Tag Archives: Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson

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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    Federal, state and local officials gather in Davis California to discuss oil train safety legislation

    Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
    [Editor:  Thanks to Rep. Garamendi for his sponsorship of HR1679 to require Bakken oil stabilization before it is loaded onto oil trains.  But you can add Garamendi’s name to the long list of officials who show little interest in stopping bomb trains, who operate under the illusion that “safer” is ok.  Quote: “He added that the push isn’t to stop transportation of oil by rail, but to make it safer….”  – RS]

    Crude oil-by-rail safety focus of proposed bill

    By Melissa Murphy, 04/08/15, 10:05 PM PDT
    U.S. Congressman John Garamendi, D-Solano, pauses as a freight train passes during a press conference at the Davis Amtrak Depot on Wednesday to highlight the need for state and federal action to improve the safety of crude oil-by-rail transports. Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter
    Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson expresses his concerns about rail safety as he participates in a press conference on the issue Wednesday in Davis. Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter

    Transportation of crude oil by rail was a hot topic Wednesday as federal, state and local government officials gathered at the train depot in the city of Davis.

    Congressman John Garamendi, D-Solano, addressed media during a press conference about his legislation, H.R. 1679, which would prohibit the transport of crude-by-rail unless authorities have reduced the volatile gases in the oil prior to transportation.

    Specifically, maximum Reid vapor pressure of 9.5 psi, the maximum volatility permitted by the New York Mercantile Exchange for crude oil futures contracts.

    “Further analysis and debate is warranted, and H.R. 1679 is intended to move debate forward and stress the urgency of action before more lives are needlessly lost,” Garamendi said. “It doesn’t have to be explosive.”

    He added that the push isn’t to stop transportation of oil by rail, but to make it safer and that the federal government needs to get its “train in gear” to adopt regulations.

    Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, said even though the issue is complicated, they’re working on a comprehensive approach.

    She explained that there has been a 4,000 percent increase in the amount of crude by rail. It continues to be transported by rail, pipeline and truck.

    While it will take a long time to create and pass new regulations and standards, interim steps have been taken, including additional emergency regulations, speed reductions, increased inspections and more emergency equipment.

    “We’ll continue to do more,” she said.

    Standing next to photos of two fiery oil car train explosion, one that occurred as recently as February in West Virginia, Davis Mayor Dan Wolk said the trains go through the heart of the city, and there is a high risk if crude-by-rail starts moving through the corridor.

    “It could have catastrophic effects in our community,” he said. “Garamendi’s legislation is in perfect alignment with city objectives. Safety is the priority.”

    Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson agreed and added that the legislation needs to be passed as soon as possible.

    Other steps have been taken by the California Office of Emergency Services.

    Eric Lamoureux, inland regional administrator for OES, said six hazardous materials vehicles stand ready to respond throughout the state and within the next few months local exercises will test the systems and procedures in place.

    Lamoureaux also explained that explosions are a concern, but there also is a risk to water supply. He shared that a derailment in November sent eight train cars and loads of corn into Feather River Canyon near Lake Oroville.

    He added that it could have been a bigger issue if it was crude oil.

    Garamendi also explained that the process of removing volatile gases isn’t new, but a regular standard for refineries in Texas.

    Meanwhile, the city of Benicia is considering an application that would allow Valero Refinery to receive and process more crude oil delivered by rail. The proposed crude by rail project would be a third means to deliver crude oil. So far, Valero receives the crude oil by marine deliveries and pipeline.

    According to the city of Benicia website, the city has determined that sections of the Draft Environmental Impact Report, when it comes to the Valero project, will need to be updated and recirculated. The anticipated release of the Recirculated Draft EIR for public comment is June 30. The Recirculated Draft EIR will have a 45-day comment period. After the comment period on the Recirculated DEIR closes, the city will complete the Final EIR which will include responses to all comments on the original Draft EIR and the Recirculated Draft EIR.

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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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