BENICIA, CA — Personnel with the Benicia Fire Department were monitoring an oil sheen reported Tuesday by the Valero Benicia Refinery in Sulphur Springs Creek.
The refinery notified the fire department that at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday, a sheen from an unknown type of oil was spotted in the waters of the creek, Benicia Fire Department officials said.
“Valero Benicia Refinery commenced mitigation efforts at 3:20 p.m.,” fire officials said. “The sheen has been contained and proper clean up, notification and mitigation procedures were underway.”
The incident was not a threat to drinking water or public safety although fire personnel will continue to monitor the situation and will update the public if conditions change, fire officials said.
According to a hazardous materials spill report issued by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, Valero Energy discovered the sheen at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday. The cause of the Petroleum sheen was not known, nor had the source been determined. Refinery personnel contained the sheen by deploying a boom; cleanup was underway and an investigation was ongoing.
BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Seven train cars carrying crude oil derailed Tuesday and five caught fire, sending a large black plume of smoke into the sky north of Seattle close to the Canadian border, authorities said.
The derailment in the downtown Custer area closed nearby streets and spurred evacuation orders during a large fire response, Whatcom County officials said on Twitter. Interstate 5 was temporarily closed in the area in both directions.
Later Tuesday, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that the fires were under control and the evacuation order had been lifted but roadblocks would remain in place. Fires at the site remained active, the Sheriff’s Office added, and residents were asked to stay inside once they returned home.
“Everyone’s in danger at a scene like this, but fortunately there were no injuries,” Sheriff Bill Elfo said at a news conference.
Jenny Reich, who owns Whimsy Art Glass, was preparing to open her shop and told The Seattle Times that while she is accustomed to train noises, “all of a sudden it was a really big noise, and everything was shaking.”
Black smoke obscured her view, emergency personnel arrived, and Reich said she was advised to evacuate her business. She grabbed her wallet, keys and dog and left.
Home to five oil refineries, Washington state sees millions of gallons of crude oil move by rail through the state each week, coming from North Dakota and Alberta, Canada, according to the state Department of Ecology.
The seven cars derailed at about 11:46 a.m. Tuesday, BNSF Railway spokesperson Courtney Wallace said at the news conference. She said two people were on board the 108-car train headed from North Dakota to the Ferndale Refinery, owned by Phillips 66.
“BNSF is working with local authorities to assess and mitigate the situation,” the railway said on Twitter. “The cause of the incident is under investigation.”
The state Department of Ecology said a command center had been set up at the scene with the railway and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials.
Matt Krogh, director of U.S. Oil & Gas Campaigns for the environmental group Stand.earth, is based in Bellingham near the derailment and told The Associated Press he could see the smoke. He said the incident was another example of how transporting crude oil by train – especially in large numbers of tankers — is “very, very dangerous.”
He cited the 2013 fiery derailment of a train carrying crude in Lac Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people, and a 2016 derailment in Mosier, Oregon, along the Columbia River that caused people to evacuate.
Krogh said crude oil is volatile and there are often track maintenance concerns. Among other things, Krogh and his group would like to see a reduction in the number of tank cars allowed per shipment.
“I think we got lucky today,” he said, referring to the derailment in Custer.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said in a statement Tuesday he was concerned about the derailment. Larsen is a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“I worked closely with the Obama administration to create strong rules to make the transport of oil by rail safer,” Larsen said. “Clearly there may be more work to do.”
Custer, a small town of several hundred people, is about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Seattle.
A train derailed and caught fire in the Custer area Tuesday morning and residents and visitors within a half-mile were being evacuated, according to Whatcom County Public Works, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol.
The northbound train carrying crude oil derailed around 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22, in the Custer area, according to Courtney Wallace, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesperson, and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. It is a BNSF train and track, Wallace said.
The train derailed near the 7500 block of Portal Way, according to the sheriff’s office on Twitter. The sheriff’s office evacuated people within a half-mile of the derailment. Shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said on Twitter that the evacuation order was lifted for local residents of Custer. Once residents return home, they are asked to shelter in place and stay inside, the sheriff’s office said. Residents must show proof of residency in order to return home, the sheriff’s office said.
Roadblocks in the area will remain in place.
Seven railway cars derailed from the train and a fire started in two of the seven derailed cars, the sheriff’s office said. The fire was under control as of 3 p.m., but a few were still active as of 5 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.
There have been no reported injuries at this time, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director John Gargett told The Bellingham Herald about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Gargett said it’s unclear at this time whether there was damage to nearby structures or buildings. While he didn’t know the exact number of people who were evacuated, he said evacuations were ordered within a half-mile around the center of Custer.
He said the train was carrying Bakken crude oil, so evacuations were ordered out of an abundance of caution. People are asked to avoid the incident site, as it’s not safe to approach, the sheriff’s office said.
BNSF has set up a claims hotline for people who have been impacted by the evacuation at 1-866-243-4784.
We are working to evacuate a 1/2 mile radius from the site of the derailment. Train cars are on fire. I-5 is closed in both directions from Grandview to Birch Bay Lynden Rd. Train cars are on fire.
AGAIN, PLEASE AVOID THE AREA. pic.twitter.com/OuqC5NAuoE
Wallace, with BNSF, said the first priority is safety issues and BNSF is working with local authorities to assess and mitigate the situation.
She said the cause of the derailment is under investigation.
“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this incident,” BNSF said on Twitter.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman said there were still a few small pools of oil on fire as of 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Axtman said fire officials determined the fires would burn themselves out in a little while. Axtman said at this time it’s believed there was no damage to nearby structures from the derailment.
Income of $24,000 from the Int. Brotherhood of Boilermakers, etc. (previously reported here on the BenIndy on Nov. 3).
Accrued unpaid bills totaling $18,106
$5,000 for Live Calls (Winning Connections, Washington, D.C.)
$13,106 for professional services (law firm Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP, Sacramento)
2020 Year to date
Total Income of $49,000
Cash payments of $99,333
Accrued unpaid bills of $128,173
Total Expenditures (cash & unpaid) $227,506
Current Cash Statement
Ending Cash Balance of $197,779
The PAC’s ending balance of $197,779 can pay its accrued unpaid bills of $128,173 leaving over $51,000 in Valero’s war chest for future projects. Sigh….
Another form submitted, Form__465_3.pdf, did not disclose any new information.
According to a Nov. 12 email from Benicia City Clerk Lisa Wolfe, no further campaign finance reports are anticipated until December 31, 2020. Evidently, the Valero PAC will not need to report payment of its unpaid bills and any further income or outlays until then.