Category Archives: Richmond CA

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,

    BNSF train car derails in Richmond, CA

    Repost from The Contra Costa Times
    [Editor: see also this NBC Bay Area video news report by Cheryl Hurd.  Apologies for the commercial ad.  – RS]

    Burlington Northern Santa Fe car carrying pork derails in Richmond, raising concerns about more hazardous materials

    By Robert Rogers, December 3, 2014

    RICHMOND — The derailment Friday of a single rail car containing refrigerated pork is under investigation by Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials, who say it occurred during a low-speed movement within its rail yard and suggests no added risk for the rail transport of more hazardous materials in Contra Costa County.

    “This was a very minor incident with a single car going less than 10 mph,” BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said. “There are many precautions we take to ensure that 99.997 percent of all hazardous materials we transport reach their destinations without a release caused by an accident.”

    The car was being pulled by a locomotive through the yard just west of Richmond Parkway near Pennsylvania Avenue when it tipped over.

    Kent said people cut through a chain-link fence soon after and took boxes of refrigerated pork that spilled from the crumpled hull. Empty cardboard Tyson Foods boxes were seen scattered in the neighborhood nearby.

    Kent said the incident is under investigation, and she declined to say what may have caused it or whether the line on which the derailment occurred is ever used to transport hazardous materials.

    The incident and its aftermath — the car remains broken beside the tracks and will soon be scrapped — has only heightened concerns in a community already on edge over the recent influx of crude-by-rail shipments, much of it from the Bakken region of North Dakota.

    City officials last month sent a letter to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District urging the agency to revoke a permit allowing Kinder Morgan to offload Bakken crude and Canadian tar sands oil at its Richmond rail yard, the major draw for local crude-by-rail traffic.

    In September, a lawsuit by environmental groups seeking to revoke that permit — which was issued without public notice — was tossed out by a judge on the grounds that it was filed too late.

    Kent said BNSF transports two oil-carrying trains per month in California but declined to say exactly where, citing security concerns.

    Industry experts expect crude-by-rail traffic to increase in the coming years, as North American oil extraction grows, and the product must be refined in facilities across the United States, including several in Contra Costa County.

    Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa County’s chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer, said trains of up to 100 cars travel into Richmond before being transferred to trucks or pipelines to be refined. He noted that cars carrying hazardous materials are more robust than the one that carried the spilled pork, and they would be unlikely to spill in a low-speed derailment.

    Nonetheless, “A crude car could tip over also,” Sawyer said. “It’s a possibility.”

    Kent said Friday’s derailment does not indicate a wider problem.

    “We operate all of our trains with safety as our first priority,” Kent said. “However, when it comes to hazardous material we do have more restrictive operating procedures.”

    County Supervisor John Gioia said BNSF officials have told him they are developing “more resilient” cars for crude oil, a development he took to mean that the company expects the crude-by-rail market to continue to grow, and that federal regulators are likely to impose new standards as communities across the country see increased crude-by-rail traffic in their midst.

    “Any train derailment concerns me because there could be anything from injury to a larger public safety issue; it’s all important,” Gioia said. “But this new (incident) hasn’t told me anything new other than what we know already based on derailments in other parts of the country: that trains with hazardous materials pose a risk.”

      Train derails in Richmond CA, incident not reported

      Repost from The Richmond Standard

      Here’s what we know so far about the derailed train off Richmond Parkway

      December 3, 2014 by Mike Aldax
      Here's what we know about the derailed train off Richmond Parkway
      Photo submitted by a Richmond Standard reader

      Richmond Standard reader Koa Phan sent us the above photo of a derailed train off Richmond Parkway, an incident that hasn’t been publicly reported.

      The reader said the derailment occurred where Pennsylvania Avenue ends near Peres Elementary School.

      After calling various agencies, we learned from a BNSF Railway official on Tuesday that the train had derailed on Friday. The official declined to comment further, saying we needed to talk to his general manager who wasn’t immediately available. We’ll try him again.

      Richmond police learned about the derailment on Sunday, after BNSF called to report that people had apparently entered the train car without authorization, spokesperson Sgt. Nicole Abetkov said.

      RPD did not respond to that call for service, however, as the railway property is not in its jurisdiction, Abetkov said.

      “[BNSF] handled it on their own,” she said.

      Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks said his department did not receive any calls about the derailment, adding dispatch was not aware of any calls.

      Phan said it was lucky the derailed train wasn’t flammable.

      “It could have been a bad situation,” he said.

      Richmond residents and city officials have been on heightened awareness about train derailments after a media investigation in February exposed transports of highly flammable Bakken crude oil to the Kinder Morgan facility in Point Richmond. The public at the time was unaware of the shipments.

      Such transports have been linked to explosions and derailments, including one in a small town in Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown.

      Last month, Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay called on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to revoke permits allowing the transports.

      Check back for updates.