Repost from National Public Radio – KQED Forum [Editor: So … 120-car open coal trains might come blowing through Benicia, crossing our rickety 85-year-old Benicia-Martinez Rail Bridge on their way to the East Bay. Now maybe more Benicians will understand a little better how it feels to be an “uprail” community. – RS]
Proposed Oakland Shipping Terminal Stirs Health, Environmental Concerns Over Coal
On Tuesday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill that allocates $53 million of Utah’s money to help build a cargo terminal in West Oakland. Supporters of the bill argue that the project will bring in much-needed jobs and enable Utah to ship its coal to markets overseas. But environmentalists in the Bay Area oppose the project, arguing that it will contribute to pollution and health problems in a neighborhood already impacted by poor air quality. Forum gets an update on the project and how it may affect Oakland.
Host: Mina Kim
Darwin BondGraham, reporter, East Bay Express
Jessica Yarnall Loarie, staff attorney, Sierra Club
Utah set to be home of first oilsands mine project in U.S. by end of 2015
By Geoffrey Morgan | July 21, 2015 6:12 PM ET
CALGARY – Despite fierce opposition from American environmental groups, the first commercial oilsands mine in the United States is just months away from starting up after receiving final regulatory approvals from officials in Utah late last week.
“We’ll be in production later in the fall with commercial production before the end of the year,” U.S. Oil Sands Inc. chief executive Cameron Todd said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands is working through the summer to complete a 2,000-barrel-per-day oilsands mine in eastern Utah, which would make it the first commercial oilsands mine in the United States when it begins producing later this year.
Todd noted that oilsands deposits have been used in the U.S. in the past, including in the construction of the first roads in Utah, but have never been mined on a commercial scale. The Uinta basin in the northeastern and central southeastern of the state has more than 50 identified oil sands deposits, with an estimated total of 20 to 32 billion barrels of oil in place.
Late on Friday afternoon, the Utah Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil, Gas and Mining announced approvals for an amendment to US Oil Sands’ mine, which is currently under construction about 200 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
The decision, released after a public hearing on the mine, requires U.S. Oil Sands to conduct water monitoring and submit a monitoring plan for the project by Nov. 1, and the company has indicated that it will comply with those regulations.
Officials from the Utah division of oil, gas and mining did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Repost from The Sacramento Bee [Editor: See video of reporter Tony Bizjak’s ride on the inspection car here. – RS]
Union Pacific boosts rail inspections in high-hazard mountain passes
By Tony Bizjak, 10/19/2014
Faced with public concern about the risks of crude oil shipments, the Union Pacific railroad last month boosted its rail inspection program on mountain passes in California and the West, dispatching high-tech vehicles with lasers to check tracks for imperfections.
UP officials say they have leased two rail inspection vehicles, called geometry cars, doubling the number of computer-based safety cars in use on the company’s tracks. The move comes amid mounting public concern about hazardous-material shipments, including a growing quantity of highly flammable crude oil from North Dakota being shipped to West Coast refineries.
The inspection cars will supplement similar geometry cars UP owns that it uses to inspect hundreds of miles of tracks daily on the company’s main lines west of the Mississippi River. Running at regular train speeds, the inspection vehicles can detect tiny deviations and wear on rail lines that could cause a derailment if allowed to grow, UP officials said.
The new cars will patrol the main mountain routes into the state, UP officials said. Northern California sites will include Donner Pass, the Feather River Canyon and grades outside Dunsmuir. The state has designated all those areas high hazards for derailments.
In Southern California, the inspection vehicles will patrol UP’s looping line over the Tehachapi Mountains, as well as the line on the Cuesta grade in San Luis Obispo County. The trains also will check mountain rails in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.
“We’re ensuring we keep crude oil trains on the track,” said David Wickersham, UP’s chief maintenance engineer in the West. “We are going to time it so we are hitting California every three months.”
State rail safety chief Paul King of the California Public Utilities Commission applauded the move. “It’s easy to maintain a straight (flat) railroad, but it’s not as easy to maintain a curved rail like you find in the mountains,” King said.
Grady Cothen, a retired Federal Railroad Administration safety official, said the type of high-tech inspections cars UP is using have become a must for major railroad companies. With more freight moving through limited rail corridors, especially mountains, the financial and political implications of a major derailment that causes damage are huge for railroads.