Tag Archives: Violations of law

Rail safety bill sent to CA Governor – requires minimum 2-person crews

Press Release from California State Senator Lois Wolk
[Editor:  Significant quote: “According to the CPUC, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation — rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year”  See also coverage in The Reporter, Vacaville, CA.  – RS]

Wolk rail safety bill sent to Governor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 21, 2015, Contact: Melissa Jones, (916) 651-4003 
Bill requires minimum two–person train crews

SACRAMENTO—The State Assembly voted 51-28 yesterday to approve legislation by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to protect communities along rail lines and railroad workers by requiring trains and light engines carrying freight within California to be operated with an adequate crew size. The bill now goes to the Governor.

“Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas, and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said Wolk.

“With more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger. I urge the Governor to sign this bill into law, providing greater protection to communities located along rail lines in California, and to railroad workers.”

SB 730 prohibits a freight train or light engine in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals.   It also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess civil penalties, at its discretion, against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.

The CPUC supports SB 730, stating that requiring two-person crews is a straightforward way of ensuring two qualified crew members continue to operate freight trains in California.  According to the CPUC, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation –rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year.

“Senator Wolk’s legislation helps keep us at the forefront of rail safety,” said Paul King, Deputy Director of the Office of Rail Safety for the CPUC. “Senator Wolk’s bill would ensure that freight trains continue to have the safety redundancy that a second person provides. Such redundancy is a fundamental safety principle that is evidenced in certain industries, such as using two pilots in an airplane cockpit, or requiring back-up cooling systems for nuclear reactors.”

The bill is also supported by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; California Teamsters Public Affairs Council; and United Transportation Union.

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    Chevron fined for air pollution at Richmond refinery

    Repost from SFGate

    Chevron fined for air pollution at Richmond refinery

    By Kurtis Alexander, August 11, 2015 2:42 pm

    Chevron has agreed to pay $146,000 in fines for spewing pollutants into the air at its refinery in Richmond, air quality regulators said Tuesday.

    The penalty stems from 22 citations from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District mostly for discharging unhealthy levels of hydrogen sulfide and other harmful compounds through flaring, the process of burning off excess gas, common at industrial sites.

    The refinery was also cited for excess carbon monoxide coming out of its furnace.

    “Even though the incidents were minor and did not result in any significant impacts to people or the environment, we take these matters seriously, and have taken preventative measures to avoid similar situations from occurring in the future,” said Leah Casey, a spokeswoman for Chevron Corp., in an e-mail to The Chronicle.

    The notices of violation were sent to Chevron between 2012 and 2014. The fines will support the air district’s enforcement work.

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      Pipeline that spilled oil on California coast badly corroded

      Repost from SFGate

      Pipeline that spilled oil on California coast badly corroded

      By Michael R. Blood and Brian Melley, Associated Press, Wednesday, June 3, 2015 10:50 pm
      FILE - This Friday, May 22, 2015 file photo shows signscmarking the beach closed to fishing and harvesting while cleanup crews in the background shovel and rake contaminated sand into bags at El Capitan State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif. Two weeks after an underground pipeline broke on May 19, 2015, crews continued to clean up oil-covered beaches along California’ Central Coast. Photo: Michael A. Mariant, AP / FR96689 AP
      FILE – This Friday, May 22, 2015 file photo shows signs marking the beach closed to fishing and harvesting while cleanup crews in the background shovel and rake contaminated sand into bags at El Capitan State Beach, north of Goleta, California two weeks after an underground pipeline broke on May 19, 2015. Crews continued to clean up oil-covered beaches along California’ Central Coast. Photo: Michael A. Mariant, AP

      LOS ANGELES (AP) — A pipeline rupture that spilled an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude oil near Santa Barbara last month occurred along a badly corroded section that had worn away to a fraction of an inch in thickness, federal regulators disclosed Wednesday.

      The preliminary findings released by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration point to a possible cause of the May 19 spill that blackened popular beaches and created a 9-mile slick in the Pacific Ocean.

      The agency said investigators found corrosion at the break site had degraded the pipe wall thickness to 1/16 of an inch, and that there was a 6-inch opening near the bottom of the pipe. Additionally, the report noted that the area that failed was close to three repairs made because of corrosion found in 2012 inspections.

      The findings indicate 82 percent of the metal pipe wall had worn away.

      “There is pipe that can survive 80 percent wall loss,” said Richard Kuprewicz, president of Accufacts Inc., which investigates pipeline incidents. “When you’re over 80 percent, there isn’t room for error at that level.”

      The morning of the spill, operators in the company’s Houston control center detected mechanical issues and shut down pumps on the line. The pumps were restarted about 20 minutes later and then failed, prompting another shutdown of the line.

      Restarting the pumps could have led to a rupture, or a break in the line could have caused the pumps to fail, but Kuprewicz cautioned it’s still too soon to determine what caused the failure.

      In either case, a hole that size would have leaked at a high rate — even with the pumps off — and may not have been quickly detected by remote operators.

      The agency documents said findings by metallurgists who examined the pipe wall thickness at the break site conflicted with the results of inspections conducted May 5 for operator Plains All American Pipeline. Those inspections pinpointed a 45 percent loss of wall thickness in the area of the pipe break, meaning they concluded the pipe was in far better condition.

      Government inspectors “noted general external corrosion of the pipe body during field examination of the failed pipe segment,” the report said.

      Investigators found “this thinning of the pipe wall is greater than the 45 percent metal loss which was indicated” by the recent Plains All American inspections.

      The agency ordered the company to conduct additional research and possible repairs on the line, which has been shut down indefinitely.

      Plains All American said in a regulatory filing that there is no timeline to restart the line, which runs along the coast north of Santa Barbara. A company spokeswoman said there’s no estimate yet of the cost of cleanup, which involves nearly 1,200 people.

      The agency also ordered restrictions on a second stretch of pipeline, which the company had shut down May 19, restarted, then shut down again on Saturday.

      That second line had similar insulation and welds to the line that spilled oil last month. It cannot be started until the company completes a series of steps, including testing.

      The company said in a statement that it is committed to working with federal investigators “to understand the differences between these preliminary findings, to determine why the corrosion developed and to determine the cause of the incident.”

      Plains said it won’t know the cause until the investigation, including the metallurgical analysis, is concluded.

      The company has come under fire from California’s U.S. senators, who issued a statement last week calling the response to the spill insufficient and demanding the pipeline company explain what it did, and when, after firefighters discovered the leak from the company’s underground 24-inch pipe.

      A commercial fisherman sued Plains in federal court Monday, alleging the environmental disaster would cause decades of harm to the shore. He is seeking class-action status and damages for business owners who have lost money because of the spill.

      As of Tuesday, 36 sea lions, 9 dolphins and 87 birds in the area have died, officials said. Another 32 sea lions, 6 elephant seals and 58 birds were rescued and were being treated.

      Popular state beaches and campgrounds polluted by the spill are closed until at least June 18.

      Plains All American and its subsidiaries operate 17,800 miles of crude oil and natural gas pipelines across the country, according to federal regulators

      The spill is also being investigated by federal, state and local prosecutors for possible violations of law.

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