If you live in Contra Costa County, you may have heard of a massive effort called the Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative, which aims to re-industrialize the coastline along the Carquinez Strait. However, it’s more likely you might not have heard about it, since it has been operating mostly behind closed doors, with minimal input from local residents.
Community Meeting: Our Vision of the Northern Waterfront – Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 10:00am-1:00pm, Nick Rodriguez Community Center Theater, 213 F St, Antioch, California 94509 RSVP for lunch reservation.
Launched in 2013, this initiative is an economic development revitalization “framework” led by Supervisors Federal Glover and Mary Piepho, and targets the towns of Hercules, Martinez, Concord, Pittsburg, Antioch, and Oakley, as well as unincorporated Rodeo, Crockett, Port Costa, Mountain View, Vine Hill, Clyde and Bay Point.Contra Costa is already the second most industrialized county in California, behind Los Angeles. Despite this dubious status, the Northern Waterfront initiative is a 20 year plan to permanently transform our county and bring even more industry here. The plan has no targets for renewable energy growth, no caps on cumulative emissions and no goals for attracting sustainable businesses. When county staff were recently asked about the “green” industries they planned to develop, the only example they could give was carpet recycling while this is technically “green” for the consumer, it leaves the dirt and chemicals in our communities.The Northern Waterfront initiative has failed to include voices of residents living in the affected industrial areas, and has instead chosen to focus on institutional “stakeholders” like local government and business associations. Instead of working with the community, the Northern Waterfront initiative treats us as an obstacle to be dealt with. Their “Competitive Assessment of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” (9/30/13) admits as a “weakness” that Residential land uses are incompatible with the needs of industry. Citizens in the area may protest more industry because their presence generally increases deleterious effects on the community such as traffic, noise and air pollution.In addition to affecting human health and safety, the Northern Waterfront Initiative also puts our coastline, water and natural environment at risk. For example, the plan itself is focused on water intensive businesses! It includes a feasibility study to dredge the Carquinez Strait from Richmond to Stockton, from 35 feet to 38 feet. Funded by Contra Costa County, Western States Petroleum Association and the Port of Stockton, the dredging will allow oil barges to fill to capacity and bring even more oil into the Bay. Dredging has a number of hazards: it can increase salinity into the Delta (a shortsighted move during a drought), and it would release a century of buried toxins into our Bay.The Northern Waterfront initiative has projected various numbers of jobs created — one 20-year prediction was 5,000 jobs, another was 18,000 jobs. But what kind of jobs? And will workers want to live in an even more unhealthy and highly industrialized community? The Northern Waterfront initiative is not a plan to transition away from the old fossil fuel economy, but just more “business as usual,” despite the well-documented fact that the transition to renewable energy is an opportunity for job growth. Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson has established that if California transitioned to 100% renewable energy, it would create over 450,000 jobs statewide (Source: www.solutionsproject.org).Please join us at August 15th community meeting where a representative and consultant of the county will be presenting the Initiative, and county and local gov’t officials have been invited. More importantly, join us to share our vision beyond fossils fuels.
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Mayors Call For Improved Safety Measures For Oil Trains
August 20, 2014
CHICAGO (CBS) – Federal railroad officials got an earful Wednesday from the mayors of several Chicago area towns that have been affected by a growing number of increasingly long trains hauling crude oil and other volatile materials.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports the mayors expressed concerns about traffic congestion and public safety from freight trains that they said have been getting longer and more dangerous, due to larger amounts of flammable crude oil they haul in outdated tanker cars.
The mayors spoke directly to Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo and Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott III, at a meeting arranged by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
The senator said approximately 25 percent of all freight train traffic travels through the Chicago area each day, including 40 trains hauling crude oil.
Barrington Village President Karen Darch said the village has seen a stark increase in the number of completely full freight trains hauling 100 or more carloads of crude oil or ethanol along the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway.
“Before, half of the community didn’t even know where the EJ&E Line was. There were a couple of trains at night. Now, several times a day, traffic – all traffic – comes to a halt as the train passes through town, and these can be hundred-car trains,” she said.
Darch and other Chicago area mayors said their constituents have been plagued by frequent traffic jams caused by long trains rolling through the area, and are constantly worried that a fire or worse could erupt on old tankers carrying volatile liquids.
They mayors expressed concerns about a repeat of a July 2013 freight train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed dozens of buildings when multiple tanker cars filled with crude oil caught fire and exploded.
Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said safe passage is mandatory.
“About a third of the rail accidents that do occur are related to failures of the rail infrastructure itself, and so our position is basically twofold: one, improve the tank cars and get rid of the ones that aren’t safe; and second, make the rails safe.”
Durbin said the issue requires some time to address.
“I’ve talked to the tank car manufacturers, and they understand that they have two responsibilities: build a safer car, but in the meantime retrofit existing cars,” he said.
The senator said there is no way to immediately and completely ban older style oil tanker cars, but said federal railroad officials are aware of the danger they pose, and that they must be upgraded or replaced as soon as possible.
Darch urged federal authorities to institute increased safety controls and reduced speed limits for even small trains hauling crude oil.
“A huge concern for us is what about all the trains that come through that have 19 cars or less of hazmat,” she said.
Federal railroad officials said proposed federal regulations would require increased testing to keep crude oil out of older style tankers. Railroads also would be required to notify local officials when crude oil trains will roll through, and impose a 40 mph speed limit on such trains.