Tag Archives: Ventura CA

National Education Association (NEA) Opposes California Oil-train Project

Repost from The Center For Biological Diversity
[Editor:  Significant paragraph: “Thirteen school boards and five teachers’ unions in California have publicly opposed the Phillips 66 project, including in Ventura, Martinez and Oakland. Last month both the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers sent letters to county officials urging them to deny the project….”  See more below.  – RS]

NEA Opposes California’s Phillips 66 Oil-train Project Over Risks to Students

Dangerous Bomb Trains Would Threaten Hundreds of California Schools
For Immediate Release, July 15, 2015

WASHINGTON— Out of concern for the safety and wellbeing of students and teachers, the National Education Association today opposed the proposed Phillips 66 oil-train offloading facility in San Luis Obispo County. If approved the project would bring millions of gallons of hazardous crude oil nearly every day through highly populated areas near hundreds of schools.

With nearly 3 million members in 50 states and the District of Columbia, NEA is the nation’s largest professional employee organization and union. Its Representative Assembly voted earlier this month to send a letter urging the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to reject the project permit.

The NEA letter notes that at least 29 schools in San Luis Obispo County alone are close enough to the planned crude-by-rail route to suffer catastrophic consequences from a train derailment or an oil spill. “Please put student safety first,” the letter urges.

“Our members are concerned for the safety, health and wellbeing of their students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Hundreds of schools across California are within a mile of the potential ‘blast zone’ and could suffer catastrophic consequences in the event of a train derailment or oil spill.”

The county’s planning commission is expected to vote on the project in the coming months.

Thirteen school boards and five teachers’ unions in California have publicly opposed the Phillips 66 project, including in Ventura, Martinez and Oakland. Last month both the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers sent letters to county officials urging them to deny the project, citing the high risk of train derailment and toxic diesel emissions, which are especially harmful to children.

“Our schoolchildren at these schools are in extreme risk if there is a major oil-train accident,” said Kathleen Minck, 30-year elementary school teacher and member of the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association, which sent a letter of opposition to the project last month. “Also, increasing air pollution from the trains will affect all our children with asthma, even in the absence of a major accident.”

Nearly 20 local governments along the rail route affected by the Santa Maria Phillips 66 project have also submitted letters or passed resolutions against the project, including San Jose, Berkeley, Davis and Ventura County. More than 23,000 people from across California have also voiced opposition to the project.

“Teachers across America want San Luis Obispo’s dangerous oil-train project stopped in its tracks,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “County officials must understand that approving this facility would endanger hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren across California and beyond. It’s critical not to put schools and communities in the path of these explosive bomb trains.”

Background
The nearly 3 million-member NEA is the largest professional employee organization and labor union in the country — representing public school teachers and other support personnel, faculty and staffers, retired educators, and college students preparing to become teachers — with affiliate organizations representing 14,000 school communities in every state and the District of Columbia as well as educators working on military bases in the United States and abroad.

In 2015 there have already been five major fiery oil-train derailments, including in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario. In May the U.S. Department of Transportation released new rail tank car regulations, which will take 10 years to be phased in — and which still leave the public at severe risk from oil trains.

Shipments of crude oil by rail have increased by 4,000 percent since 2008. More oil was spilled in train accidents in 2013 than in the previous 38 years combined, and in 2014 there were more oil train accidents than in any other year on record.

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    San Luis Obispo Refinery Wants Oil by Train

    Repost from The Santa Barbara Independent

    SLO Refinery Wants Oil by Train

    Phillips 66 Runs into Public Resistance over Proposal to Lay New Tracks and Unload More Canadian Crude

    By Natalie Cherot, January 23, 2015

    Courtesy PhotoA slow-moving pipeline moves a haul of crude oil to a refinery just north of the Santa Barbara County border. Stand on the nearby coast’s 18,000-year-old sand dunes and look away from the sea, and a perfect view emerges of the expansive Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery. The name is a misnomer. The San Luis Obispo facility on the Nipomo Mesa is 17 miles northwest from the City of Santa Maria. Directly south is the Santa Maria River.

    Golden Sierra Madre mountains shimmer in the distance, and hearty sage scrub surrounds its perimeter alongside grazing cattle. The night sky around the facility is never dark; its aquarium lights border on festive. The illumination is necessary because the refinery is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It begins the process of turning crude into a finished product like gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel, and pumps the semi-refined batches 200 miles north to the San Francisco Bay Area plants for finishing.

    With oil prices dropping and California supplies both dwindling and facing harsh competition from North Dakota, much speculation swirls on the question of what kind of oil will arrive to the refinery on the dunes in the coming years. Right now it is “mostly used for California-produced oil,” said Phillips 66 spokesperson Rich Johnson.

    But as of 2013, Phillips 66’s newest product is Canadian tar sands, a thick, gooey combination of clay, sand, water, and viscous bitumen. It’s hard to control and expensive to process. The Kearl Lake tar sands field cuts through Alberta’s boreal forest and wetlands, and has been turned into a mined landscape. An estimated 170 billion more barrels are still available for the taking.

    In the summer of 2013, Phillips 66 submitted permit applications to San Luis Obispo County’s Planning Commission to add 1.3 miles of train track to its Santa Maria Refinery’s existing rail spur so crude can be delivered by train rather than by pipe. The proposed upgrades, which include five parallel tracks, an unloading facility, and new on-site pipelines, wouldn’t increase the amount of crude processed at the facility — volume is capped by the county’s Air Pollution Control District — but they reflect an increasing amount of oil train traffic across the country. BusinessWeek.com reported that it’s tripled in the last four years.

    According to the project’s draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the facility would be able to handle five train unloads a week for a maximum of 250 a year. Each train with about 80 tanks on board would carry between 1.8 million and 2.1 million gallons of crude.

    A first draft of the EIR — which indicated that both Canadian tar sands and North Dakota Bakken formation crude would be carried on the trains — was published that fall and received 800 public comments. The massive amount of feedback, much of it negative, prompted the Planning Commission to delay a final decision on the project. The commission issued a second 889-page draft EIR in October 2014, and a few weeks from now, a public comment period will take place. The date has not been finalized.

    The biggest contention in the first draft was about Bakken crude. “The bottom line is Bakken Crude likes to burn and it will not take much to get it going,” wrote Paul Lee, battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in a letter to the San Luis Obispo Planning and Building Department. For preparation of the second draft EIR, Phillips 66 requested the county “delete statements suggesting that the Bakken oilfield as the most likely source of crude oil.” The new draft EIR states no Bakken will arrive by rail. Phillips’s spokesperson Rich Johnson said the refinery can’t handle the sweeter, lighter Bakken crude, as it specializes in the ultra-heavy tar sands.

    Four accidents involving Bakken crude are mentioned in the latest report. A 30,000-barrel spill occurred in April 2014 in Lynchburg, Virginia, when a transport train derailed and erupted into flames. In November 2013, a train jumped the tracks in Aliceville, Alabama. Twelve tanker cars of Bakken spilled and caught fire. The next month, another oil train crashed in Casselton, North Dakota, where 20 cars of Bakken exploded and burned for 24 hours. Forty-seven people died when a train carrying the crude derailed and exploded in Quebec on July 2013.

    The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued a warning to move transportation of Bakken oil away from highly populated areas because of explosion risks. “Most think that Crude will not get going unless it gets warmed up first and in some cases that is correct, [but] Bakken Crude does not need to be aggravated to burn or even explode,” wrote Lee. “The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is concerned about its ability to explode so much in fact that there is a recommendation to have rail avoid populated areas.”

    Phillips 66’s rail expansion plan is part of larger national strategy to better accommodate tar sands coming out of the ground quicker than the current system of pipelines can handle. “Our real challenge that we have, or opportunity that we have, is to get advantaged crudes to the East Coast and West Coast,” said Greg Garland, chairman and CEO of Phillips 66, at the Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference last year. “So we’re working that in terms of moving Canadian crudes down into California or building rail facilities.”

    Two thousands miles north in Alberta, Canada, the contentious Keystone XL pipeline would transport tar sands through Montana, Nebraska, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Houston. The pipeline’s foes claim the fuel is too emission-intensive and corrosive to pipelines. Supporters say if the Keystone XL is blocked, tar sands will come by the more dangerous transportation methods of boat or rail. Recent Philips 66 literature states: “Until new pipeline projects come online, rail is in many cases the easiest and most cost efficient way to get advantaged crude to some of our refineries.”

    Trains coming and going from Santa Maria Refinery would travel the path of the Union Pacific Rail, on tracks shared by Amtrak. They would make the journey north through the Nipomo Mesa, up the precarious Cuesta Grade through Paso Robles, Salinas, and San Jose. Then they head through Richmond, then Berkeley. Richmond and Berkeley city councils recently passed resolutions calling for stricter regulations on crude oil trains.

    The paths of the trains coming from the south — and carrying crude from any number of sources — are unclear and not ironed out in the draft EIR, but they would likely go through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. A potential path indicated in the report heads through downtown Moorpark at the eastern edge of Ventura County after it passes through Simi Valley, but that potential route may have hit a glitch.

    On December 17, the Moorpark City Council voted to send a letter to the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission opposing Phillip 66’s proposal because of its potentially hazardous risks. “I feel strongly that we need to show a little bit of leadership here as a city to formally object to this,” said one councilmember. “Hopefully other cities along this track will as well.” According to the report, once the trains leave Moorpark they could head through Camarillo to Ventura and along the coast to Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta.

    Johnson does not see much long-term job growth — or even stability — at the refinery given its current pipeline setup and a recent dip in statewide supplies. To stay competitive, company officials have argued, the refinery needs to revamp its intake methods so it can accept crude from other sources. “We are trying to keep the jobs we have,” Johnson said of the 200 people working at the plant. “Oil production in California is on the decline.” Rumors of a too-twisted and warped Monterey Shale formation from years of tectonic activity became a public reality in May when the government agency, Energy Information Administration, downgraded a predicted 13.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil to 600 million.

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