Category Archives: Crude By Rail

Mayor wants to know when trains carry hazardous goods through his town

Repost from the Vancouver Sun

Mayor wants to know when trains carry hazardous goods through his town

By Glenda Luymes, September 21, 2017 8:04 PM PDT

The train tracks running through Vanderhoof helped build the community on the banks of the Nechako River. But some fear they could one day ruin it.

When local politicians meet for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver next week, they’ll consider a resolution drafted by the District of Vanderhoof calling on Transport Canada to order railways to provide “up-to-the-minute” information on hazardous goods being transported through their communities.

The information would enable first responders to safely address derailments and spills, explained Vanderhoof chief administrative officer Tom Clement.

“If we don’t know what trains are carrying, how can we respond?” he asked.

While Canadian railways are required to provide reports on what trains carry, they are usually produced several months after the fact, leaving municipalities to guess what might be rolling through town on any given day.

According to a report by Canadian National Railway (which operates the line through Vanderhoof), shipments of dangerous goods accounted for three per cent of the total CN shipments in B.C. in 2016. Liquefied petroleum gases, diesel fuel and sodium hydroxide made up more than half of all dangerous shipments.

Like many, Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen was shocked by the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster. On July 6, 2013, a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil operated by the United States-based Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway derailed in the small Quebec town. Fire and several explosions killed 47 people.

But it was a smaller incident — a minor derailment near Vanderhoof several years ago — that first got the mayor thinking about the safety of his community.

“Someone from the Prince George press called our fire chief to ask about the accident. They wanted to know what the cars were carrying. We had no idea,” he said.

With a volunteer fire department made up of “local dads and moms,” Thiessen realized a significant incident could endanger first responders, as well as the community at large.

“CN is a large company. They should be able to tell us day-by-day what’s in a train as it leaves Prince George,” he said.

Thiessen said he was told CN’s closest dangerous goods officer was located in Edmonton, meaning “our volunteers would be the first on scene.”

A CN spokesperson referred Postmedia to the Railway Association of Canada.

A statement from the association said its members work with municipalities and the federal government to achieve a “workable process” to ensure information about dangerous goods traffic is available. A mobile app allows first responders to access information about railcar contents so “they can make informed decisions in the event of a rail emergency.”

Thiessen said the process requires first responders to obtain a code from the side of a damaged train car, which might put them at risk if the cars are leaking hazardous substances.

“We need a better process,” he said.

But while the mayor is concerned about safety, he also recognizes the vital role the railway plays in his community.

“I’m in Vanderhoof as a result of the railway,” he said.

Thiessen’s grandfather settled in the community west of Prince George in 1942 to take advantage of the opportunities the railway presented. Thirty years later, as a young man, Thiessen had a part-time job unloading the railcars that carried lumber out of town.

These days, there are more trains coming through Vanderhoof, he said, but fewer stop. There’s also fear that what they might be carrying could someday undo all the good the railway has done.

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Loaded crude cars derail in Missoula rail yard

Repost from The Missoulian

Loaded crude cars derail in MRL Missoula yard

By Kim Briggeman, Sep 15, 2017
091617-mis-nws-derailment
Derailed crude oil train cars sit off the tracks near Reserve Street in Montana Rail Link’s Missoula yard on Friday. The re-railing process was expected to be completed Friday night. | TOM BAUER, Missoulian

One tanker carrying crude oil was badly listing and three others were off the track Friday after a morning derailment on the west end of Montana Rail Link’s Missoula yard.

“So far it doesn’t appear anything leaked, but they’re going to keep a close eye on it when they move it,” Michelle Hutchins of the city-county health department’s Missoula Valley Water Quality District said at midafternoon.
Hutchins said the derailed oil tankers are of the newly designed variety, built stronger and with other safety technology incorporated.

“So that seems to have done its job,” she said.

The low-speed derailment happened at around 8:30 a.m. Friday. Montana Rail Link’s Jim Lewis said the cars were part of a westbound loaded crude train that was leaving the yard. There were no injuries and no hazardous materials were released. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

“Mainline traffic has not been interrupted and MRL haz-mat and mechanical experts are supervising the re-railing process, which is expected to be completed by Friday evening,” Lewis said in an email at 4:45 p.m. “Local, state and federal agencies were notified per standard protocol.”

The derailment occurred on tracks closest to West Broadway, a few hundred feet east of the Reserve Street overpass.

It’s in the same area where 30 empty tank cars derailed in December 2014 in a switching snafu, after a loaded car made low-speed contact with one of them. [Ed. – see back stories here.]
Last December a coupling broke in the pump house at MRL’s west refueling station near Zootown Arts Community Center. Some 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel poured out before the break was discovered and the valve turned off.
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BenIndy editorial – Benicia fire chief leaving

(See story below from the Vallejo Times-Herald)

Benicia Fire Chief Jim Lydon

Editorial comment:
Benicia Fire Chief Jim Lydon is leaving Benicia. Jim’s the guy who stood up for Valero Crude by Rail, and who hedged – publicly and on the record – claiming that oil train explosions are not “left to burn themselves out.” He seemed to think that mobilizing and evacuating folks and setting up perimeters and throwing water on nearby tank cars to keep more cars from exploding, etc. – was reason enough to dispute the widely understood knowledge that first responders to oil train explosions are REQUIRED to keep a safe distance from the burning cars, letting them burn for days until they burn themselves out.  His disingenuous comments during hearings was one of the lowest moments in my 3-year opposition. I’ve tried to be forgiving, understanding how tough the firefighters’ jobs are when facing disasters, and how a Chief must stand up for his crew. But Lydon’s blind support for Valero’s proposal was in stark contrast to public comments by Fire Chief Jim Appleton in Mosier Oregon following the derailment and explosion there.   The Benicia Independent wishes Jim and the people of Coronado well, but we hope for an impartial understanding of public safety issues in the next Chief here in Benicia.  – RS

Benicia fire chief leaving department for Coronado

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Katy St. Clair, 09/07/17, 4:37 PM PDT

BENICIA > > Fire Chief Jim Lydon will be leaving Benicia and heading down to Coronado to lead the fire department of the suburb of San Diego, he confirmed.

Lydon has over 40 years of experience but served Benicia for four years, where he often wore several hats, including interim city manager for a bit.

Lydon was also in charge of coordinating the town’s emergency response during the Valero flaring that began on May 5 of this year.

According to reports, Lydon underwent a rigorous hiring process and beat out 47 other candidates. His last day will be October 6 and his new job begins on October 10, he said.

“Benicia’s been a great opportunity for me and I think I’ve learned a lot through the process of being here,” he said. “I’m certainly going to miss some of the contacts and relationships that I’ve built here, but it’s time for new challenges and new opportunities.”

Lydon said that the City Manager hasn’t yet determined who will take his place until a permanent chief is hired.

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