Category Archives: Moratorium on oil trains

‘MOSIER’ Act demands derailment investigations and more

Repost from the Hood River News

‘MOSIER’ Act demands derailment investigations

July 19, 2016

DAMAGED Union Pacific oil train car is trucked away from town on June 8 during an anti-oil train rally at exit 69 in Mosier.
DAMAGED Union Pacific oil train car is trucked away from town on June 8 during an anti-oil train rally at exit 69 in Mosier. Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced a bill last Wednesday that would compel federal regulators to investigate every major oil train derailment.

The bill came in response to the June 3 fiery derailment in Mosier.

The Mandate Oil Spill Inspections and Emergency Rules (MOSIER) Act calls on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to clarify the Federal Rail Administration’s authority to place moratoriums on oil train traffic after major wrecks, and would require the Department of Transportation to reduce the amount of volatile gases in the crude oil those trains have been hauling.

“As Oregon has seen firsthand, these oil trains are rolling explosion hazards,” Merkley said in a statement. “That’s unacceptable. We need long-term solutions that will keep communities safe. Every accident needs to be fully and independently investigated.”

photo
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley

The NTSB declined to launch a formal investigation into the Mosier derailment because there were no injuries or fatalities, and they deemed the wreck didn’t bring to light any new significant safety issues.

In a July 15 letter, the board replied that the agency “decided not to launch on the Mosier derailment due to limited resources and the current investigative workload in the Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations (RPH). This information indicated that the circumstances of this accident did not pose any new significant safety issues. The tank cars were breached in a manner similar to those that we have seen in other accident investigations. In addition, the derailment resulted in no injuries or fatalities.”

Merkley argued the Federal Rail Administration should have the power to enforce moratoriums until identified problems are fully resolved, and that the more volatile type of crude known as Bakken needs to be “stabilized before it rolls through our communities.”

“Oregonians deserve the strongest possible protections from oil train derailments,” Wyden said. “This bill ensures that federal authorities can stop trains after a major derailment until a thorough investigation has been completed, and that the NTSB has ample resources to closely examine the root causes of such a crash.”

photo
Sen. Ron Wyden | Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea

The proposed Act would:

  • Require the NTSB to investigate every major oil train derailment and provide resources to hire additional investigators.
  • Clarify the Federal Rail Administration’s authority to put a moratorium on unit oil trains following an accident to allow for investigations to be completed and safety recommendations to be implemented.
  • Requires the Department of Transportation to establish and enforce a standard that reduces the amount of volatile gases in crude oil.

The MOSIER Act would supplement a 2015 rail safety bill, Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act, which seeks to establish a fee on outdated tanker cars in order to get them off the tracks faster. Funds from the fee would pay for cleanup costs associated with railroad accidents, railroad staff cost, and training local first responders.

Merkley and Wyden were among 12 policymakers who signed that bill.

Share...

    Ralliers outside NY governor’s office call for ‘bomb train’ ban

    Repost from WNYT, Albany NY

    Ralliers outside governor’s office call for ‘bomb train’ ban

    By: WNYT Staff, 05/07/2015 6:35 PM

    ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo likely receives a lot of mail.

    However, on Thursday an attempt was made to hand deliver a letter to the Executive Mansion.

    If you’re Andrew Cuomo, you’re only as good as your last decision and the group “People of Albany United for Safe Energy,” or PAUSE that was thanking the governor for his fracking ban, returned to their main mission — a bomb train ban.

    The rally outside the Governor’s Mansion in Albany’s South End is just blocks from where the so-called bomb trains are stored and where they travel the rails on their way to and from the Albany port.

    “We are unsafe. We have millions of gallons of oil coming in to Albany every day,” argued Sandy Steubing of PAUSE.

    The group’s protest Thursday comes one day after six oil cars caught fire and exploded in North Dakota. The town was evacuated and no one was hurt, but each derailment — five in as many months — highlights the need, believe activists, for an oil train ban in New York.

    “It is no longer a matter of if, but when. Joins in doing everything you possibly can to eliminate the ‘when’ from our lives,” urged Andrew Tarwerdi, also of PAUSE.

    Last week the federal government announced new rules which it maintains will strengthen the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail. The oil and rail industry has already announced it will challenge the rules in court.

    “The derailment is a wakeup call that the industry needs to work on a solution and stop fighting the changes,” declared New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

    The pause activists don’t think the federal regulations go far enough, soon enough, anyway. The hope is their letter, delivered to Governor Andrew Cuomo will convince New York to ban bomb trains

    “Are we going to continue to let these trains explode and ruin our communities and kill our people,” asked Wille White, a South End advocate.

    It’s important to note that in North Dakota, it was a really small town, only about 20 people had to be evacuated.

    If there were an explosion in Albany, during the day when all the commuters are in town, the evacuation numbers would be in the thousands.

    The state trooper outside the Governor’s Mansion said he could not take the letter.

    So, it will have to be mailed after all.

    Share...

      Albany NY – Citizens demand “Ban the bomb trains”

      Press Release from People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE)

      Citizens demand “Ban the bomb trains”

      Albany, NY, May 7, 2015

      PAUSE - People of Albany United for Safe EnergyAt noon today, on the sidewalk in front of the Governor’s mansion on Eagle St., citizens will be calling for a ban on the trains carrying crude oil by rail in New York. Yesterday marked the fifth fiery derailment this year and the tenth explosion since 2013 when 47 people died and the town of Lac-Megantic Canada was destroyed. In chronological order the explosions are:

      • July, 2013 – Lac Megantic, Canada
      • November, 2013 – Aliceville, AL
      • December, 2013 – Casselton, ND
      • January, 2014 – New Brunswick, Canada
      • April 2014 – Lynchburg, VA
      • February 14, 2015 – Timmins, Ontario, Canada
      • February 16, 2015 – Mount Carbon, WVA
      • March 5, 2015 – Galena, IL
      • March 7, 2015 – Gogama, Ontario Canada
      • May 6, 2015 – Heimdal, ND

      During the protest we will sign a letter asking Governor Cuomo to take all necessary steps to halt the oil trains which may include using summary abatement for receipt and storage of the oil at the Port of Albany. Under the Environmental Conservation Law, summary abatement can be invoked if an activity is deemed to be an imminent hazard.

      Dominick Calsolaro of PAUSE states “It is time for Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens to take drastic action and ban crude oil-carrying trains from traveling through New York State. There is no way to evacuate the whole city of Albany and the additional 70,000 daily workers who commute to our Capital City should one of these trains derail and catch fire downtown.”

      What we do – or don’t do – in New York also impacts those south of us in New Jersey. Rosemary Dreger Carey of 350NJ states “In New Jersey, we’re very concerned about the news of another oil train explosion in North Dakota. That makes five explosions this year. Trains carrying Bakken crude run through our major cities and suburban communities day and night. A similar accident here in the most densely populated state in the country would be unthinkable.” Paul Rogovin, also from New Jersey with the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, remarks “We are glad to hear that no one was injured in today’s explosion in North Dakota, but I’m not sure we’d be safe from a similar blast in New Jersey. The new rules issued by the DOT this week give the industry three to five years to improve their cars, and several years more to upgrade their breaks. That’s unacceptable. Accidents don’t wait to happen. People are in danger now. Trains carrying highly volatile Bakken crude oil should be banned.”

      Charley Bowen of the Western New York Peace Center in Buffalo agrees “We are glad no human life was lost. However, the residents of every house, village, town and city living nearby a rail line carrying explosive Bakken crude oil remain at risk of loss of life, limb and property. It’s a shame that public policy continues to support expensive fossil fuels to the detriment of humans and the environment when cheaper and infinitely safer renewable sources of energy are readily available. Gov Andrew Cuomo should act immediately to protect NY State residents, its environment and its increasingly precious aquifers. He should immediately invoke his summary abatement powers to stop the transport of dangerous Bakken crude oil in New York State. ”

      Sandy Steubing of PAUSE concludes “At this rate the people of New York cannot wait another month, let alone years. There will always be human error and mechanical failures. There will always be train derailments. However, there can be no margin for error with a substance that is this volatile. Fortunately, world class scientists have proven we can rapidly phase out all fossil fuels.”

      An energy feasibility study from Stanford and Cornell concludes that New York can derive 100% of its energy needs including transportation from the renewable sources of wind, water, and solar. Dr. Robert Pollin from the Political Economy Research Inst. of UMass Amherst has found that for a million dollar investment we can achieve five oil/gas jobs or thirteen solar jobs. Let us move away from a 19th century mode of transportation, carrying a 20th century energy source, into the 21st century of renewables.

      Share...

        Concerns of communities heard at meeting of the Cal Energy Commission in Crockett CA

        Repost from The Contra Costa Times

        Contra Costa residents pushing for more information on crude by rail

        By Karina Ioffee, Bay Area News Group,  03/27/2015 05:22:01 PM PDT

        CROCKETT — With plans in the works to transport crude oil by rail through Contra Costa County cities to a Central California refinery, local residents say they want assurances that state and federal agencies are doing everything they can to keep them safe.

        Less than 1 percent of crude that California refineries received in 2014 came by rail, but the negative perception of transporting oil by train has grown sharply because of highly publicized accidents. A derailment in Quebec in 2013 killed 47 people and destroyed parts of a town; another in West Virginia contaminated local water sources and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

        Tanker cars sit on railroad tracks near the Shell Refinery in Martinez on May 6, 2013.
        Tanker cars sit on railroad tracks near the Shell Refinery in Martinez on May 6, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

        If the Phillips 66 plans are approved, an estimated five trains a week, each hauling 80 tank cars, could travel through Contra Costa cities, then Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose along the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, before arriving at the refinery in Santa Maria.

        At a community meeting here Thursday, residents peppered a representative from the California Energy Commission about what kind of emergency plans were in place should a train derail and explode, what timelines the federal government had for new and improved tanker cars, and whether railroad companies have enough insurance in case of a catastrophic event.

        Many came away unsatisfied with what they heard, saying they were terrified by the prospect of rail cars filled with Bakken crude from North Dakota, which is lighter and more combustible than most types of petroleum.

        “The oil companies are getting all the benefits and the communities who live near them are taking all the risk,” said Nancy Rieser, who lives in Crockett and is a member of Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment, a community organization.

        Her group is pushing the railroad industry to release its risk-assessment information, required for insurance purposes, to better understand what kind of plans companies have in an event of an emergency and whether their insurance policies would cover a large incident. Railroad companies have so far declined to release the information.

        “You need to have hospitals at the ready, you need to have first responders, so if you keep it a secret, it’s as if the plan didn’t exist,” Rieser said. “You can’t be coy with the communities.”

        Regulations about rail safety are written and enforced by the Federal Railroad Administration, and the California Public Utilities Commission focuses on enforcement in the state, employing inspectors to make sure railroads comply with the law. There is also an alphabet soup of state agencies such as the Office of Emergency Services (OES), the Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR).

        But to what extent the agencies are working together to prepare for crude-by-rail transports and how they’re sharing information remains unclear. Last year, an Interagency Rail Safety Working Group, put together by Gov. Jerry Brown, produced a report recommending that additional inspectors be hired to evaluate tracks, rail cars and bridges; more training for local emergency responders; and real-time shipment information to local firefighters when a train is passing through a community. According to the report, incidents statewide involving oil by rail increased from three in 2011 to 25 in 2013.

        Many at Thursday’s meeting said the only way to prevent future accidents was to ban the transport of crude by rail completely, until all rail cars and tracks had been inspected.

        “These trains are really scary because we live so close to them and we feel the effects deeply through emissions and air pollution,” said Aimee Durfee, a Martinez resident. Statewide, Californians use more than 40 million gallons of gasoline each day, according to the California Energy Commission.

        Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said railroad companies are already shifting to new cars — outfitted with heat shields, thicker tank material and pressure-relief devices — although the process is gradual because of the sheer volume of the fleet, estimated at more than 25,000. New rulings specifying tanker car standards and timelines about phasing in updated technology are also expected this May.

        “No human activity is completely risk-free,” Weinstein said, adding that the spill rate for trains transporting crude was roughly four times higher than accidents involving pipelines.

        “Communities are resistant to crude by rail and they are against pipelines, but they also want to go to the pump and be able to fill up their car.”

        Share...