Repost from Oregon Public Broadcasting [Editor: Would someone please get California candidates to talk about the pollution and derailment dangers of oil trains?? – RS]
Inslee, Bryant Agree To Disagree Over Oil Trains In Washington
By Emily Schwing Northwest News Network | Aug. 18, 2016 2:58 p.m. | Updated: Aug. 19, 2016 8:57 a.m.
Washington gubernatorial candidates touched on the topic of oil trains during their first debate of the season in Spokane Wednesday.
Republican challenger Bill Bryant said oil trains are something he and incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee agree on.
“If they are going to be bringing in highly flammable material and bringing in oil, they better be bringing it in on cars that meet safety standards and on rails that are safe enough to transport that commodity,” Bryant said.
If elected, Bryant said he’d put a moratorium on any new state regulations. That’s why Inslee said he disagrees with his opponent.
“The very first thing I heard my opponent say today is ‘all regulations are bad.’ This is the only way we are going to get more safety on railroads,” Inslee said. “These sound bites can come back to prevent us from making progress.”
Inslee called for reduced train speeds, improved track inspections and support for electronic braking systems.
Spokane’s city council has spent the last month wrestling with whether local government can regulate the shipment of volatile crude oil within city limits. Debate over that question has grown since an oil train derailed in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge in June.
The candidates also debated over an economic development project west of Spokane that includes a casino. Inslee signed off on the project in June. He said the Spokane County project is part of his larger effort to bolster rural economies.
“It’s gonna be decades of work, there’s gonna be tons of economic development associated with this,” Inslee said.
The Spokane Indian Tribe expects to break ground next month on the casino, as well as shops, restaurants, a cultural center — and it’s happening a mile from Fairchild Air Force Base.
Inslee said he had meetings with high-ranking officials before he signed off.
“I was not going to build a casino and lose Fairchild. I was not going to do that,” Inslee said. “The guy in the Pentagon told me that and I’m taking that to the bank.”
Fairchild is the largest employer in Spokane County. Inslee’s Republican Challenger Bill Bryant expressed concerns about base expansion in the future.
“One thing I learned from the apple industry is you better make sure what you’re planting today, is what you want to harvest in four or seven years,” he said.
If elected, Bryant suggested he might develop a 10-year plan to work with the military.
In the Northwest, the number of trains carrying oil along the Columbia River could dramatically increase, and that’s sharpened a debate over oil train safety in Washington state and Oregon. There’s a plan to ship more oil from the Bakken region to a proposed oil terminal in Washington. As Conrad Wilson of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, a recent derailment has shown the potential danger the area faces.
CONRAD WILSON, BYLINE: On a Friday in early June, more than 40,000 gallons of Bakken crude spilled in a fiery oil train derailment that burned for 14 hours.
EMILY REED: It is an incredibly scary thing to have something like this happen so – and within our city limits, so close to our school.
WILSON: Emily Reed is the city council president in Mosier, Ore., the town where the derailment took place. About 500 people live in Mosier, and 100 of them were forced to evacuate when the oil train derailed. Reed points out the town’s deep in the Columbia River Gorge, a canyon with steep cliffs, where winds can reach 40 miles per hour during the summer.
REED: If the wind had been as it is today or more, we would have had a fire going up more than four of those cars, all the way through town and wiping out our town.
WILSON: Union Pacific was to blame for the derailment that caused the oil spill, according to a preliminary report by the Federal Railroad Administration. It says Union Pacific didn’t maintain its tracks properly. However, an inspector certified by that same federal agency checked the tracks and gave them the OK a little more than a month before the derailment.
JERRY OLIVER: It was unfortunate for the community.
WILSON: Jerry Oliver is a port commissioner in Vancouver, Wash., and a vocal supporter of what would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country, known as the Vancouver Energy Project.
OLIVER: It’s also unfortunate because it gives a tremendous black eye to anything related to fossil fuels.
WILSON: If built, the terminal would more than double the number of mile-long oil trains traveling along the Columbia River, to about 46 trains per week. Serena Larkin is with the Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that opposes the oil terminal. She says until Mosier, oil train derailments were the kind of thing that happened somewhere else.
SERENA LARKIN: Mosier proved that we’re not any different. We are just as vulnerable. We are facing the exact same risks from oil trains that everyone else in North America is facing right now.
WILSON: Despite low oil prices, proponents of the project say the terminal is needed to reduce foreign imports and move domestic oil. For now, it’s relying on oil trains because there aren’t enough pipelines to move oil from North Dakota to the West Coast. Larkin says Mosier’s a turning point in the debate surrounding the Vancouver oil terminal and one that will weigh heavily on whether the project gets permitted.
LARKIN: It showed what the Vancouver oil terminal is really asking Northwest communities to shoulder in risk.
DAN RILEY: I strongly believe that all accidents are preventable.
WILSON: Dan Riley is vice president of government affairs for Tesoro, an oil company behind the project. Since the derailment in Mosier, he says there has been more scrutiny.
RILEY: I think that the criticism is not of the project, but of the rail system.
WILSON: Reilly says Tesoro has also pledged to only allow tank cars with thicker shells and other safety features designed to withstand a derailment into the Vancouver facility. But that’s done little to ease the safety concerns of firefighters and environmental groups. Ultimately, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has the final say on whether the project gets approved. That decision could come later this year. Inslee’s acknowledged the risk oil trains pose. He says the Mosier derailment is among the things he’ll consider when determining whether or not he’ll permit the oil terminal. For NPR News, I’m Conrad Wilson in Vancouver, Wash.
Gorge leaders oppose Vancouver oil terminal as hearings wrap up
By Patrick Mulvihill, August 5, 2016
Gorge leaders spoke out against a proposed oil-by-marine terminal in Vancouver as hearings over the project’s fate came to a close July 29.
Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) heard closing arguments for an environmental review of the terminal proposed by Vancouver Energy, a venture spearheaded by Tesoro Corp.
EFSEC is charged with recommending whether Washington Gov. Jay Inslee should approve or reject the 360,000-barrel per day oil hub at the Port of Vancouver, and panel’s decision is expected in late 2016.
At Friday’s hearing — the final chance for public oral testimony — local elected leaders and environmental advocates evoked the recent memory of Mosier, where a crude oil bearing train derailed and caught fire on June 3.
Arlene Burns, mayor of Mosier, gave the panel a stark depiction of the aftermath.
“We’re really still exhausted,” she said. “This is going to be an ongoing, long-term process that we’re going to be dealing with,” Burns said.
She noted that Mosier’s groundwater had been contaminated by oil during the spill. Drinking water has been declared safe, but concerns remain for the rainy season washing out remaining oil in the ground.
Peter Cornelison, a Hood River City Council member and field representative for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, argued the risks of a new terminal — and boosted train traffic — would affect all river communities.
Proponents of the terminal highlighted economic benefits and stressed a need for United States’ independence in the oil industry. They said the terminal would be held to regulatory safeguards.
“We believe the evidence has demonstrated that this project is necessary to secure a strong sustainable reliable supply of energy for the citizens of Washington,” Jay P. Derr, an attorney representing Tesoro, said.
“We ask the council to recognize and remember the benefits the Port of Vancouver provides, and work hard to avoid … hurting those structures and processes that allow the port to provide those benefits to the community,” said David Bartz, a port attorney.
Most testimony disagreed with the terminal’s backers about the project’s safety and economic value.
Washington Attorney General’s Office came out last week against the terminal. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the potential benefits of the project are “dramatically outweighed by the potential risks and costs of a spill.”
The cities of Vancouver and Spokane also voiced opposition, a sentiment expressed in recent months by letters and resolutions by tribes, advocacy groups and governments throughout the region.
Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, said the local group hopes in light of the Mosier derailment, EFSEC will recognize the risk of another fiery oil train wreck in the Columbia Gorge.
Both sides in the issue will now file closing written briefs, ending testimony. EFSEC is expected to issue a decision in late 2016. From there, Inslee will make a decision that can be appealed in state supreme court.
Clean fuels shaping up as fight of the year in Sacramento
New battle lines drawn in fight over low-carbon policy
By Laurel Rosenhall, CALmatters, Mar 5, 2016 Updated: 3/6/16 3:33pm
A Harvard economist known globally for his work on climate change policy sat in the Sacramento office of the oil industry’s lobbying firm recently, making the case that California is fighting global warming the wrong way.
The state has a good cap and trade system, Robert Stavins said, but some of its other environmental policies are weakening it. He pointed to a rule known as the low carbon fuel standard, which is supposed to increase production of clean fuels.
Environmental advocates consider it a complement to the cap and trade program that makes industry pay for emitting carbon; Stavins had other words.
“It’s contradictory. It’s counter-productive. It’s perverse,” he said. “I would recommend eliminating it.”
California’s low carbon fuel policy is shaping up as a major fight this year for the state’s oil industry, an influential behemoth that spent more than $10.9 million lobbying Sacramento last year, more than any other interest group.
“There’s a storm coming,” biofuels lobbyist Chris Hessler told a roomful of clean energy advocates at a recent conference on low carbon fuels. “If we don’t meet this attack vigorously, we’re all going to be in a lot of trouble.”
NEW BATTLE LINES
The oil industry was front and center in the biggest fight to hit the state Capitol last year: a proposal to cut California’s petroleum consumption in half over the next 15 years to slow the pace of climate change. The industry won its battle when lawmakers stripped the oil provision from Senate Bill 350.
But California’s larger oil war is far from over, and the newest battle lines are beginning to emerge.
Gov. Jerry Brown is plowing ahead with plans to cut vehicle oil use in half through executive orders and regulations like the low carbon fuel standard. The standard requires producers to cut the carbon intensity of their fuels 10 percent by 2020. To reach the standard, refineries will have to make a blend that uses more alternative fuels — like ethanol — and less oil.
The program was adopted in 2009 but was locked in a court battle for years. California regulators prevailed, and took action last year to resume the program. Now producers must start changing the way they formulate their fuel or buy credits if their product is over the limit.
That’s led to higher costs for fuel makers, which they are passing on to consumers at a rate of about 4 cents per gallon, according to the California Energy Commission. But the price is likely to keep increasing, the oil industry warns, as it gets tougher to meet the standard that increases over time.
Which is where Stavins’ argument comes in. It goes like this: the cleaner fuels required by the low carbon fuel standard will emit less greenhouse gas. That will reduce the need for fuel producers to buy permits in the cap and trade system (which makes industry pay for emitting climate-warming pollution) and create additional emissions by allowing other manufacturers to buy the pollution permits.
Less demand will also depress prices on the cap and trade market.
Stavins is the director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program and part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a prestigious group of experts who review research for the United Nations.
He’s also an advisor to the Western States Petroleum Association, which paid him to make the trip to Sacramento, where he talked with reporters before a day of meetings with lawmakers and business leaders.
Environmental advocates and California clean air regulators reject his view. They say the fuel standard works in harmony with other carbon-reducing programs and it’s an important piece of California’s effort to achieve its climate change goals.
“One of the major goals of the low carbon fuel standard… is to drive innovation of new and alternative low carbon fuels,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board. “The cap and trade program on its own cannot do that.”
Alternative fuel producers gathered in a ballroom near the Capitol days after Stavins’ visit to Sacramento. During a presentation on the rising price of low carbon fuel credits, Hessler, the biofuels lobbyist, warned that the program is coming under “political attack.”
He defended the fuel standard by saying the regulation limits the price of the credits, and the cost to consumers will be kept down as some fuel producers make money by selling credits to others. He urged conference participants to share his information with California policymakers to counter opposition to the low carbon fuel standard.
“We’ve got to be ready for this,” Hessler said.
HOW THINGS COULD GO DOWN
A fight last year over a low carbon fuel standard in the state of Washington may provide some clues about how things could go down here.
There, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a low carbon fuel standard but failed to earn enough support for it in the Legislature. The fuel standard became a bargaining chip for Republicans in negotiations about funding for transportation infrastructure.
Here in California, lawmakers and Gov. Brown are also negotiating a plan to pay for a backlog of repairs to state roads and highways. Brown has pitched spending $36 billion over the next decade with a mix of taxes and other revenue sources.
Republican votes are necessary to reach the two-thirds threshold for approving new taxes. So far, Republicans have balked at the plan, with some suggesting that the fuel standard should be included in the negotiations.
“As we’re having the discussions about transportation funding in general in California, and transportation taxes in particular, this ought to be part of the discussion,” said Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia.
It’s a message echoed by the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, which advocated against the low carbon fuel standard in Washington.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd said she wants California lawmakers to “take a very hard look” at the low carbon fuel standard as they consider the future of climate change policies and the desire to repair the state’s roads.
“All those things interplay,” Reheis-Boyd said. “That’s a big conversation. I think people across the state are willing to have it, and I think we’re at a pivotal point to have it this year.”
CALmatters is a nonprofit journalism venture dedicated to explaining state policies and politics. For more news analysis by Laurel Rosenhall go to https://calmatters.org/newsanalysis/.