Category Archives: Federal legislation

Benicia Crude By Rail remembered in today’s news

[Today’s news is welcome.  Rep. Garamendi doesn’t represent Benicia, but he does represent uprail cities that would have been affected by Valero’s dangerous and dirty proposal to bring oil trains across California.  Garamendi’s bill, HR 5553, has 4 co-sponsors, but does not include Benicia’s representative Mike Thompson.  Let’s hope Mike will get behind this effort!  – R.S.]

John Garamendi introduces crude-by-rail safety bill

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Nick Sestanovich, January 9, 2020
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, CA 3rd District

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, introduced legislation Wednesday to ensure safer standards for the transport of crude oil and other hazardous materials by train.

House Resolution 5553, also known as the “Crude By Rail Volatility Standards Act,” aims to establish a safety standard for the maximum volatility for crude oils and similar materials transported by rail. It also requires that all crude by rail in America adhere to the New York Mercantile Exchange’s maximum Reid vapor pressure for crude-oil futures contracts of 9.5 pounds per square inch, Garamendi’s office wrote in a news release.

The current industry standard would remain in place until the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) completes the rule setting a maximum volatility standard that was first announced in 2017 after the attorneys general of six states, including California, petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation and PHMSA to finalize the regulation nationwide.

“Every day we delay the implementation of a stronger safety standard for the transport of Bakken crude oil-by-rail, lives are at risk,” Garamendi said in a statement. “My bill simply requires oil companies to decrease the volatility to market levels, rather than carrying unstable products through communities. I am committed to enacting this legislation into law this year as part of the surface transportation reauthorization.”

Garamendi, who is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been trying to get legislation passed since 2015 to prohibit crude oil from being transported by rail unless it adheres to the New York Mercantile Exchange’s maximum Reid vapor pressure. Garamendi’s office wrote that the actions were influenced by numerous crude-by-rail derailments in previous years, including an accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013 which killed 47 people and led to changes in operations for Canadian railways.

The topic of crude by rail became a hot-button issue in Solano County in 2013 when the Valero Benicia Refinery announced plans to extend rail lines to have crude-oil delivered to its plant by train rather than by boat. The project — which would have passed through Dixon, Suisun City and Fairfield — was met with opposition and was subsequently voted down by the Benicia Planning Commission and then the City Council.

Garamendi’s co-sponsors on the bill are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Bill Foster, D-Ill.; Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; and Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

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    Schiff introduces constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United

    By Rachel Frazin, The Hill, 05/08/19 11:58 AM EDT
    [See also Shiff’s press release]
    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Wednesday introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which eliminated restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

    The amendment would allow Congress and states to put limits on campaign contributions, according to a statement from Schiff’s office.

    “The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United overturned decades of legal precedent and has enabled billions in dark money to pour into our elections,” Schiff said in a statement.

    The amendment would also allow states to enact laws creating public financing of campaigns.

    “Amending the Constitution is an extraordinary step, but it is the only way to safeguard our democratic process against the threat of unrestrained and anonymous spending by wealthy individuals and corporations,” he added. “This amendment will restore power to everyday citizens.”

    Schiff also announced the amendment on Twitter.

    “Our democracy is not for sale,” he wrote. “We must stop the flood of dark money from drowning out the voices of everyday citizens.”

    The 5-4 Citizens United ruling prohibited the government from limiting spending by companies, nonprofit organizations and unions on political campaign advertisements. The majority argued that such provisions would inhibit freedom of speech.

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      U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson Cosponsors Green New Deal

      Press release from US Rep. Mike Thompson

      For Immediate Release:
      February 7, 2019
      Contact: Alex Macfarlane 202-225-3311

      Thompson Cosponsors Green New Deal

      Lays out bold statement about how to address climate change

      Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) announced that he is an original cosponsor of the Green New Deal, legislation that outlines broad recommendations on how to aggressively address the threat of climate change over the next decade. A statement from Thompson on his support is below.

      “Climate change is the most existential threat we face today. I have long said that if we do not act now nothing else we do matters because there won’t be a planet to pass on to our children. That’s why I am a proud, original cosponsor of the Green New Deal, a resolution stating the steps we must take to address climate change. Today the United States Congress is making a bold statement about climate change. We are saying that we must take this threat seriously, that we must take action, and that we must use every tool at our disposal to get this done. This includes strengthening our resiliency against future disasters exacerbated by climate change, modernizing our infrastructure, deepening our renewable energy capacity, and mitigating the negative health and economic impacts we are already experiencing due to climate change. I am proud of our new majority for taking this important step forward and stand willing and ready to continue on this path toward addressing climate change.”

      You can click here to read the text of the Green New Deal.

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        Open letter to Rep. Thompson, Sens. Feinstein & Harris – Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act

        By Roger Straw, January 30, 2019

        Dear Rep. Thompson, Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Harris:

        Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

        I read today that U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington 3rd District, reintroduced her 2018 bill to undo the reckless action of the Trump Administration’s Department of Transportation.  (See article from The Columbian reposted at right (or below).

        Please review this important legislation,  H.R.851, the Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act(Link goes to Congress.gov.)

        Recall that my city, Benicia, California, is traversed by a major Union Pacific rail line that transports hazardous materials to and from refineries in the Bay Area.

        During Benicia’s  lengthy and successful 2013-2017 opposition to Valero Refinery’s “Crude by Rail” proposal, Benicia residents and officials became highly aware of the need for “Positive Train Control,” (PTC), or electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems.  This essential safety measure was initiated after a horrific crash in our state in 2008, and has suffered long delays due to railroad intransigence.  Background from the Sacramento Bee:

        The federal government first mandated the PTC system for major railroads after a Metrolink passenger train engineer became distracted by text messages on his cell phone, causing the train to go through a red signal and crash head-on into a freight train. The 2008 crash killed 25.

        Railroads have been slow to install the system, complaining it is complicated and costly. The federal government has repeatedly extended the deadline for railroads to have the system fully up, tested and running. The initial deadline of 2015 was first extended to the end of 2018, but that deadline, too, was extended for some railroads to 2020.

        As you may be aware, last September the Trump administration gutted previously adopted rail safety regulations calling for PTC and other rail safety measures.  See background from the Associated Press and several others.

        Also please be aware of an investigation initiated by Sens. Wyden and Merkley of Oregon.

        Please review this important legislation, H.R.7076, the Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act and consider joining with Rep. Herrera Beutler in support.

        Roger Straw
        Benicia, California
        The Benicia Independent

        Repost from The Columbian

        WA Rep. moves to reinstate rail safety rules – Trump admin rolled back Obama-era regulations last year

        Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has reintroduced a bill to reinstate oil train safety regulations. The rules, implemented by the Obama administration in 2015, were rolled back last year.

        The regulations required trains carrying oil or other flammable materials to update air-controlled braking systems with electronic brakes. But the U.S. Department of Transportation previously determined the cost to outfit trains with new braking systems outweighed the safety benefit.

        Herrera Beutler first introduced the bill, known as the Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act, to bring back the safety requirements in October.

        “With trains carrying hazardous materials through Southwest Washington, it is paramount we increase safety for the nearby communities,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release. “I’m committed to reversing the decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to ease this critical safety regulation, and reinstating the braking upgrade requirement for trains carrying flammable liquids.”

        The Washington State Department of Ecology classifies Southwest Washington as a major oil train corridor, with hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil moving through the region each year.

        “As a community that has oil trains regularly running through our commercial areas, neighborhoods and downtown, Vancouver is very supportive and appreciative of Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s efforts to reinstate the requirement that oil trains transition to the much more effective electronic pneumatic brakes,” Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said in a press release.

         

         

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