Category Archives: California

Half Million California Students Attend School In Oil Train Blast Evacuation Zones

Repost from DeSmogBlog
[Editor:  See the more detailed interactive map of schools by the Center for Biological Diversity.  Note Benicia’s Robert Semple Elementary School on the Center’s map, located just 0.88 miles from a Union Pacific train route which currently carries hazardous materials and is proposed for Valero Refinery’s Crude By Rail project.  Here’s a map of Robert Semple school and the tracks.  – RS] 

Half a Million California Students Attend School In Oil Train Blast Evacuation Zones

By Justin Mikulka, September 7, 2015 – 04:58

A new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity finds that 500,000 students in California attend schools within a half-mile of rail tracks used by oil trains, and more than another 500,000 are within a mile of the tracks.

“Railroad disasters shouldn’t be one of the ‘three Rs’ on the minds of California school kids and their parents,” said Valerie Love with the Center. “Oil trains have jumped the tracks and exploded in communities across the country. These dangerous bomb trains don’t belong anywhere near California’s schools or our children.”

Click for larger image

Current safety regulations for first responders dealing with oil trains recommend evacuating everyone within a half-mile of any incident with an oil train. This wasn’t much of a problem for the most recent oil train accident in July in Culbertson, Montana because there were only 30 people within the half-mile radius area. However, in populated areas like California, potential scenarios could involve large-scale evacuations and casualties.

In addition to the threat posed to California’s students, the report Crude Injustice on the Rails released earlier this year by ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment, pointed out that in California the communities within the half-mile blast zones were also more likely to be low-income minority neighborhoods.

As more communities across the country become aware of the very real risks these oil trains pose, opposition is mounting to new oil-by-rail projects as well as challenges to existing facilities.

This past week in California, the Santa Clara County board of supervisors voted to keep oil trains out, citing an “unacceptable risk to our community.”

In Minnesota, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) held a hearing on the subject and heard from concerned residents like Catherine Dorr, as reported by the local CBS station.

We’re in the 100 foot blast zone,” Dorr said. “My house and 60 townhouse residents are going to be toast if there’s an explosion.”

In Albany, New York which is the largest oil-by-rail hub on the East coast, this week a coalition of groups announced their intentions to sue the oil company transporting Bakken crude through Albany and challenge the validity of the air quality permit the company received in 2012.

And even in remote places like North Dakota, where much of the oil originates, the U.S. military is concerned about the proximity of the oil train tracks to nuclear missile facilities.

With all of this concern about the dangers of oil trains, a new report by the Associated Press (AP) paints a troubling picture about the preparedness of populated areas to respond to an oil-by-rail incident. The report was based on interviews with emergency management professionals in 12 large cities across the U.S.

It concludes, “The responses show emergency planning remains a work in progress even as crude has become one of the nation’s most common hazardous materials transported by rail.”

As noted on DeSmog, one of the reasons that the oil trains pose such a high risk is that the oil industry refuses to stabilize the oil to make it safe to transport. And the new regulations for oil-by-rail transport released this year allow for older unsafe tank cars to be used for another 8-10 years.

While the regulations require modernized braking systems on oil trains in future years, the rail industry is fighting this and a Senate committee recently voted to remove this from the regulations.

The reality is that unless there are drastic changes made, anyone living within a half mile of these tracks will be at risk for years to come.

And while oil production isn’t increasing in the U.S. right now due to the low price of oil, industry efforts to lift the current ban on exporting crude oil could result in a huge increase in fracked oil production. In turn, that oil will be put on trains that will head to coastal facilities and be loaded on tankers and sent to Asia.

Despite all of the opposition and the years-long process to complete new regulations, as the Associated Press notes, it isn’t like the emergency first responders are comfortable with the current situation.

“There could be a huge loss of life if we have a derailment, spill and fire next to a heavily populated area or event,” said Wayne Senter, executive director of the Washington state association of fire chiefs. “That’s what keeps us up at night.”

And even the federal regulators expect there are going to be catastrophic accidents. As reported by the AP earlier this year, the Department of Transportation expects oil and ethanol trains “will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.”

With the known risks and the number of accidents, so far communities in the U.S have avoided disaster. But as Senator Franken pointed out, that has just been a matter of luck.

We’ve been lucky here in Minnesota and North Dakota and Wisconsin that we’ve not seen that kind of fatalities, but we don’t want this to be all about luck,” Sen. Franken said.

As over 1,000,000 students in California start a new school year in schools where they can easily hear the train whistles from the oil trains passing through their communities, let’s all hope we keep this lucky streak going.

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    Oil Industry Spending Millions on California Lobbying

    An email alert from California League of Conservation Voters (EcoVote.org)

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    From: Sarah Rose, Chief Executive Officer,  California League of Conservation Voters
    Sent: Saturday, August 15, 2015 8:01 AM
    Subject: BREAKING: In California, Oil Industry Spends Millions on State-Level Lobbying

    Breaking news:

    In a report just released by the California Secretary of State, we can see for the first time just how far the oil industry is willing to go to influence state lawmakers. Here what we know:

    • Oil industry lobbyists spent $6.2 million − in just the first six months of this year – to push their agenda on state-level issues in California.
    • Oil companies are spending more than $1 million per month to stop Californians like us from cleaning up the air we breathe, protecting our drinking water supplies, shifting to renewable energy, and preventing future oil spills.
    • They’re not slowing down. In fact, this week the oil industry’s main lobbying group WSPA (Western States Petroleum Association) launched an all-out attack on climate change bills in the statehouse right now. Under the mask of their front group “California Driver’s Alliance,” WSPA’s deceptive and manipulative ads are now running on television, internet, and radio in several key legislative districts throughout the state.
    • We can beat them, but we need your help. Right now, we’re fighting to pass a historic package of climate change laws that will thrust California back into the forefront of global climate leadership. Here at CLCV, we’ve faced off against WSPA in countless battles over our 40-year history. We’ve beat them enough times to know what works – and it’s you  (yes, you!) persistently contacting your lawmakers, speaking your mind, and personally insisting that your life and your family’s future are more important than the profit margins at Chevron and Shell. Take action and send your message to lawmakers right now. >>

    Last year, the oil industry spent a record $20 million in lobbying to try to stop the full implementation of California’s first landmark climate and clean energy law, AB 32 – but they failed, because we fought back. Thousands of us in the California League of Conservation Voters stood side-by-side with our allies and fought back against WSPA’s cynical propaganda. Together, we defeated their pro-pollution agenda, and now transportation fuels (which are responsible for 40% of carbon pollution and 80% of smog-causing pollution produced in CA) are included under the “cap” in cap-and-trade.

    I’m proud of our victory last year, but the real story is we won that battle by the skin of our teeth. Things very easily could have gone the other way if we didn’t have so much help from voters like you. Now, the stakes are even higher, and the oil industry is on track to break last year’s spending record to lobby against us. We need your help today: Stand with us now. >>

    Sincerely,

    Sarah Rose Chief Executive Officer California League of Conservation Voters

    P.S. As they attempt to hide from public scrutiny, oil companies funnel most of their California lobbying cash through the industry lobbying group WSPA (Western States Petroleum Association). But one oil company − Chevron – went above and beyond. In addition to their WSPA contributions, Chevron spent $1.5 million lobbying for influence over California laws. That means two spots on California’s top-five list for big-spending lobbyists belong to Big Oil. We can’t let them win. Please, speak out about climate change right now: http://ecovote.org/ActOnClimate >>

    Additional background: CLCV supports Senate Bill 32 (Pavley) and Senate Bill 350 (de León) to combat climate change, reduce pollution, create clean energy jobs, and ensure that all California communities are prepared for the future. Specifically, these important bills call for bold but achievable new climate goals:

    • Increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources
    • Reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent
    • Double the energy efficiency of existing buildings
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050

    With help from thousands of CLCV supporters like you, these important bills have already passed the State Senate. Now both bills are facing critical votes in the Assembly. Make sure your Assemblymember hears from you: Speak out now!

    We need to keep making progress to address the challenges presented by climate change, especially in our hardest-hit communities. Senate pro Tem Kevin de León put it best: “For too long, poor and working class families in California’s most polluted communities do not have the opportunity to invest in clean, efficient transportation … We need to move the state away from fossil fuels, away from the grip of oil … This is common sense climate policy.”

    Since 1972, the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) has protected our land, air, water, and public health as the non-partisan political arm of the environmental movement. CLCV’s mission is to protect and enhance the environment and the health of all California communities by electing environmental champions, advancing critical priorities, and holding policymakers accountable. You can unsubscribe at any time, but we hope you’ll stay. You make a big difference with CLCV, because our political strength comes from members like you. Thanks for reading, and thank you for everything you do to make California a cleaner, safer, and healthier place to call home.

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      Video: Stop Oil Trains in California

      Repost from email by Ethan Buckner, Forest Ethics

      For the past few years, momentum is building all along communities throughout California concerned about the growing threat of oil trains. ForestEthics, in partnership with filmmaker Bunker Seyfert, is excited to share this new short piece highlighting the campaign to stop the proposed Phillips 66 oil train terminal in San Luis Obispo County.
      Please watch and share!  – Ethan Buckner, US Organizer, ForestEthics

      Stop #OilTrains in California

      California could be the site of the next oil train disaster, unless we take action now at ProtectSLO.org.

      Multinational oil company Phillips 66 is proposing to expand its San Luis Obispo County refinery to receive oil trains carrying explosive, toxic, and carbon-intensive tar sands oil. If approved, more of these oil trains will begin rolling through California’s communities, threatening schools, homes, community centers, and parks. Over 5 million California residents live in the oil train blast zone.

      The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will make the final decision on this project, and they need to hear from us – residents of SLO County and other impacted California communities. Take action now and tell SLO County decision makers to reject this dangerous project.

      Take action now at ProctetSLO.org.

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        Ontario confirms it will join Quebec, California in carbon market

        Repost from San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate

        Ontario backs California’s carbon market

        By David R. Baker, April 13, 2015 3:59 pm

        Ontario plans to join California’s cap-and-trade market for reining in greenhouse gases and fighting climate change, the Canadian province’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, said Monday.

        If the country’s most populous province follows through, it would greatly expand the size of the market, which California launched on its own in 2012. Quebec joined last year.

        “Climate change needs to be fought around the globe, and it needs to be fought here in Canada and Ontario,” Wynne said.

        Cap and trade puts a price on the greenhouse gas emissions that the vast majority of climate scientists agree are raising temperatures worldwide.

        Companies in participating states and provinces must buy permits, called allowances, to pump carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the air. The number of permits available shrinks over time, reducing emissions. Companies that make deep cuts in their emissions can sell spare allowances to other businesses.        California officials always wanted other states and provinces to join the market. In 2008, six other states and four Canadian provinces (including Ontario and Quebec) agreed in principle to create a carbon market, one that could possibly expand to cover all of North America.

        But one by one, California’s potential partners dropped out, and congressional efforts to create a national cap-and-trade system collapsed in 2010. California officials decided to go it alone.

        Wynne gave few details Monday about Ontario’s effort. Instead, she signed an agreement with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to   collaborate on crafting Ontario’s cap-and-trade regulations. For Ontario to join the market, officials with the California Air Resources Board would need to certify that the province’s cap-and-trade rules mesh with California’s. Gov. Jerry Brown would also have to approve.

        Brown on Monday welcomed Wynne’s announcement.

        “This is a bold move from the province of Ontario — and the challenge we face demands further action from other states and provinces around the world,” Brown said. “There’s a human cost to the billions of tons of carbon spewing into our atmosphere, and there must be a price on it.”

        Much like California, Ontario has a significant clean-tech industry, estimated   to employ about 65,000 people.

        While Quebec and now Ontario have pursued cap and trade, British Columbia chose another route to pricing greenhouse gas emissions. The province in 2008 established a carbon tax on fuels, using the revenue to cut other taxes.

        Alberta, home to Canada’s controversial oil sands, also has a carbon   tax on large emitters, although critics consider it too limited and low to be effective. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last year proposed a carbon tax on heavy emitters, only to meet with resistance from both political parties.

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