Category Archives: Kinder Morgan

Video: Lockdown at Kinder Morgan

Repost video from Vimeo

Blockade the Bomb Trains! Lockdown at Kinder Morgan 4 Sept 2014

from Peter Menchini, September 5, 2014
Do bomb trains run through your neighborhood?  Oil companies are illegally shipping highly toxic and explosive tar sands oil through residential areas, and try to keep them secret.  On September 4th, 2014, activists entered Kinder Morgan rail yard in Richmond, CA and blocked the trains.  The city’s mayor came and spoke to them.

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    SF Chronicle: Green groups sue Bay Area Air Quality Management District

    Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

    Oil trains into Richmond spark lawsuit

    By David R. Baker, April 5, 2014
    A BNSF Railway train, above, hauls crude oil near Wolf Point, Mont. Photo: Matthew Brown, Associated Press
    A BNSF Railway train, above, hauls crude oil near Wolf Point, Mont. Photo: Matthew Brown, Associated Press

    Little noticed by neighbors, trains carrying crude oil from the Great Plains have been rumbling into a Richmond rail yard.

    The cargo is the same kind of crude that fueled a deadly explosion last summer when a train carrying the oil derailed in a small Quebec town, killing 47. Now environmentalists are suing to prevent any more shipments to Richmond.

    The suit, filed last week in state Superior Court in San Francisco, would revoke a permit issued by a regional agency in February that allows Kinder Morgan to unload oil trains in Richmond at a facility originally built to unload ethanol.

    The Bay Area Air Quality Management District granted the permit without studying how the switch from shipping ethanol to oil could affect the environment, said Kristen Boyles, staff attorney with Earthjustice, the group that filed the suit on behalf of four other environmental organizations.

    A placard on a tank car in North Dakota, below, warns that it's carrying flammable crude oil. Trains like these are being used more frequently to deliver petroleum to California. Photo: Matthew Brown, Associated Press
    A placard on a tank car in North Dakota, below, warns that it’s carrying flammable crude oil. Trains like these are being used more frequently to deliver petroleum to California. Photo: Matthew Brown, Associated Press

    “These things are going in without a lot of thought to their safety, their impact on the environment and their possible health effects,” Boyles said. “That’s what’s really frustrating with this situation – how little we know until this is rolling through our backyards.”

    Kinder Morgan declined comment.

    Ralph Borrmann, an agency spokesman, said the change in fuels handled by Kinder Morgan’s rail-yard facility would not increase air pollution – his agency’s primary concern.

    “There were no emissions consequences as a result of the permit, no net increase of emissions, which is what we look at,” Borrmann said.

    Just a few years ago, California didn’t import oil by rail. But that’s changing fast.

    In 2009, railways carried just 45,000 barrels of oil into the Golden State, according to the California Energy Commission. By last year, that number had soared to 6.2 million barrels. A barrel equals 42 gallons.

    Petroleum glut

    California’s refineries have turned to rail to access a glut of petroleum in the Great Plains. Oil production in the Bakken Shale formation that lies beneath North Dakota and Montana has surged so much, so quickly, that area’s pipelines lack the capacity to transport the fuel. As a result, the Bakken oil sells at a discount to other kinds of crude.

    Oil by rail is “about discounted oil, delivered to your doorstep,” said Gordon Schremp, senior analyst with the Energy Commission.

    The amount of oil carried by rail is rising nationwide. While most of those shipments reach their destination without incident, the United States and Canada have recently seen a series of oil-train accidents leading to explosions and fires, including last July’s derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. In January, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an alert warning that Bakken crude, much lighter than many other grades of oil, may be more flammable as well.

    Benicia refinery

    The warning spurred opposition to a series of oil-by-rail projects in California. Valero’s refinery in Benicia is seeking approval to build a rail yard that could move 70,000 barrels of oil each day, replacing more than half of the petroleum the refinery now imports from abroad, via ship.

    In Pittsburg, another project would bring in oil by ship, pipeline and rail. The $200 million proposal, by WesPac Energy, would refurbish an old Pacific Gas and Electric Co. facility to import, store and supply oil to Bay Area refineries.

    Community groups have spent months fighting those proposals. But most Richmond residents knew nothing about Kinder Morgan’s Richmond rail facility until television station KPIX reported on the issue last month.

    Kinder Morgan applied to convert its existing ethanol offloading facility last year, and won an operating permit from the air district in February. KPIX filmed trucks carrying oil from the facility to the Tesoro refinery in Martinez.

    Tesoro’s comment

    A Tesoro spokeswoman on Friday declined to confirm whether the refinery collaborates with Kinder Morgan’s Richmond facility. But she said the refinery uses about 5,000 to 10,000 barrels of oil per day taken from rail shipments, equal to between two and four train shipments per month.

    Earthjustice and its partners in the suit – the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club – want Kinder Morgan’s operating permit in Richmond revoked until the company conducts a full environmental impact review.

    “The risk of train accidents is huge with this kind of crude oil,” Boyles said.

    A tanker truck is filled from railway cars containing crude oil on railroad tracks in McClellan Park in North Highlands on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. North Highlands is a suburb just outside the city limits of Sacramento, CA. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/MCT) Photo: Randall Benton, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
    A tanker truck is filled from railway cars containing crude oil on railroad tracks in McClellan Park in North Highlands on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. North Highlands is a suburb just outside the city limits of Sacramento, CA. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/MCT) Photo: Randall Benton, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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      Martinez Gazette: Background on lawsuit against BAAQMD and Kinder Morgan

      Repost from The Martinez Gazette

      Environmental groups look to halt shipment of crude by rail

      Rick Jones | April 1, 2014

      Environmental groups filed suit Thursday against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and energy company Kinder Morg­an to halt the shipment of highly explosive and toxic crude oil into Richmond.

      Kinder Morgan receives crude oil by rail at its Richmond terminal, where it is transferred to trucks, under a Feb. 3 permit from the BAAQMD, of which Martinez City Councilman Mark Ross is a member.

      A KPIX-CBS report found the oil is loaded onto trucks, some of which travel through Martinez to the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery.

      A spokeswoman for the Tesoro refinery confirmed to the Contra Costa Times its facility receives between 5,000 and 10,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude. That is about two to four trains per month, and is received through a third-party facility, the spokeswoman, Tina Barbee, told the Times.

      The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court Thursday by Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, asks for a preliminary injunction against further crude oil operations at Kinder Morgan and suspension of the air district permit, pending a full review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

      According the Earth First website, “the Air District (BAAQMD) issued Kinder Morgan a permit to operate its crude-by-rail project in early February, without any notice to the public or environmental and health review. The case asks the court to halt operations immediately while the project undergoes a full and transparent review under the CEQA.”

      “If the BAAQMD board knew nothing about the permit, it should be embarrassed, and it should actually exercise its authority and hold its staff accountable to the community,” Communities for a Better Environment organizer Andres Soto told Earth First. “The BAAQMD’s hush-hush permitting process for the Kinder Morgan permit reinforces the high level of distrust that the community has towards the BAAQMD staff. They lied to us during the Chevron fire, and now we are seeing them make backroom deals with industry in their permitting.”

      Bakken crude, a light, flammable variety named after oil fields in North Dakota and an adjacent part of Canada,  is extremely explosive and toxic. In January, the U.S. federal agency that regulates hazardous materials on the rails issued an alert, stating that Bakken crude may be more flammable than other types of crude. In both the U.S. and Canada, as the number of train cars carrying crude oil has quadrupled over the past six years, accidents, explosions and derailments have dramatically increased. Last July, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a town in Quebec, Canada, killing 47 local residents and destroying most of the downtown area.

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        Sacramento officials concerned, will meet with Area Council of Governments

        Repost from The Sacramento Bee
        [Editor: Excellent article by Bee reporters Bizjak & Tate.  It’s encouraging that Sacramento is waking up to the threat of catastrophic accidents.  We will want to keep an eye on the April 22 meeting of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.  – RS]

        Refinery plans to ship 100 train cars of crude oil through Sacramento

        By Tony Bizjak and Curtis Tate, The Sacramento Bee
        Published: Wednesday, Apr.  2, 2014

        A Bay Area refinery’s plan to run up to 100 train cars of highly flammable crude oil daily through Sacramento is prompting a late push by area leaders to protect cities on the rail line.

        Sacramento officials say they only recently learned that a proposed rail terminal at the Valero company’s refinery in Benicia could dramatically increase the number of trains carrying crude oil through the region, including through populated downtowns. They say they are scrambling to fashion a joint statement to Valero officials expressing concerns.

        The trains would travel on the Union Pacific line that runs through both the Roseville and downtown Sacramento railyards, as well as through downtown West Sacramento and Davis. Those are the same tracks that carry Capitol Corridor passenger trains between Sacramento and the Bay Area.

        The Valero rail terminal is one of several being proposed by refineries responding to a major shift in how crude oil is transported nationally. Currently, the Benicia refinery receives most crude via pipeline and ships. But Valero and other companies are moving quickly toward more rail transport to align with the boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in inland areas like North Dakota, where much of the new oil is a lighter, more flammable type from the Bakken oil fields.

        “These rail shipments are the wave of the future,” Sacramento city official Fran Halbakken said, “but there is not much information out there.”

        Data compiled by the California Energy Commission shows crude oil shipments into the state via rail from other states jumped from  1 million barrels in 2012 to more than  6 million in 2013. Local fire officials, who would be the first responders in case of crashes or derailments, say they do not receive detailed information on how many of those train cars come through Sacramento.

        “We’re trying to figure what is the baseline that comes through now,” said Davis city official Mike Webb. “All jurisdictions would want to know.”

        Union Pacific officials say their company, one of the major rail transporters in California, shipped less than 1,000 carloads of crude oil statewide on a monthly basis last year – or 33 cars a day. A UP spokesman declined this week to say how much of that goes through Sacramento. “We are not currently breaking out how much crude we move through a specific community,” UP’s Aaron Hunt said. “We are only giving out our state number.”

        BNSF, the other major rail transporter in California, also declined to discuss crude oil routing information.

        Valero’s terminal project description offers a brief but clear statement on plans for major shipments through Sacramento: “(Union Pacific Railroad)-operated locomotives would haul up to 100 crude oil rail cars a day from the UPRR Roseville railyard to the refinery,” the report states.

        And more rail shipments could be on their way: Phillips 66 says it intends to begin deliveries of crude by rail sometime next year to its coastal refinery in Santa Maria. Union Pacific would deliver as many as five 80-car trains a week of oil “from a variety of sources in North America.” One route could pass through Sacramento.

        Officials with the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response say refineries around the state may ultimately have the capacity to process up to 143 million barrels of crude shipments via rail a year, far more than the  6 million shipped last year.

        Last year, a train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in a Quebec town, sparking a massive fire that killed 47 people and leveled the town center. Subsequent derailments in Alabama and North Dakota, though not fatal, caused fires and evacuations and showed that disaster could strike again.

        While such incidents are rare, local fire officials say the pressure is on to be more prepared for that possibility.

        “Any time you increase numbers, you increase the probability of problems that would come with that,” said Sacramento City Interim Fire Chief Dan Haverty.

        Last week, The Sacramento Bee reported that McClellan Business Park is being used as a transfer station where oil, including Bakken crude, is being moved from rail cars to tanker trucks. Local safety officials told The Bee they knew little about the McClellan operation.

        Valero and Benicia officials are expected to publish a draft environmental impact report later this month on the company’s planned rail terminal next to Interstate 680 just north of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Sacramento officials say they likely will issue a joint statement to Valero on what they think should be done to increase safety in “up-line” cities.

        The Sacramento Area Council of Governments is planning a meeting of its 32 local cities and counties on April 22 to discuss the issue.

        West Sacramento Fire Chief Rick Martinez said officials may ask that Valero be required to finance extra emergency training and safety equipment for up-line communities, and that there be tight rules on when or whether trains are allowed to sit on track sidings.

        He said the emerging national discussion about rail safety may provide a platform for cities to push for other safety improvements, such as better “real-time” information on what materials are coming through town, so fire and hazardous materials crews know what they are getting into as they head to a call.

        “As they look at this Bakken oil, is there a way through technology to get more information to local agencies?” Martinez said. “We are trying to take advantage of the interest to pose the questions that may guide” future regulations.

        Aides to Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, say she has begun exploring the issue as well. Matsui’s office issued a statement this week, saying “it is imperative that the rail cars are safe and that local agencies are prepared for the increased risk.” Aides said Matsui sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security recently, “seeking additional federal funding for first-responder training, arguing that the increased risk posed by these oil cars warrants additional federal funds.”

        Although the federal government regulates rail shipments, federal rules haven’t caught up to the surge in oil traffic on the nation’s rail network. That’s left local leaders and community activists in cities around the country at the forefront of pushing for changes in state and federal laws.

        Last week, the city councils of Berkeley and Richmond voted to oppose crude shipments on rail lines through their cities. The resolutions call for state lawmakers and members of Congress to seek tougher regulations.

        Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit last week against pipeline operator Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The groups said the agency quietly issued a permit to Kinder Morgan for a crude-by-rail facility in February without reviewing potential environmental and health impacts.

        “We don’t accept that as a foregone conclusion,” said Diane Bailey, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups in the lawsuit.

        A group of community activists in Benicia and Martinez has been trying to stop Valero and another refiner, Tesoro, from expanding their crude oil deliveries by rail. And they’re pressing local, state and federal officials to push for tougher oversight of crude oil shipments by rail.

        “People are afraid that anybody along the rail line could become the next (Quebec),” said Andres Soto, a community activist in Benicia.

        Oil industry officials say fears of derailments and fires are overstated. The Association of American Railroads, an industry group, says 99.997 percent of hazardous materials shipped by rail reach their destination without incident.

        Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association, dismissed the movement to oppose new terminals and additional rail shipments, saying “you’re always going to see the anti-fossil fuel mentality in California.” He said, given the cost savings, “the vast majority of Californians will be happy to get Bakken crude.”

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