Category Archives: Martinez CA

Train tank cars carrying LPG derail near Shell refinery in Martinez

Repost from Fox News 2, Oakland, CA
[Editor: This derailment of tank cars carrying Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) could have resulted in extreme hazardous consequences.  See my analysis here. – RS]

Freight train derails near Shell refinery in Martinez

[Editor: apologies for the advertisement at start of this video… – RS]

By: Leigh Martinez, MAY 01 2018 05:22AM PDT, VIDEO POSTED: MAY 01 2018 05:13AM PDT, UPDATED: MAY 01 2018 06:55AM PDT

MARTINEZ, Calif. – A freight train derailed in Martinez early Tuesday causing two tankers to lean off the tracks.  It is believed the train was backing into the Shell refinery when it went off the tracks at Shell and Marina Vista avenues.

Two cars have their wheels off the tracks and were leaning into other rail lines.

This was not a hazmat situation because there is no sign of leakage and no injuries were reported.

The rail line runs next to Amtrak and Union Pacific lines. There was no immediate word if those commuter trains are affected.


    Andrés Soto Letter: Benicians Deserve Better

    Repost from the Benicia Herald, Forum Page

    Benicia deserves better

    Andrés Soto

    February 21, 2018, By Andrés Soto

    Benicia is the only Bay Area refinery town that does not have the community protection of an Industrial Safety Ordinance, or ISO.

    In 1999, the city of Richmond and Contra Costa County adopted their interlocking ISOs. The Richmond ordinance mirrors the Contra Costa ISO, and Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Division is responsible for enforcement and reporting.

    Their experience with repeated refinery and associated hydrogen plant polluting events caused the elected leaders to respond to pressure from the disproportionally impacted communities in Richmond, Rodeo and Martinez for greater protection and information about polluting incidents.

    How did Benicia miss out?

    Since the adoption of the ISO, there have continued to be dangerous and deadly incidents at these Bay Area refineries, albeit at reduced rates, due to the ISO. Fortunately, the Richmond/Contra Costa ISO allows for corrective provisions that have improved refinery function and provided impacted communities with timely investigative information.

    Under the ISOs, a 72-hour post incident report is available to the public. Monthly reports, or more frequently if necessary, follow that report and are publicly posted. To date, neither the Benicia City Council nor the people of Benicia have received any official reports on the nearly monthlong Valero flaring disaster this past May.

    Based on the success of the Richmond/Contra Costa ISO, the California legislature adopted some of the process safety management portions of the ISO and made them state law, going into effect in October.

    Unfortunately, the legislature did not adopt all elements of the ISOs. Benicia’s ability to receive information, publish the results of investigations to the public and to require Valero to take corrective action simply does not exist. Can we wait for the legislature to strengthen the state law?

    While Valero and PG&E point the finger at each other over who is at fault for the Valero flaring disaster in May, Benicia remains in the dark. We know Valero was given permits to construct an adequate backup generator system but only one co-generator was built and the permit for the other was allowed to expire after several extensions, probably because of Valero’s bureaucrats in Texas.

    Do we Benicians think we can count on Texas oil men to put our health and safety ahead of their profits? The lesson we learned from the successful battle to stop Valero’s dangerous Crude-By-Rail Project is the company seems to stop at nothing to ensure their profits – even at the expense of Benicians.

    Benicia deserves better!

    Andrés Soto,


      Railroad blames local company for derailment; handbrakes not set

      Repost from the Contra Costa Times
      [Editor: Significant quote: “‘…if they didn’t set those handbrakes before they decoupled those eight, they could start rolling. And that looks like what happened,’ said Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa county’s chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer.”  – RS]

      Union Pacific Blames Local Company for Martinez Train Derailment

      By Ted Goldberg, January 28, 2016

      Update, 3 p.m. Thursday: The company handling three tanker cars that derailed in Martinez last week failed to apply enough brakes, according to a report that Union Pacific filed with the Federal Railroad Administration.

      When the firm, Eco Services, pulled eight cars into its plant near the Benicia Bridge last Wednesday, a dozen other cars they were separated from began rolling away and under Interstate 680.

      “There’s handbrakes on the cars to keep the cars stationary, and if they didn’t set those handbrakes before they decoupled those eight, they could start rolling. And that looks like what happened,” said Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa county’s chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer. “It is a cause for concern.”

      The Union Pacific report also found that the incident caused more than $13,000 in damage.

      Eco Services, Union Pacific and the Federal Railroad Administration have yet to comment.

      Original post: The California Public Utilities Commission has opened an investigation into the derailment of three tanker cars carrying oil-refining chemicals in Martinez last week.

      The CPUC’s probe of the incident just south of the Benicia Bridge comes amid new disclosures that the company in charge of the train at the time lost control of a dozen cars carrying spent sulfuric acid just before the derailment.

      And county officials say the local agency in charge of responding to hazardous material incidents was not notified about the derailment until two hours after the cars left the tracks.

      The company that was handling the material was Eco Services. Union Pacific delivered 20 tanker cars to the firm’s plant in Martinez on Jan. 19.

      Early the next morning Eco Services workers began moving eight of the cars into its processing facility, according to a company incident report filed with county officials this week.

      “As soon as the separation took place, the remaining 12 cars started rolling southward and down gradient toward Marina Vista Ave[nue],” wrote Anthony Koo, a senior environmental engineer at Eco Services.

      The fact that a dozen rail cars carrying chemicals were briefly out of control near a busy freeway, Interstate 680, and one of the region’s major bridges prompted concern from the county’s chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer, Randy Sawyer.

      The tanker cars “were moving when they weren’t supposed to be moving,” Sawyer said in an interview. “I would think they would have some kind of braking system that would keep them from doing that.”

      According to the report, the three cars that left the tracks first passed under the I-680 overpass before hitting a derail device just west of the structure.

      Sawyer said that device is a safety feature designed to prevent rail cars from entering a main track and colliding with a moving train. That safety system worked. No chemicals leaked from the three derailed cars, and no one was injured.

      Sawyer also expressed concern about the delay in notifying his agency — a process that took nearly two hours.

      “We would expect notification sooner,” he said.

      According to the Eco Services report, the derailment occurred at 6:45 a.m. on Jan. 20. The company says it notified Union Pacific 17 minutes later.

      Sawyer said the rail company then contacted the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which then sent the county an email about the incident at 8:33 a.m.

      Eco Services said it made a “courtesy call” to the hazardous materials program just over an hour after that.

      The delayed notification was most likely because no hazardous materials spilled, but “they did not notify us as quickly as we would have wished,” Sawyer said.

      The CPUC, meanwhile, is looking into whether Eco Services or Union Pacific were following state regulations at the time of the derailment, that agency’s spokeswoman, Constance Gordon, said in an email.

      Eco Services has not returned calls for comment.

      A Union Pacific spokesman says the company will cooperate with the CPUC in its investigation.


        Benicia Herald: Train carrying hazardous materials derails in Martinez

        Repost from Nick Sestanovich’s Benicia Herald Archive
        [Editor:  See also coverage in the CCTimes: Martinez: Train derailment near Benicia Bridge rekindles safety fears along East Bay’s refinery belt.  Also see KTVU News and video coverage on KRON 4 News.  – RS]

        Train carrying hazardous materials derails in Martinez

        By Nick Sestanovich, January 24, 2016

        Martinez train derailment 2016-01-20A train carrying sulfuric acid derailed in Martinez Wednesday morning near the Benicia Bridge. No leaks have been reported, although the incident has caused some concerns in Benicia as the Planning Commission plans to hold a hearing on Valero’s proposed crude-by-rail project in two weeks.

        A Union Pacific Railroad train was carrying the hazardous materials to sulfuric acid regeneration provider Eco Services in Martinez at 8 a.m. when three tanker cars were derailed along Mococo Road. It is unknown what caused the derailment.

        The acid contained contaminated hydrocarbon, but no leaks were reported and no vapors were released.

        As with other train derailments and explosions, this has caused concerns in the refinery-heavy regions of the Bay Area, especially in Benicia where the Planning Commission is going to hold a meeting on Feb. 8 to consider a use permit for the crude-by-rail project.

        Valero announced the project, which would extend three Union Pacific Tracks onto its property to deliver up to 70,000 barrels of North American crude oil a day, in 2013 and was quickly met with backlash over its potential environmental effects. Adding fire to these concerns was an oil train explosion in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed more than 30 buildings in July of that year. Since then, oil train explosions in Casselton, N.D., and Lynchburg Va., are just a few of the similar incidents that have gotten widespread publicity.

        The sentiments of Benicia have been echoed in other communities. In Pittsburg, the energy company WesPac Midstream LLC had proposed a project to convert a Pacific Gas & Electric tank farm into an oil storage facility which would have delivers from five 104-car oil trains a week. The project was struck down in December.

        When reached for comment, Valero Public Affairs Manager Sue Fisher Jones said the Martinez derailment had no bearing on the city.

        “The incident in Martinez is not related to, nor does it have any impact on, our operations in Benicia,” she said.

        However, other residents like Roger Straw, who runs the anti-crude by rail blog The Benicia Independent, disagree.

        “The derailment in Martinez involved tank cars full of poisonous sulfuric acid, rolling downhill unattended, just like the runaway train in Quebec that killed 47 people and leveled a downtown,” Straw said. “What does that have to do with crude by rail? Everything. Rail cars have carried hazardous materials for years, and the risk to our communities is already great. If we add to that risk two more 50-car trains every day full of toxic and volatile Bakken crude oil and/or impossibly heavy diluted tar-sands crude, two trains coming in and two more going out every day, we greatly increase the potential for a major loss in our own community and in those communities and wild spaces uprail from here.”

        “This accident at Benicia’s front door is a wake up call,” he added.

        The Planning Commission meeting will be held 6:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 8, at the City Hall Council Chambers, located at 250 East L St.