negotiated the shipping charge over the weekend with oil industry officials. The charge, an extension of an existing marine fee, may be the first of several steps California officials take in coming months to improve the state’s ability to minimize oil spills and handle them more effectively when they happen.
Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said his organization will work with the state on the issue.
“The new revenues, the first place they should go, is to make sure local responders are adequately equipped,” Hull said. “We recognized from the beginning that this is a legitimate issue.”
The safety efforts have taken on urgency as oil companies reveal plans for hundreds of crude-by-rail shipments in California, including a proposal by the Valero Refining Co. to ship 100 crude oil tank cars a day through downtown Sacramento and downtown Davis to Benicia. Details of that plan are expected to be released by Benicia officials Tuesday.
Federal officials have warned that one of the crude oils being shipped into the state, from the Bakken region of North Dakota, appears to be more flammable than typical crude oils. Three recent train crashes and explosions, including one that killed 47 people in the Canadian city of Lac-Megantic last year, prompted federal transportation officials last month to require that railroads notify state emergency officials of large Bakken shipment times and routes.
Central to the state’s safety efforts will be keeping a closer watch on the tracks themselves. The state budget includes seven new rail inspector positions to help the California Public Utilities Commission fulfill its mandate to inspect every mile of rail in the state annually. PUC deputy director of rail safety programs Paul King said his agency has failed in that task some years because of lack of personnel.
With rail crude oil shipments on the rise, it’s critical that the state steps up now, King said. “The Bakken crude in particular is a big problem. This is a lot of volatile material coming in on routes where it hasn’t come in before.”
The state Senate on Monday passed a resolution urging the U.S. Department of Transportation and other federal agencies to write tougher standards for train tank cars and to “prioritize safety over cost effectiveness” in dealing with rail crude shipments. Federal officials have said they intend to improve design standards for rail cars hauling crude oil, but haven’t set a date.
Sens. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis, introduced a bill last week that would impose a second shipping fee on oil companies to be used to train and equip “first responders,” such as fire departments and hazardous materials crews, to deal with major spills and fires on railroad lines. The authors have not yet determined the fee amount.
“It’s not a matter of will (a spill) happen, it’s when,” Hill said. “We have to be prepared. We need to provide the resources for first responders to address the emergency.”
A recent state report found that 40 percent of local firefighters in the state are volunteers whose departments generally lack the training and equipment to deal with major hazardous materials spills.
Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, also has authored a bill requiring rail carriers to communicate more closely with state emergency officials about crude oil rail movements.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/06/16/6488137/california-to-impose-fee-on-crude.html#storylink=c