Protesters Rally in Sacramento Against Crude Oil Trains
By DOUG JOHNSON, JULY 6, 2016 UPDATED AT 11:06PM
SACRAMENTO — Three years ago Wednesday, 47 people were killed when a train carrying crude oil derailed in a small town in Quebec, Canada. On this tragic anniversary, dozens in Sacramento rallied to protest against oil trains traveling through Northern California.
A group of activists, the Sacramento Oil Trains Coalition, is concerned about the new type of oil that is now traveling the lines.
“We’re talking about bringing in this Bakken crude or the Canadian tar sands, it’s very volatile explosive crude oil, we don’t need that here in Sacramento,” said Chris Brown, the organizer of Wednesday’s event.
It’s the same type of oil that exploded during a derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people July 6, 2013. Members of the Sacramento Oil Trains Coalition read the names of the victims at Wednesday’s protest.
“I was very surprised that this was happening in my own backyard,” said protester Valerie Williams who lives in South Sacramento.
The last several years, Union Pacific said crude oil has been passing by Sacramento, heading south to a transfer station outside Bakersfield and also heading west to refineries in Richmond. And the Valero Refining company has applied to run two trains daily through Sacramento to its plant in Benicia. There the city planning commission voted down Valero’s request in February, but the refinery has appealed the decision.
“We don’t need this particular kind of crude with all of its hazards added to what we already have, we need to be figuring out how to get rid of what we have, not add more to it,” Brown said.
Despite its recent derailment in Oregon, Union Pacific said its record speaks for itself.
“Our safety and statistics specifically with crude oil has a 99.9% of the time making it from its origination to its destination without incident,” said Justin Jacobs, a spokesperson for Union Pacific.
Jacobs said his company cannot release the exact amount of crude oil it transports through Sacramento.
“As far as train schedules, and what’s on it, and those type of things, yeah, for security reasons, we don’t release specific information,” Jacobs said.
Valero has said in the past that their carbon footprint is actually larger now transporting that crude oil by tanker over sea than it would be by train over land.
Citizens Call for a Ban on Deadly Oil Trains at Events Across US and Canada
The 2016 Week of Action marks the third anniversary of the tragic July 6, 2013, oil train disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.
On Friday, June 3, 2016, an oil train derailed in Mosier, OR, forcing the emergency evacuation of a 220 children from a school 250-yards from burning oil tank cars.
Oil trains have proven too dangerous for the rails: 14 major oil train derailments and fires in the past three years, yet these dangerous trains still bring millions of gallons of toxic, explosive crude oil through cities and towns across the US and Canada.
Each year since then communities have marked the solemn anniversary with events in dozens of cities and towns during the Stop Oil Train Week of Action.
July 6-12, 2016, citizens will gather again at events across the US and Canada to demand an immediate ban on oil trains. We are calling on President Obama, Congress and Governors to take three urgent steps to solve this problem.
Ban oil trains: There is no safe way to transport crude oil by rail.
Deny all federal permits for oil train infrastructure: Stop the oil industry from expanding oil train traffic carrying the dirtiest, most dangerous crude.
Protect the authority of local governments: States, cities and citizens must have the right to say no to oil trains.Uphold the authority of our cities and towns to protect the public safety, and to ensure first responders have the necessary information and resources to respond to oil train disasters.
Oil Trains are Too Dangerous for the Rails.
The extreme Bakken and tar sands crude that the oil industry moves on trains is more toxic, more explosive, and more carbon-intensive than conventional oil.
More than 25 million Americans live in the blast zone and mining and refining this extreme oil puts millions more Americans and Canadians at risk.
14 major oil train fires in three years proves that crude oil is too dangerous for the rails. In Mosier, the tracks were inspected just days before the derailment, and only luck and a windless day kept the fire from four burning oil tank cars from reaching homes and a nearby school.
Oil train traffic, which was practically nonexistent seven years ago, has grown by 4,000 percent and the oil industry is proposing to further increase traffic, build more oil train terminals, and build new refinery infrastructure for dirtier crude oil carried by train.
We don’t need any of the extreme oil that is moving by train. The explosive Bakken and tar sands crude that moves by train is a tiny percent of US oil consumption and oil companies export five to seven times more oil each day than they move by train. So stop the trains tomorrow and our energy supply is not changed at all.
As we move our economy to clean energy and solve climate disruption we cannot at the same time allow oil companies to bring Bakken, tar sands and other fracked oil — the dirtiest, most dangerous sources of oil — onto the market.
Environmental Justice: Our railways were built to connect population centers, not carry hazardous materials. Decades of housing discrimination means that 60 percent of the 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone are people of color.
Note on Terminology: The term ‘crude-by-rail’ is the oil industry’s neutered term (abstract and without agency) for the dangerous, deadly, explosive oil trains they send through our cities and towns. There’s no reason to use ‘crude-by-rail’ when we can talk about the absolute danger of crude oil trains and the culpability of the oil and rail industry and regulators who send them across North America.
Mosier Fire Chief Calls Shipping Bakken Crude Oil By Rail ‘Insane’
By Amelia Templeton, June 4, 2016 4:39 p.m. | Updated: June 5, 2016 9:04 a.m.
Jim Appleton, the fire chief in Mosier, Ore., said in the past, he’s tried to reassure his town that the Union Pacific Railroad has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.
He’s changed his mind.
After a long night working with hazardous material teams and firefighters from across the Northwest to extinguish a fire that started when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in his town, Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe.
“I hope that this becomes death knell for this mode of shipping this cargo. I think it’s insane,” he said. “I’ve been very hesitant to take a side up to now, but with this incident, and with all due respect to the wonderful people that I’ve met at Union Pacific, shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.”
Federal regulators say oil from the Bakken region is more flammable and more dangerous, than other types of crude. It’s been involved in a string of rail disasters, including a tragedy that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
Shipments through the Columbia River Gorge have dramatically increased in recent years and oil companies have proposed building the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country 70 miles downstream from Mosier, at the the Port of Vancouver.
Emergency responders in communities along rail lines in the Northwest have struggled to prepare for a possible disaster. Much of the focus has been on stockpiling critical equipment needed to fight oil spills and fires, including a special type of fire suppression foam.
But Appleton said that foam was of relatively little use for the first 10 hours after the spill in Mosier. It couldn’t be directly applied to the main rail car that was on fire.
“The rationale that was explained to me by the Union Pacific fire personnel is that the metal is too hot, and the foam will land on the white-hot metal and evaporate without any suppression effect,” he said. “That was kind of an eye-opener for me.”
Appleton said crews spent 8 to 10 hours cooling down the adjacent rail cars with water before the final burning car was cool enough to be extinguished using the firefighting foam. Fire tending trucks drew water from the Columbia River using a nearby orchard supply line, and applied roughly 1,500 gallons of water per minute to the white-hot rail cars.
Other first responders described a chaotic scene, and difficulty getting to the site of the accident due to a massive snarl of traffic on Interstate 84.
“It looked like the apocalypse,” said Elizabeth Sanchey, the Yakima Nation’s environmental manager and the head of its hazmat crew. “You get into town, and there is just exhausted firefighters everywhere you look. It was quite scary.”
No lives were lost in the fire, and reports so far of property damage have been minimal, but an oil slick has appeared in the Columbia River, and officials said they haven’t determined for sure how oil is reaching the water. Yellow oil containment booms were stretched across the river to contain the oil.
Sanchey and several other Yakama Nation first responders were monitoring the containment effort through binoculars from a nearby overpass.
“It’s unknown how much oil is in the river, but it is in containment now, and we believe it to be relatively safe,” she said. “We currently have a sockeye run that is just starting, and lamprey live in the sediment, so that’s definitely a concern. We have endangered species at risk.”
Jim Appleton said Friday was a horrible day for his town, and he feels like he narrowly avoided a catastrophe.
“If the same derailment had happened just 24 hours earlier, there would have been 35 mph gusts blowing the length of the train,” he said. “The fire very easily could have spread to some or all of the 96 cars behind, because they were in the line of the prevailing wind. That would have been the catastrophe.”
In a press conference Saturday, the Union Pacific Railroad apologized for the incident.
“We apologize to the residents of Mosier, the state of Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest Region,” said spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza.
Espinoza said the railroad company will pay for the cost of fighting the fire. She said it has to wait for the area to cool down before it can extract the cars that remain and remove them by flatbed truck.
The company said crude oil represents less than 1 percent of its cargo, and said it has trained more than 2,300 emergency responders across Oregon since 2010.
Union Pacific set up information and health hotlines for Mosier residents. The information hotline number is 1-877-877-2567. The health hotline number is 1-888-633-3120.