Category Archives: Local Regulation

Local officials may check Solano “Industrial Safety Ordinance”

Repost from Vallejo Times-Herald
[VERY interesting in this story: “Local officials say they may need to revisit the county’s Industrial Safety Ordinance to see whether modifications should be made to ensure safety in dealing with Bakken crude, which is more volatile and susceptible to explosion than heavier crude blends.”  – Editor]

Huge increase in crude oil by rail to Bay Area concerns local leaders

By Robert Rogers/MediaNews Group
Posted:   03/18/2014 01:08:00 AM PDT 

RICHMOND — Bakken crude oil from North Dakota is part of the mix of increased crude-by-rail shipments into Contra Costa County, raising concerns from local leaders about whether current regulations are sufficient to minimize risks of transporting the volatile fossil fuel.

“There’s a lot more to be learned, but Bakken (crude) is coming in now,” said Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Division Director Randy Sawyer. “How much, I don’t know.”

Kinder Morgan Inc., at 1140 Canal Blvd. in Richmond, secured a permit last month to transfer crude from rail cars to trucks, said county Supervisor John Gioia, of Richmond, and is the only facility in the Bay Area that receives crude shipped on Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains, according to the California Energy Commission.

Domestic oil harvesting has increased in recent years, most notably in North Dakota, where drillers use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to fracture rock and extract oil. As the haul has increased, more oil is coming by rail to California refineries for processing.

Northern California volume of crude by rail increased 57 percent during 2013, from 74,332 barrels in January to 116,657 barrels in December, according to California Energy Commission statistics. But the bulk of the increase statewide went to Southern California refineries, as total state volume spiked from 155,841 barrels in January to 1,180,662 barrels in December. Only about one tenth of all crude-by-rail imports came to Northern California.

About 85 percent of the crude by rail delivered to Northern California in 2013 came from North Dakota, followed by 12.5 percent from Colorado, according to the commission. Four of the five Northern California oil refineries listed by the commission are in Contra Costa County, with the other in Benicia.

The city of Benicia is considering local resident concerns about Valero’s proposals to ship crude by rail.

Local officials say they may need to revisit the county’s Industrial Safety Ordinance to see whether modifications should be made to ensure safety in dealing with Bakken crude, which is more volatile and susceptible to explosion than heavier crude blends.

What local agencies can do to regulate the rail cargo, which is typically covered by federal interstate commerce laws, is limited.

The changes come as popular resistance to increased refining of continental oil has been building.

In the past month, critics hosted town hall-style meetings in Richmond, Martinez and Pittsburg decrying planned increases in crude-by-rail shipments into the Bay Area. Activists drew attention to rising accident numbers, with particular emphasis on a train explosion in July in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed. Other derailments and explosions have occurred in the past year in Alabama and North Dakota.

NY locals, state and feds join together to demand rail reform

Repost from The Journal News

Fast-track oil train standards, Rockland officials say

Khurram Saeed, The Journal News    11:20 p.m. EDT March 17, 2014

Officials want tighter regulations and safer tank cars in place for freight trains transporting crude oil through Rockland County.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey and local elected officials and community leaders at a press conference in West Nyack March 17, 2014 demanded new rules to ensure the safe transport of crude oil through the region.(Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal News)

WEST NYACK –  A small cadre of federal, state and Rockland officials on Monday demanded that the U.S. transportation department boost safety standards for trains that carry crude oil through local communities and environmentally-sensitive areas.

At one point during the press conference held at the rail crossing on Pineview Road, a southbound oil train slowly rolled past. It was hauling dozens of the tank cars, known as DOT-111s, that are prone to rupturing following derailments or collisions.

In December, a train moving 99 empty oil tank cars — each large enough to carry about 30,000 gallons — hit a car carrier at the site but did not derail.

About 14 oil trains move through Rockland each week on CSX tracks, shuttling between Chicago and refineries along the East Coast, a recent Sunday story in The Journal News detailed.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently working on stricter standards for transporting crude oil by rail and the tank cars that carry them.

Safe transport of the more volatile crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota must be “fully tackled” by the DOT, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey said. She said voluntary initiatives by the oil and rail industries were a good start but called for better planned routes, more transparency and improved tank cars.

“The promises of industry just aren’t enough to safeguard the public,” said Lowey, D-Harrison.

Rockland Legislators Alden Wolfe, D-Montebello, and Harriet Cornell, D-West Nyack, on Monday sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking his office to “fast-track rule changes” endorsed by Lowey and New York senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Several speakers noted CSX’s River Line passes near Lake DeForest and the Hackensack River, which supply hundreds of thousands of residents in Rockland and Bergen County, N.J., with drinking water. An oil spill in the reservoir would be devastating, they said.

“Guess who pays for the catastrophes and clean-ups?” asked Cornell — before explaining it would primarily fall to taxpayers.

Rockland Sheriff Louis Falco said he planned to meet with CSX in the coming weeks. His officers have been checking speeds of trains during the day — they have largely been in compliance, he said — and would soon begin observing them at night.

He also wants CSX to provide a daily list of what is aboard the trains so he can notify local police and fire departments.

“It takes a lot of people working together to make it clear that this is unacceptable,” Lowey said.

Seattle to ban oil-by-rail

Repost from SeattleMet.  See link to the Council’s resolution in paragraph 3.

City to Adopt Anti-Oil Train Resolution

The city council is poised to adopt a resolution condemning oil-train expansion in Washington.

Published Feb 21, 2014
By Erica C. Barnett

The city council’s planning committee is poised to approve a resolution next month condemning proposals to massively expand the number of trains transporting flammable oil, ultimately bound for Asia, through the Pacific Northwest.

“We’re moving about 57 times as much oil by rail as we were in, say, 2009, 2008 [nationally]”—a mere five years ago—Sightline’s Eric de Place told the committee,

The resolution, which, of course, is non-binding, would ask Washington state legislators to adopt rules requiring companies moving oil to disclose how much petroleum they’re transporting, what type of petroleum products, and the frequency and duration of oil transports.

Seattle area state Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-46, N. Seattle) is sponsoring legislation that would do just that. The Democratic house passed the bill earlier this week and the Democratic minority in the state senate managed to block a watered-down version of the bill, making Farrell’s version the main bill on the issue.

The city resolution also urges the federal government to improve safety regulations for tank design and operations, and asks state, federal, and local agencies to assess the impact oil trains will have on public safety, the environment, and the economy.

It also asks that any railroad company that operates on rail lines adjacent to the arenas or in tunnels underneath the city itself “consider restrictions on the shipment of petroleum products along those routes until adequate study” has determined that those shipments are safe.

Additionally, committee chair (and ardent environmentalist) Mike O’Brien said he’d like to add two more requests: A study of the impacts increased oil train transports will have on climate change; and a moratorium on new oil train permits in the state until “we better understand the implication of this 57-fold increase in a product that has been shown to be deadly.”

And not in an abstract way. In Quebec, an explosion on a runaway oil train killed 47 people (in a town of just 6,000) last year. Similar trains also exploded in the past year in Alabama, North Dakota, and New Brunswick, although no one was killed in any of those incidents.

Representatives of the rail and shipping industries made the case at today’s hearing that they’re working voluntarily to improve the safety of oil shipments, and that if any new regulations are needed, they should be imposed at the federal level.

But their testimony was overwhelmed by an onslaught of folks concerned about the potential climate and safety impacts of oil trains, including a troupe of Raging Grannies, a Mount Baker resident who pledged to risk arrest over another controversial fossil-fuel project, the Keystone XL pipeline, and two teens who performed a folk song live with the refrain, “Please don’t send exploding trains through our city.”