Category Archives: Bay Area Refineries

KPIX Exposé: Crude by Rail already in Bay Area

Repost from CBS San Francisco 5KPIX News

Trains Carrying Fracked Oil Spotted In Bay Area

March 14, 2014 12:24 AM
by Kristin Ayers

RICHMOND (KPIX 5) – We have seen how fracked crude oil can explode when trains derail. And Bay Area residents have made it clear that they don’t want them here and several projects to bring in crude by rail are on hold because of it.

But KPIX 5 discovered it’s already happening, in an operation so hush hush that even the state’s energy commission didn’t know about it.

A unit train, 100 cars long, is designed to deliver 70,000 barrels of crude cross country in one single run. It’s the same kind of train that derailed and exploded in Quebec, and the same kind of train that Bay Area residents have been fighting to keep out of their towns.

So what is the train doing in a rail yard in Richmond? “I was very surprised,” said energy consultant Ian Goodman.

Goodman found out about it in an investor publication for Kinder Morgan. The energy company operates pipelines and terminals across the U.S.

“They were very proud of the fact that they were the only unit train terminal to unload crude in California,” he told KPIX 5. “My impression was there were no existing unit train unloading facilities in California.”

That’s apparently what state officials thought too. “At this point we don’t have any of those facilities operating in California,” said Gordon Schremp with the California Energy Commission.

After KPIX 5 showed him our video Schremp revised that. “It’s certainly a recent change that you know, we haven’t been made aware of that,” he said.

He said Kinder Morgan’s Richmond terminal has been receiving ethanol on 100 car trains for years. But what about receiving explosive Bakken crude?

KPIX 5 asked Schremp: “Is that something that maybe should be monitored? Put out to the public, so that people are aware that this is running through that area?”

“Well I think it would depend. If the crude oil is just in rail cars and is just temporarily stored there in rail cars, then there should be no need to do an Environmental Impact Report,” he said.

But our camera captured much more than that. After talking to the state, we went back to Richmond and saw this: Bakken crude oil getting unloaded from the train cars onto tanker trucks.

KPIX 5 followed one of those tanker trucks to the Tesoro refinery in Martinez.

So we wondered, where’s the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?

“Our agency would not necessarily require an EIR to be done,” said Jim Karas at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Karas said Kinder Morgan just applied for a change of use, because their terminal is already set up to receive ethanol trains.

So even though it’s now Bakken crude, key agencies involved don’t seem to care. “This would not be something that would be a significant concern to us,” said Karas.

KPIX 5 called the city of Richmond to see if they approved the project. They said Kinder Morgan leases the rail yard from Burlington Northern Railroad, which is under federal jurisdiction. Bottom line they said they have no control.

Kinder Morgan confirms it is receiving the trains and is in compliance with air quality district permits. In a statement to KPIX they said : “Kinder Morgan is committed to public safety, protection of the environment and operation of our facilities in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. It is our goal to work openly and cooperatively with all stakeholders regarding environmental, health and safety (EH&S) issues. Among other related EH&S programs, policies and procedures (including annual EPA compliance and ethics training for employees) to help us achieve that goal, we integrate Kinder Morgan EH&S employees into each business unit, where they actively participate in the overall operating success of the organization.”


KPIX report – Marilaine Savard visits Bay Area

Repost from KPIX5/AP

Explosion Survivor Warns Of Fracked Oil Trains; Newer Safety Regulations Delayed

March 6, 2014 7:07 PM
Christin Ayers, reporter for KPIX 5 Eyewitness News

Firefighters douse blazes after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. At least 80 people are missing after a driverless oil tanker train derailed and exploded in the small Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, destroying dozens of buildings, a firefighter back from the scene told AFP. AFP PHOTO / François Laplante-Delagrave (Photo credit should read François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images)

Firefighters douse blazes after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic in Canada’s Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. At least 80 people are missing after a driverless oil tanker train derailed and exploded in the small Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, destroying dozens of buildings, a firefighter back from the scene told AFP.  Photo: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images

(KPIX 5/AP) — A woman who lived through one of the deadliest train derailments ever hopes her experience serves as a wake-up call about allowing highly-volatile fracked crude oil to be transported by rail – as has been proposed in the Bay Area.

Thursday in Washington, a Senate transportation panel grilled federal railroad officials over delays in drafting new safety regulations in light of recent deadly oil and commuter train accidents.

Railroads are also taking too long to implement safety improvements Congress ordered under legislation passed seven years ago, lawmakers said at the hearing.

Meanwhile, a report released Thursday by Canadian regulators said the crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota is as volatile as gasoline. The derailment of a train carrying this oil last July in Lac-Megantic, Quebec created an inferno that destroyed much of the town center.

KPIX 5 spoke to a Marlaine Savard who was just a few miles away when the train carrying 30-thousand gallons of fracked crude derailed.

“We knew for sure that people were dying,” said Savard.

47 people were killed in the disaster. The toxic mess left behind will take years to clean up. “It’s like 50 football fields that are really highly contaminated,”she said.

Last week, federal regulators issued emergency regulations that require shippers to test crude coming from the Bakken region to make sure it’s properly classified while banning certain older-model tanker cars.

But they still haven’t issued any new rules for the much more common tank cars that exploded in Quebec.

Bay Area refineries are still receiving most of their crude by ship and pipeline, but experts warn that could soon change.

“This is the refining center of the western U.S.,” said Greg Karras with the advocacy group Communities for a Better Environment. “It’s a huge amount of crude that is being proposed to be delivered here by rail now.

Karras said it all comes down to profits. The tanker cars are mostly owned or leased by oil companies, that don’t want to pay. “There are alternatives, they can afford them.

Karras said fracked Bakken crude isn’t the only threat. He said trains are now hauling tar sands oil, the dirtiest kind of crude.

“It sinks to the bottom when it gets into the water body like the bay, and this has happened in other parts of the country,” he said.

Seven months after the Lac-Megantic disaster, trains have just started to roll through Marlaine Savard’s town again. “The first thing that they rebuilt was the railroad, ok!”

There are no tankers carrying crude yet, because she says this time her town won’t allow it. ”If everybody stands up, I am sure that this is the hope.”

WesPac Energy Group has plans to rebuild an old oil storage facility in downtown Pittsburg and bring in fracked crude oil by rail, ships and pipelines.

The Pittsburg city council is set to vote on the proposal’s environmental impact report in the coming months.

Bay Area refineries released 3.4 million pounds of toxics in 2012

Repost from The Press Democrat

Bay Area refineries dwarf Sonoma County industries’ toxic output

Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 3:51 p.m.

Sonoma County industries produce a minuscule amount of the nearly 32 million pounds of toxic chemicals released in California in 2012, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s latest report.

But across San Pablo Bay to the south lies a crescent of four oil refineries that makes Contra Costa County — better known for its tidy suburban communities — No. 3 among California counties as a source of toxic chemical pollution.

The four refineries — Chevron in Richmond, Phillips 66 in Rodeo and Shell Oil and Tesoro in Martinez — released 2.7 million pounds of toxics in 2012, the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory said.

Adding the Valero refinery in nearby Benicia (Solano County) brings the San Francisco Bay Area refinery output to 3.4 million pounds, exceeding the combined release of 2.5 million pounds from the state’s 16 other refineries in Los Angeles, Kern and San Luis Obispo counties.

Put together, the 21 refineries released nearly 6 million pounds of toxics, accounting for 19 percent of California’s total industrial releases — and 42 percent of the releases into the air, the EPA reported.

The Bay Area refineries reported the following releases to the EPA in 2012: Phillips 66, 1.1 million pounds; Valero, 655,285 pounds; Chevron, 611,255 pounds; Shell Oil, 529,045 pounds and Tesoro, 507,714 pounds.

Sonoma County industries reported a total of 6,801 pounds.

Toxic chemical releases by California wineries have declined from more than 9 million pounds in 2007 to just under 6 million pounds in 2012, the most recent year reported by the EPA.

The EPA defines a release as the amount of a toxic chemical released on-site to the air, water and land, and the transfer of chemicals for off-site disposal.

Toxic release amounts alone are not sufficient to determine exposure or assess potential risks to human health and the environment, the EPA said.