Category Archives: Explosion

Baltimore council members propose ban on new crude oil facilities

From an email by Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Program Organizer, 
Clean Water Action
[See also the Baltimore Sun story, below]

Thu, Oct 19, 2017

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to share the exciting news that the Baltimore zoning code change to prohibit new or expanded crude oil terminals has been officially introduced!  You can download the bill here, and here is some coverage of it in the Baltimore Sun and our local NPR station.  Taylor and I would be happy to answer any questions about it!

Have a great day,

Jennifer Kunze
Maryland Program Organizer
Clean Water Action
WebsiteFacebookTwitter


Repost from The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore council members propose ban on new crude oil facilities

By Ian Duncan, October 16, 2017

Two members of the Baltimore City Council want to ban new crude oil terminals from the city as part of an effort to limit the number of oil trains traveling through the area.

Council members Mary Pat Clarke and Ed Reisinger introduced a proposed change to the city’s zoning laws Monday that would add the oil terminals to a list of banned facilities, ranking them alongside nuclear power plants and incinerators.

“Crude oil shipments are potential hazards to residents and entire neighborhoods,” Reisinger said in a statement.

The council members said they were turning to the zoning code because federal law stops city authorities from directly regulating rail. They hope limiting the terminal capacity will mean there will be less interest in sending oil trains to Baltimore.

Two existing facilities in Baltimore would be allowed to stay but could not expand in any way under the proposal.

For years environmental activists have been sounding the alarm about crude oil that is transported by rail, which can lead to deadly explosions in the case of an accident. In 2013, 47 people died when a train carrying crude oil exploded in Canada.

Precise details of the shipments are scarce, but with the price of oil low, the practice is widely believed to currently be at a low ebb. Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX Transportation, said no oil trains have operated in Baltimore or anywhere else on the company’s network for months. Doolittle also said the company has never run dedicated oil trains through the city, but had moved small amounts of crude on mixed trains.

Clarke said the dip in the market meant it was the right time for the council to take up the proposed restrictions.

“It doesn’t put jobs in jeopardy,” she said. “We don’t know when the marketplace may change. If it does we want to have already capped out the capacity of Baltimore facilities.”

The operator of one of the existing terminals declined to comment; the other did not respond to questions.

Environmental groups say there’s reason to think that if the price of oil picks up again, companies would seek to expand the number of terminals in Baltimore. That’s what happened during the last boom several years ago, but the plans were blocked.

Jennifer Kunze, an organizer with Clean Water Action, said it makes sense to put limits in place now.

“This is really a preventative measure,” she said.

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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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California Attorney General Calls on Trump to Close Loophole that Exposes Communities to “Bomb Trains”

Press Release from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
[Editor:  See also KQED California Report, “AG Becerra Wants Trump Administration to Make Crude-Carrying ‘Bomb Trains’ Safer”  Also, see the NRDC blog on this story.   And … sadly … see a similar story from December, 2015.  – RS]

Attorney General Becerra Calls on Trump to Close Loophole that Exposes Vulnerable California Communities to “Bomb Trains”

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov
  • Without Action, California Could Be Exposed To Freight Trains Carrying Highly Flammable, Highly Explosive Crude Oil
  • San Bernardino-Riverside And San Luis Obispo Among Regions Bearing Greatest Potential Risks

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is urging the Trump Administration to immediately close a loophole to prevent highly flammable, highly explosive crude oil from being shipped by freight rail via so-called “bomb trains” through communities in California, including the highly populated San Bernardino-Riverside and San Luis Obispo regions. High hazard areas for derailments would exist along every freight rail route in California. Many of these areas are also adjacent to California’s most sensitive ecological areas.

“Millions of Californians live, work, and attend school within the vicinity of railroad train tracks,” said Attorney General Becerra. “A derailment or explosion in California could put countless lives at risk and cause major damage to our land and waterways. This risk is simply unacceptable. I urge the Trump Administration to act immediately.”

So-called “bomb trains” are responsible for several catastrophic rail accidents in recent years, including the 2013 explosion in Quebec that killed 47 people.

In comments submitted to federal regulators, Attorney General Becerra called for immediate action that would require all crude oil transported by rail in the U.S. achieve a vapor pressure of less than 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi). Vapor pressure is a key driver of the oil’s explosiveness and flammability. Attorney General Becerra joined attorneys general from Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New York and Washington in calling for this requirement.

The comments were filed in response to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) issued by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Earlier this month, as part of his efforts to protect vulnerable California communities, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit in federal court that seeks to protect state residents from dangerous pollution that results from coal mining. Coal mined on public lands is transported by train through California and exported from ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Richmond and Stockton — areas next to several vulnerable communities. The transport of coal in open-top rail cars, as well as its storage and handling at export terminals, emits dangerous pollution. These emissions can result in a wide variety of serious health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, cardio-vascular diseases and cancer.

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