Tag Archives: Yolano Climate Action

Oil train organizing in Davis, California

Repost from an email, Lynne Nittler, of Davis, CA
[Editor:  Lynne Nittler and her friends at Cool Davis and Yolano Climate Action do a great job of organizing.  Davis is a primary “uprail community” that would be at high risk if Valero Benicia Refinery’s Crude By Rail proposal is permitted.  I appreciated Lynne’s recent update and summary, below.  – RS]

Oil Train: photos, Ca Energy Commission powerpoint, & actions

From: Lynne Nittler
Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:15 PM

Dear oil train friends,

1.  July 11 Stop Oil Trains Action –  photos

On July 11, over 80 Davis residents turned out to remember the 2013 oil derailment that decimated Lac-Megantic, taking 47 lives.  Davis faces the threat of a similar accident.  Currently, at least one oil train of Bakken Crude per week passes through Davis headed to the Bay Area.  Two more 100-car trains per day are planned for the near future for the Valero Refinery in Benicia and the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo…unless citizens stop them.

The Davis Stop Oil Trains action was one of many during the Week of Oil Train Action.  Check out photographs from actions across the country here.  Look for Davis!  https://www.flickr.com/photos/foresethics/sets/72157655110369339

See our own review with photos here:  https://yolanoclimateaction.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/davis-residents-protest-oil-trains-moving-through-town/

2.  Review of July 11:

Locally, the ForestEthics  www.Blast-Zone.org map shows endangered homes and businesses along 2nd Street including the police station, Carlton Plaza Senior Living and Rancho Yolo.  The entire Davis downtown is vulnerable along with parts of UC Davis campus and apartments complexes along Olive Drive.

The July 11 Vigil and Rally highlighted public opposition to oil trains passing through Davis. Too many residents live in the oil train blast zone, the one mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.

Wearing fiery red, yellow and orange shirts, Davisites met at the train station and walked through the Davis blast zone downtown to the Rotary Stage in Central Park.

We sang feisty songs led by the Raging Grannies.  We’ll be starting a group in Davis.  Let Lynne know if you’re interested.

Mayor Dan Wolk explained the city council’s resolution opposing oil by rail, available at http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20140422/04B-Opposing-Oil-By-Rail.pdf

City Councilman Lucas Frerichs spoke on the Sacramento Area Council of Government’s nearly unanimous decision to confront the issue.  SACOG is composed of 22 cities and 6 counties.  http://www.sacog.org/calendar/2014/08/rail/pdf/2-Valero%20EIR%20Comments.pdf

At the state level, Senator Lois Wolk shared the past and present legislative responses to the sudden surge of crude-by-rail transport into California aimed at protecting the public as well as sensitive habitat and waterways.

Supervisor Jim Provenza and Damien Luzzo focused on the extraction side of the issue in Yolo County.  Damien offered his story about how he came to oppose fracking at http://tinyurl.com/CAFrackWars and the Pledge of Resistance at http://tinyurl.com/FrackingPledgeOfResistance.  Sign his petition to ban fracking!

3.  Urgent Action:  Urge Assemblyman Bill Dodd to support SB32 & SB350!   Information on the proposed Yolo ban on fracking were available as well as a letter to Assemblyman Bill Dodd urging him to support two critical climate bills due for a vote in mid-August:

  • SB32 extending our CA carbon reduction bill, and
  • SB350 aiming for 50% lower car emissions, 50% greater building efficiency, and 50% more solar and wind-generated electricity  by 2030.

4.  Conclusion:

There is NO safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude. Two years after Lac-Mégantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising.  Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety, and our climate.

Given the unresolved dangers of crude oil transport by rail and the overload of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere, a more prudent path is to leave all extreme crude in the ground, transition to clean, renewable energy, and practice energy conservation in an effort to reverse climate change and live sustainably on a finite planet.

5.  Next oil train actions:

Powerpoint by CA Energy Commission: Read attached, a thorough and up-to-date powerpoint, to educate yourself on national and state oil and crude by rail issues in CA.  Excellent resource!

Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo:  We are waiting for a hearing announcement where we can testify.

Valero Refinery in Benicia:  The revised DEIR will be released on Aug. 31 for a 45-day written public comment period.  Our letters will be crucial when the Planning commission and late the City council makes their decisions whether to finalize the EIR and permit Valero’s rail spur.

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    Crude oil train protests planned in Sacramento and Davis

    Repost from The Sacramento Bee
    [Editor:  Check this out – Benicia’s uprail friends are getting out on the tracks, and they are getting the media’s attention.  Thanks to everyone who is following this story.  Benicia is in the “crosshairs” of a nationwide – worldwide – focus on this dangerous and dirty money grab by the oil and rail industries.  More and more, thoughtful people are saying, “No, not here.”  – RS]

    Crude oil train protests planned in Sacramento, Davis

    By Tony Bizjak, Jul. 8, 2014
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    Jake Miille / Special to The Bee | A crude oil train operated by BNSF snakes its way west through James, Calif., just outside the Feather River Canyon in the foothills into the Sacramento Valley.

    Laurie Litman, who lives a block from the rail tracks in midtown Sacramento, says oil and rail companies are about to put her neighborhood and plenty of others in danger, and she wants to stop it.

    Litman is among a group of environmental activists in Sacramento and Davis who will gather this week at the Federal Railroad Administration office in Sacramento and at the Davis train station to protest plans by oil companies to run hundreds of rail cars carrying crude through local downtowns every day. The protests, on the anniversary of an oil train crash and explosion that killed 47 people in the Canadian city of Lac-Megantic, will spotlight a plan by Valero Refining Co. of Benicia to launch twice-daily crude oil train shipments through downtown Roseville, Sacramento and Davis early next year.

    “Our goal is to stop the oil trains,” said Litman of 350 Sacramento, a new local environmental group. “We are talking about 900-foot fireballs. There is nothing a first responder (fire agency) can do with a 900-foot fireball.”

    Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, an advocate for increased crude oil rail safety, will speak at noon Wednesday during the Sacramento event at 8th and I streets. The Yolano Climate Action group will distribute leaflets at the Davis train station Tuesday and Wednesday evening about the Valero proposal. The Davis City Council recently passed a resolution saying it opposes running the trains on the existing downtown Davis rail line.

    The protests are among the first in the Sacramento area in response to a recent surge in crude oil rail transports nationally, prompted mainly by new oil drilling of cheaper oils in North Dakota, Montana and Canada. In California, where rail shipments have begun to replace marine deliveries from Alaskan oil fields and overseas sources, state safety leaders recently issued a report saying California is not yet prepared to deal with the risks from increased rail shipments of crude.

    Oil and railroad industry officials point out that 99.9 percent of crude oil shipments nationally arrive at their destinations without incident, and that the industry is reducing train speeds through cities, helping train local fire and hazardous material spill crews, and working with the federal government on plans for a new generation of safer rail tanker cars. Valero officials as well say their crude oil trains can move safely through Sacramento, and a recent report sponsored by the city of Benicia concluded that an oil spill along the rail line to Benicia is highly unlikely.

    In a letter last week, however, four Northern California members of Congress called on the federal government to require oil and rail companies take more steps to make rail crude shipments safer. The letter was signed by Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, George Miller, D-Martinez, Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove.

    “We are especially concerned with the high risks involved with transporting .. more flammable crude in densely populated areas,” the group wrote to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Should spills or explosions occur, as we have seen over the last year, the consequences could be disastrous.”

    The four lawmakers said oil companies should be required to remove more volatile gases from Bakken crude oil before it is shipped nationally from North Dakota. The federal government issued a warning earlier this year about Bakken crude after several Bakken trains exploded during derailments. The California Congress members also encouraged federal representatives to move quickly to require railroads to install advanced train control and braking systems. Industry officials have said those systems, called Positive Train Control, are expensive and will take extended time to put into place.

    Representatives from a handful of Sacramento area cities and counties are scheduled to meet this week to review Valero’s crude oil train plans, and to issue a formal response to the environmental document published two weeks ago by Benicia that concluded derailments and spills are highly unlikely. City of Davis official Mike Webb said one spill and explosion could be catastrophic, and that as more oil companies follow Valero’s lead by bringing crude oil trains of their own through Sacramento, the chances of crashes increase.

    The Sacramento group has indicated it wants a detailed advanced notification system about what shipments are coming to town. Those notifications will help fire agencies who must respond if a leak or fire occurs. Local officials say they also will ask Union Pacific to keep crude-oil tank cars moving through town without stopping and parking them here. The region’s leaders also want financial support to train firefighters and other emergency responders on how to deal with crude oil spills, and possibly funds to buy more advanced firefighting equipment. Sacramento leaders say they will press the railroad to employ the best inspection protocols on the rail line.

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/08/6541363/crude-oil-train-protests-planned.html#storylink=cp

     

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      Crude-oil trains through Davis: It’s time for action

      Repost from The Davis Enterprise

      Crude-oil trains through Davis: It’s time for action

      By Lynne Nittler  | June 08, 2014
      Tankers at Picnic DayW
      Tank cars carrying crude oil roll through downtown Davis as paradegoers gather on Picnic Day in April. Richard McAdam/Courtesy photo

      Davis-DEIR-Workshop_Learn-MoreI’m proud of our city. The Davis City Council took on crude-by-rail transport through our community, just as I have seen it tackle other difficult issues — with the willingness to look beneath the surface, find out what is important and then figure out what to do.

      I’m sure the council members would have preferred shrugging off the crude-by-rail problem, leaving it for the federal government to handle, but we citizens pressed them, and to their credit, they became regional leaders.

      The problem: The issue isn’t abstract for Davis. If two proposals are approved down-rail from us, we soon could be seeing 180 tank cars coming right through our town every day, carrying the highly volatile North Dakota Bakken crude oil in the older, unsafe DOT111 cars.

      A proposed rail terminal at the Benicia Valero refinery would bring 70,000 barrels a day, which equals a train of 100 cars, and a proposed rail spur at the Phillips 66 Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo County would bring another 80 cars per day through Davis on the Capitol Corridor route.

      When a group of local citizens approached the Davis Natural Resources Commission in January with our concerns, we found a receptive audience. Those concerns are numerous: unsafe tank cars prone to rupture, uninspected rails, the nature of volatile crude oil and dirty tar sands, oil train exclusion from the right-to-know laws, substantially increased numbers of serious oil train accidents and spills, and skyrocketing projections for the number of oil trains entering California.

      The commission elevated the citizen recommendations to the City Council.

      City goals: The council listened, and noted that Spokane, Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, and, more recently, Berkeley and Richmond, had all passed resolutions protesting crude-by-rail transport through their cities. They assigned staff to prepare a report and later adopted broad goals including to:

      * Actively participate in regional planning activities;

      * Assure top-quality fire, police, emergency and other services to promote the health, safety and well-being of all residents and neighborhoods; and

      * Create and maintain an environment that promotes safety and well-being.

      Based on these goals, on Earth Day, April 22, the Davis City Council took a strong stand and adopted Resolution 14 opposing transportation of crude oil through the city of Davis and adjacent habitat, thus including the Yolo Causeway with its trestle tracks. It is well worth reading the whole document, posted at www.yolanoclimateaction.org or at www.cityofdavis.org under the City Council agenda for April 22. Other cities and counties in our region have requested copies of the Davis resolution as they prepare their own.

      Leading the region: Meanwhile, Mike Webb, the staff member assigned to research crude-by-rail, along with City Attorney Harriet Steiner, contacted neighboring jurisdictions of Sacramento, West Sacramento, Dixon and Yolo and Solano counties to alert them also to the dangers. Together, our staff convinced the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to hold a meeting on oil trains on April 17, and that group put the item on the agenda for the next full SACOG meeting.

      The jurisdictions divided up the various tasks, mostly focused on public safety, but also on siding storage and getting more information/assistance from Union Pacific, the California Public Utilities Commission and even the refineries. The SACOG representatives who attended the Capital-to-Capital meetings in Washington, D.C., last month took our regional concerns directly to our California elected officials, Reps. Doris Matsui and John Garamendi.

      Additionally, our city is pursuing with Union Pacific a high-sensitivity rail situation in Davis where there is a curve and also crossover switches, both requiring an unusual —and dangerous — slower speed of 10 mph.

      Comments: The next step is an opportunity for cities and organizations to study the draft environmental impact report for the Valero Project, which will be released Tuesday for public review. Written comments are admitted to the record, and the report authors must respond to each comment, although similar comments may be grouped together. Those who respond have 45 days, probably extended to 60 to 90 days, to submit written comments.

      The city of Davis isn’t waiting for the EIR release; it is already planning its comments and inviting neighboring jurisdictions to join them. SACOG members are working together now. We citizens can be grateful that our city is speaking up on behalf of our safety.

      The city manager of Lynchburg, Virginia, did not even know that trains of Bakken oil were passing through his town. On April 30, 17 cars derailed and the ensuing flames shot up eight stories high while three cars leaked 25,000 gallons of crude into the James River, a source of drinking water. Fortunately, Davis is taking proactive steps to avert such accidents.

      A number of environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Earth Justice, Oil Change International and others will be weighing in on the draft EIR as well, with sharply focused comments on safety, health, water and air contamination, and whatever other weaknesses or unmitigated concerns they find in the EIR.

      Time for action! Democracy is, above all, about each of us voicing our concerns. Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the draft EIR provides every individual affected by a decision with a chance to be heard. Every comment letter becomes a part of the EIR document and receives a response in the final EIR.

      Therefore, we have serious work to do to become informed about the impact of unit trains of crude oil passing through Davis and to read all or significant parts of the draft EIR document. The time we invest in expressing particular concerns could make a difference in terms of mitigations granted or possibly influence whether the Benicia Planning Commission, and ultimately the Benicia City Council, vote for or against the Valero rail project.

      There is a helpful resources document posted for those who wish to read up on crude-by-rail transport at www.yolanoclimateaction.org

      Yolano Climate Action will host a workshop on how to respond to a draft EIR, including an instructional PowerPoint presentation by Mike Webb plus tips and discussion on commentary topics for the Valero project DEIR, on Wednesday, June 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Davis Community Church Fellowship Hall, 421 D St.

      Watch The Enterprise for reminders, or check the calendars and articles at www.yolanoclimateaction.org and www.cooldavis.org, or contact me at lnittler@sbcglobal.net.

      Looking ahead: The draft EIR for the Santa Maria rail spur project is expected to be released in July, offering a second chance to use newly honed skills!

      — Lynne Nittler is a Davis resident and environmental activist.

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