Category Archives: Spill

Did North Dakota Regulators Hide an Oil and Gas Industry Spill Larger Than Exxon Valdez?

DeSmogBlog.com, By Justin Nobel • Monday, August 19, 2019 – 12:56

Exxon Valdez

In July 2015 workers at the Garden Creek I Gas Processing Plant, in Watford City, North Dakota, noticed a leak in a pipeline and reported a spill to the North Dakota Department of Health that remains officially listed as 10 gallons, the size of two bottled water delivery jugs.

But a whistle-blower has revealed to DeSmog the incident is actually on par with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which released roughly 11 million gallons of thick crude.

The Garden Creek spill “is in fact over 11 million gallons of condensate that leaked through a crack in a pipeline for over 3 years,” says the whistle-blower, who has expertise in environmental science but refused to be named or give other background information for fear of losing their job. They provided to DeSmog a document that details remediation efforts and verifies the spill’s monstrous size.

Up to 5,500,000 gallons” of hydrocarbons have been removed from the site, the 2018 document states, “based upon an…estimate of approximately 11 million gallons released.”

Garden Creek is operated by the Oklahoma-based oil and gas service company, ONEOK Partners, and processes natural gas and natural gas liquids, also called natural gas condensate, brought to the facility via pipeline from Bakken wells.

Neither the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which monitors coastal spills, nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could provide records to put the spill’s size in context, but according to available reports, if the 11-million-gallon figure is accurate, the Garden Creek spill appears to be among the largest recorded oil and gas industry spills in the history of the United States.

However, the American public is unaware, because the spill remains officially listed as just 10 gallons. That is despite the fact that a North Dakota regulator has acknowledged the spill was much larger, and even the official record, right after stating the spill was 10 gallons, notes that the area was “saturated with natural gas condensate of an unknown volume,” and thus may have been larger.

Scott Skokos, Executive Director of the Dakota Resource Council, an organization that works to protect North Dakota’s natural resources and family farms, questioned whether it was legal for the state to cover up or downplay spills.

I have seen many instances where it appears spills are being covered up, and there appears to be a pattern of downplaying spills, which makes the narrative surrounding oil and gas development look rosy and makes the industry look better politically,” says Skokos. “If this pattern is as widespread as it seems, then we have a government that is conspiring to protect the oil industry. This is not only reckless and unethical, but also potentially illegal.”

In my view,” Skokos added, “this is not looking out for the best interest of the state or the people who live in the state, it is only looking out for corporations. And these are not even corporate citizens of this state, they are corporate citizens of somewhere else.”

The Challenge of Oversight

Spills are pervasive in North Dakota’s oil industry and have been the focus of numerous media reports. “State regulators have often been unable — or unwilling — to compel energy companies to clean up their mess,” ProPublica reported in a 2012 investigation.

A 2015 Inside Energy article noted state reports “are riddled with inaccuracies and estimates” and cited a 2011 spill of oil and gas wastewater by a Texas-based company listed as 12,600 gallons but later determined to be at least two million gallons. An eight-year database of spills compiled by the New York Times in 2014 showed two spills of roughly one million gallons.

But no news agency has reported on any spill in North Dakota near the magnitude of Garden Creek.

Moisture flare at the Obenour 1 and 2 well on the Evanson family farm in McKenzie County, North Dakota, east of Arnegard and west of Watford City.
Pumpjacks and flaring in McKenzie County, North Dakota, east of Arnegard and west of Watford City. Credit: Tim EvansonCC BYSA 2.0

Gas processing plants are sprawling industrial facilities and contain numerous pipes and towers that help clean and separate the stream of natural gas and natural gas liquids like ethane, butane, and propane carried in gathering pipelines that originate at wellheads.

The explosion of fracking across the U.S. and the booming development of America’s gas-rich shale plays have planted gas processing plants, which emit a near-continuous stream of greenhouse gases and carcinogens, from the Pittsburgh suburbs and Ohio’s Amish country to the high plains of Colorado and the badlands of North Dakota.

There should be ongoing investigations of these facilities regularly,” says Emily Collins, Executive Director of Fair Shake, an Ohio-based nonprofit environmental law firm. But there isn’t.

There is so much to keep track of for these regulators that spills, among other things, are lost in the mix,” says Collins. “The old formula of having inspections and investigations where you show up once a year clearly doesn’t work here, not with the pace, not with how many places are at issue all of the sudden. We are just not able to handle it all.”

Map of western North Dakota that includes well density (number of wells per 5 km radius), reported brine spills from 2007 to 2015 (red circles), and sampling sites of samples collected in July 2015 (green triangles).
Map of western North Dakota that includes well density (number of wells per 5 km radius), reported brine spills from 2007 to 2015 (red circles), and sampling sites of samples collected in July 2015 (green triangles). Credit: Lauer et al. 2016

Meanwhile, examination of the industry, its spills, and its placid regulators has made its way to the U.S. Congress. The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the House’s Natural Resource Committee has been holding hearings on the impacts of oil and gas development on local communities, landowners, taxpayers, and the environment.

In May, Collins testified before the subcommittee, along with 71-year-old North Dakota farmer Daryl Peterson. He shared harrowing stories about decades of spills of toxic oil and gas industry waste on his farmland, and the utter neglect of the issue by his state’s regulators.

In my experience, regulators have been reluctant to enforce compliance,” Peterson told Congress. “And have minimized the impacts, rather than holding the oil companies accountable.”

North Dakota Regulator Disputes Size of Spill

On April 29, 2019, oversight of spills shifted from the North Dakota Department of Health to a new agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, but the state’s Spill Investigation Program Manager has remained Bill Suess.

I know for a fact that Bill Suess was made aware of Garden Creek’s size in October of 2018 after a 3-year investigation was completed to assess size and scope,” the whistle-blower told DeSmog. “Bill and state staff were presented an updated version of the spill size…at the state Gold Seal building in a PowerPoint presentation.”

In a phone conversation with DeSmog in mid-July, Suess explained that he had never seen a document showing the spill’s size to be any number other than 10 gallons, and he rejected the fact that the spill was 11 million gallons.

That would be by far the largest spill on land in U.S. history. I mean you are talking 261,000 barrels,” Suess said. “That would be significant, and I will guarantee you it is not that volume. I have received no documentation and I have no scientific evidence to show it is anywhere near that volume.”

Suess readily acknowledged that the officially listed spill size was too low. “We know it is significantly bigger than 10 gallons. We have known that since Day One,” Suess continued. Yet he defended the state’s decision to continue to list the spill as just 10 gallons.

In North Dakota we do not regulate based on volume,” Suess added. “Whether we put a 10 there, a 100 there, a 1,000 there is not going to change our response to the spill, it is not going to change what the responsible party has to do, not going to change their remediation, it is not going to change anything other than your curiosity.”

The One Million Gallon Salt Water (Brine) Spill by Crestwood, Arrow Pipeline LLC discovered July 8, 2014. Located North of Mandaree, ND.
Crestwood discovered a 1 million gallon brine spill from its Arrow pipeline on July 8, 2014. Located north of Mandaree, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Mandaree is one of the six segments on Fort Berthold and where most Mandan and Hidatsa people live. Courtesy of Lisa DeVille

DeSmog presented details of the Garden Creek spill to North Dakota environmental attorney Fintan Dooley, who leads the North Dakota Salted Lands Council, an organization dedicated to remediating spills.

You got a big fish hooked here,” he said. “This has all the signs of a civil conspiracy. If instead of 10, it was 110 or 1010 gallons, one could make the determination the original report was a mistake, but to leave uncorrected a mistake this big is not an accident, it smells of deception and deliberation and this is not the first incident of deceptive record-keeping in North Dakota — I think a good question to ask is, how many state officials are implicated in covering up this story?”

The North Dakota Century Code, which contains all state laws, covers perjury, falsification, and breach of duty in Chapter 12.1-11. Subsection 05, “Tampering with public records,” states the following:

A person is guilty of an offense if he: a. Knowingly makes a false entry in or false alteration of a government record; or b. Knowingly, without lawful authority, destroys, conceals, removes, or otherwise impairs the verity or availability of a government record.”

The offense, “if committed by a public servant who has custody of the government record,” is a felony. The crime carries a possible five-year prison sentence.

DeSmog confronted Suess with this portion of the code, and asked him if he believed he, or someone, was guilty of falsifying government records. “No, I am not guilty, but if I changed that number I would be,” he said. “If I were to go in there and just change that [10 gallons] to a larger number that I don’t have any scientific evidence or documentation for, then I would be falsifying it.”

The environmental attorney Fintan Dooley does not buy that officials behaved appropriately. “There has been a lot of talk around the state capitol lately about official breach of public trust, and I am just wondering how far this practice of falsification of records will be allowed to go?” he said. “The whole thing can be prosecuted, and if this presents an opportunity to prosecute, I think that is just wonderful.” Any decisions regarding prosecution, he stresses, are up to a state attorney.

When asked exactly who would be charged with a crime, Dooley said, “If anyone is going to file a criminal charge, they must file it against an individual. If there was a whole series of people involved, the best practice would be to identify all of them.”

Spill Cleanup Amid Dakota Access Protests

North Dakota gas flare near Watford City
Natural gas flares from a flare-head at the Orvis State well on the Evanson family farm in McKenzie County, North Dakota, west of Watford City. Credit: Tim EvansonCC BYSA 2.0

Garden Creek I became operational in January 2012. The project was applauded by state and industry officials for its ability to reduce the release of the prominent greenhouse gas methane in the oilfield by containing and processing that and other natural gas byproducts. Flaring, or burning, natural gas is common in the region’s oilfields.

The completion of this facility is a positive step toward reducing flaring activities in North Dakota,” ONEOK president Terry Spencer told a Watford City newspaper in 2012. In 2015, at the time the spill was noticed, ONEOK was in the process of constructing a network of additional gas processing plants across the Bakken. In one industry press release, the company bragged of “better-than-expected plant performance at existing and planned processing plants.”

There was motive to cover up the actual size of the spill to allow their infrastructure to be completed,” says the whistle-blower. Furthermore, by the summer of 2016, as the cleanup at Garden Creek I was moving along, protests against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation were in full swing. One major concern voiced by the tribe was that a spill could destroy farmland and contaminate drinking water for thousands of people.

On August 31, 2016, “Happy” American Horse from the Sicangu Nation locked himself to construction equipment as a direct action against the Dakota Access pipeline.
On August 31, 2016, “Happy” American Horse from the Sicangu Nation locked himself to construction equipment as a direct action against the Dakota Access pipeline. Credit: Desiree KaneCC BY 3.0

Public outcry against gas collection could have threatened ONEOK’s expansion plans and might have stood in the way of the state’s flaring reduction goals,” says the whistle-blower. “It’s also possible that it could have further galvanized public opinion against the DAPL project. In short, it’s possible that the North Dakota Department of Health faced heavy pressure from both state and industry to keep this on the down low.”

David Glatt, Director of North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality, said, “The state makes public all spill reports it receives, so there is no under reporting by the state.” ONEOK has not responded to DeSmog’s questions on this incident. DeSmog has filed an open records request with the State of North Dakota for additional information and details related to the Garden Creek I spill.

In July, Suess told DeSmog, “Remediation is still ongoing. It is going to be a slow process, it will be a few years, I think.” Suess said he was planning to revisit the spill site but did not expect anything he found there would lead him to alter the officially recorded spill size. “I have a schedule to go out there later this month, but I still probably wouldn’t change that 10-gallon number because I still won’t have an accurate number,” he said.

North Dakotans Grapple With Impacts of Spills

In May, just as North Dakota’s planting season was beginning, I met with several North Dakota residents whose farms or communities had been marred by oil and gas industry spills, including the land of farmer Daryl Peterson, whose 2,500 acres of grains, soybeans, and corn have been contaminated by more than a dozen spills of brine.

This oil and gas waste product is loaded with salt and also contains toxic heavy metals and radioactivity. Peterson pointed to dead zones on his land that are unfit for crops though still fit for government taxes. The spills have also tainted his groundwater.

Oil and gas industry brine spill impacts on Daryl Peterson's North Dakota farm.
Daryl Peterson’s North Dakota farm has suffered from more than a dozen oil and gas industry brine spills. Courtesy of Daryl Peterson

State regulators declare most spills are cleaned up to EPA standards and land productivity is restored but very often this has not been the case,” said Peterson, who, together with his wife Christine, has farmed this land in Bottineau County, near the Canadian border, for more than 40 years.

The oil industry controls politics in North Dakota and long-term consequences to our precious land, air, and water resources are being ignored with this gold rush mentality. With the prospect of 40,000 more wells in North Dakota, the future of our bountiful agriculture state is in great jeopardy,” said Peterson.

Suess defended his agency’s methods. “What I believe the North Dakota public wants to know is not how big is it, but is this spill a risk to me,” he said. “Personally, I have actually been told by others that we are one of the most transparent agencies out there. My boss is the North Dakota taxpayer, and my door is always open, any citizen can walk in at any time and talk to me.”

However, other North Dakota residents dealing with spills strongly disagree. In May DeSmog also toured spills on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, in the heart of the Bakken oil boom in western North Dakota, with Lisa DeVille and her husband Walter DeVille Sr. The couple lives in the community of Mandaree and helps lead an environmental advocacy group called Fort Berthold Protectors of Water & Earth Rights, or POWER.

You can see the earth slowly dying,” said Lisa, who has two master’s degrees in business and returned to school to get a bachelor’s* degree in environmental science so she could better monitor all the spills and contamination on her land and advocate for her community.

Every day we have a spill,” she said. “Whether it is frac sand spilled, trucks that stall out and drop their oil on roads, trucks wrecking on the road and spilling oil and gas waste product, or our invisible spill, the methane released into the air from flaring and venting.”


Aerial view of a 1 million gallon brine spill from Crestwood’s Arrow pipeline on July 8, 2014. Located north of Mandaree, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Mandaree is one of the six segments on Fort Berthold and where most Mandan and Hidatsa peoples live. Photo credit: Sarah Christianson

The North Dakota Spill Investigation Program Manager can say that his door is open, but North Dakota is protecting industry, not people, and it is upsetting to me,” Lisa added.

My people — the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation — have been here for centuries, there have been many broken promises, and they have been lied to and are still being lied to about all this oil and gas contamination. No one knows the amount of spills on Fort Berthold because industry will lie to our tribal leaders. Also, there is no data for the public to see. There are no studies, research, or analysis to create laws or codes for environmental justice.”

In July 2014, one million gallons of oil and gas waste spilled from a pipeline and into a ravine that drains into the tribe’s main reservoir for drinking water. In a 2016 paper, Duke University researchers, including geochemist Avner Vengosh, revealed the spill, as well as several others in the Bakken, had laced the land with heavy metals and radioactivity.

When asked in May 2019 if he was aware of this research, Glatt, director of the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, said he questioned Vengosh’s “initial premise” and believed the researchers were “looking for the worst case scenario.”

I haven’t seen his report; I just didn’t even know it was out there,” said Glatt. “I knew he was in the state. This is the first time I hear that he wrote a report.”

Lack of Accountability’

As lawsuits against the oil and gas industry for climate impacts continue and a growing web of grassroots groups spotlight the industry’s wide arc of pollution, the uncovering of the oil and gas industry’s vast closet of toxic skeletons seems inevitable.

Ultimately I am fed up with the rushed drilling programs and the lack of accountability when it comes to environmental impacts,” says the whistle-blower. “I am also disgusted with how state officials and city council members view these threats and deem it acceptable to potentially harm human health.”

Why, the whistle-blower added, “are we shielding the truth from public scrutiny?”

*Updated 8/20/19: This story has been updated to correct Lisa DeVille’s degree in environmental science, which is a bachelor’s, not a master’s.

Main image: The Exxon Valdez. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, public domain

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    SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Benicia’s rejection of oil trains could reverberate across country

    Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

    Benicia’s rejection of oil trains could reverberate across country

    By Kurtis Alexander, 9/21/16 5:11pm
    The Valero refinery is seen in the background behind signage for a railroad crossing on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 in Benicia, Calif. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle
    The Valero refinery is seen in the background behind signage for a railroad crossing on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 in Benicia, Calif. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

    Benicia’s rejection of plans to bring trains filled with crude oil to Valero Corp.’s big refinery in the city was hailed Wednesday by critics of the country’s expanding oil-by-rail operations, who hope the flexing of local power will reverberate across the Bay Area and the nation.

    Of particular interest to environmentalists and local opponents, who for years have argued that Valero’s proposal brought the danger of a catastrophic spill or fire, was a last-minute decision by U.S. officials that Benicia’s elected leaders — not the federal government — had the final say in the matter.

    Word of that decision arrived just before the City Council, in a unanimous vote late Tuesday, dismissed Valero’s proposal for a new $70 million rail depot along the Carquinez Strait off Interstate 680. Valero had said the project would not only be safe but bring local jobs, tax revenue and lower gas prices.

    “We’re pleased with the decision and the implications it will have across the country,” said Jackie Prange, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of several groups opposed to the project. “This issue is live in a number of sites across the country. This is definitely a decision that I think cities in other states will be looking to.”

    As oil production has boomed across North America, so has the need to send crude via railroad. The uptick in tanker trains, though, has been accompanied by a spate of accidents in recent years, including a 2013 derailment in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic in which a 72-car train exploded and killed more than 40 people.

    The authority of communities to limit oil trains has been clouded by the assertion of some in the petroleum industry that local officials don’t have jurisdiction to get in the way. Companies like Valero have contended that railroad issues are matter of interstate commerce — and hence are the purview of the federal government.

    Shortly before Tuesday’s meeting, however, Benicia officials received a letter from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which wrote that Valero, based in Texas, was not a railroad company and that the proposed rail terminal fell under city jurisdiction.

    “It’s what I was waiting for to help me make my vote more defensible,” said Councilman Alan Schwartzman at the meeting.

    Earlier this year, Valero had asked the Surface Transportation Board for “preemption” protection for the project after Benicia’s Planning Commission rejected the proposal. The plan proceeded to the City Council upon appeal.

    The plan called for oil deliveries from up to two 50-car trains a day, many passing through several Northern California communities en route from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota. Those trains would carry as many as 70,000 barrels of oil.

    The company billed the project as a way to keep gasoline prices low in the absence of a major oil pipeline serving the West Coast. Crude is currently brought to the Bay Area mostly by boat or through smaller pipelines.

    On Wednesday, Valero officials expressed frustration at the city’s decision.

    “After nearly four years of review and analysis by independent experts and the city, we are disappointed that the City Council members have chosen to reject the crude by rail project,” spokeswoman Lillian Riojas wrote in an email. “At this time we are considering our options moving forward.”

    The vote directly hit the city’s pocketbook. Nearly 25 percent of Benicia’s budget comes from taxes on the oil giant, and the city coffers stood to grow with more crude. The refinery employs about 500 people, according to city records.

    But the city’s environmental study showed that oil trains presented a hazard. The document concluded that an accident was possible on the nearly 70 miles of track between Roseville (Placer County) and the refinery, though the likelihood was only one event every 111 years.

    The document also suggested that much of the crude coming to the Bay Area from North Dakota, as well as from tar sands in Canada, was more flammable than most.

    Several cities in the Bay Area and Sacramento area joined environmental groups in calling for rejection of the project.

    “The council’s vote is a tremendous victory for the community and communities all throughout California,” said Ethan Buckner of the opposition group Stand, who was among more than 100 people who turned out for the council’s verdict. “At a time when oil consumption in California is going down, projects like this are unnecessary.”

    At least two other plans are in the works for oil delivery by rail elsewhere in the region — in Richmond and Pittsburg. A handful of other proposals have been put forth in other parts of California, including the expansion of a rail spur at a Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo County, which is scheduled to be heard by the county planning board Thursday.

    Prange, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said this week’s finding by the Surface Transportation Board gives cities the confidence to reject the proposed oil trains, if they wish to do so.

    “It reaffirms the power of local government to protect their citizens from these dangerous projects,” she said.

    U.S. oil deliveries by rail have grown quickly, from 20 million barrels in 2010 to 323 million in 2015, according to government estimates. In response, federal transportation officials have worked to improve the safety of oil-carrying cars with new regulations.

    But over the past year, rail deliveries nationwide have slowed, in part because of the stricter rules as well as local opposition, falling crude prices and new pipelines.

    Critics have complained that the tightened rules have fallen short, pointing to incidents like a June train derailment in Mosier, Ore., which spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude into the Columbia River. Leaders in Oregon are discussing a statewide ban on crude trains.

    Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
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      VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Valero’s crude-by-rail project turned down in Benicia

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

      Valero’s crude-by-rail project turned down in Benicia

      By Matthew Adkins, 09/20/16, 9:54 PM PDT
      Anti-Valero supporters wave sunflowers as Benicia’s crude by rail project was denied Tuesday evening by council members in Benicia City Hall.
      Anti-Valero supporters wave sunflowers as Benicia’s crude by rail project was denied Tuesday evening by council members in Benicia City Hall. Matthew Adkins — Times-Herald

      BENICIA >> Environmentalists hoping to defeat Benicia’s crude-by-rail project scored a huge victory Tuesday night, handing Valero Refining Company a significant defeat in the process.

      In a unanimous decision from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Benicia City Council, Valero’s application for a conditional use permit for a crude oil off-loading facility was denied.

      Vicki Dennis, who moved to Benicia two years ago, was one of many present at City Hall and said she was “just delighted” with the decision.

      “I’m so proud of this city,” Dennis said. “Our council people are very thoughtful. This process has been a long one, but I think they handled it in a wonderful way.”

      The City of Benicia’s Planning Commission first began considering the issue in December 2012 when the refinery submitted an application seeking permission to build infrastructure to bring two 50-car trains a day carrying up to 70,000 barrels of North American crude oil into Benicia.

      In March, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny the application and to not certify an accompanying environmental impact report. The decision was made against the recommendation of city staff who said the project’s involvement with rail-related issues made the decision a federal issue.

      Valero representatives submitted an appeal looking to reverse the commission’s decision to deny their application, and the matter was postponed until Sept. 20.

      As part of the appeal, Valero sought a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board on the issue of federal preemption in regards to the project.

      During this time, many governmental agencies, private organizations and individuals publicly opposed the city council’s decision to transfer authority on the matter to the federal government.

      At the city council meeting Tuesday, however, public comment on the topic was officially closed.

      “We are eager to hear from you about any item that is not on the agenda,” Patterson said. “I know it’s a little difficult right now. We have an item on the agenda that I know a lot of you are interested in, but there is no public comment on that tonight.”

      This drew a few hushed laughs from the crowd of approximately 150 people who had shown up to witness the landmark decision at Benicia City Hall.

      Mayor Patterson’s warning didn’t stop a few concerned citizens from indirectly talking about the issue.

      “I originally put in my request to speak before I knew you were not accepting public comments about Valero,” said one man. “If the council decides to change their mind and re-open public comment on the issue, I would be glad to come back up and speak.”

      “Since I can’t talk about what the Surface Transportation Board has just done, I would urge the council to support the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline,” said another man.

      After public comment was closed, a brief recap of the project’s journey though Benicia’s civic system was put forth along with two resolution findings, one for approval and the other for denial,

      The denial resolution highlighted specific issues that city council members had with Valero’s proposed project, including the unclear traffic impacts of having an unregulated shipment schedule, spill risks associated with shipping by rail and the project’s uncomfortable proximity to the city’s waterways.

      Before making a judgement, Council members took turns voicing their concerns about health, safety and the project’s effect on the environment.

      “When we first started considering this, there seemed to be little risk involved,” said Councilwoman Christina Strawbridge. “After four years, the community has endured numerous public hearings with hundreds of people speaking about the project. During this time, there have been 13 derailments around the country involving multiple carriers.

      “The derailment in Oregon was a game-changer for me,” she continued. “Union Pacific was the same carrier and the railroad cars involved were the same ones Valero is offering. The strongest car didn’t withstand a puncture and crude oil came in contact with fire and burned for 13 hours. Union Pacific failed to maintain its track, resulting in its derailment. The railroad industry has not kept up with safety standards regarding the transportation of crude. I’m going to vote to deny the project in hopes that the community can begin to heal after such a divided process.”

      After the council’s comments, Councilmember Tom Campbell put forward a motion to deny, and was seconded by Patterson.

      A quick vote was taken and the motion to deny Valero’s presence in Benicia was decided.

      Misao Brown, a retired teacher and environmental activist from Alameda, was thrilled with the council’s decision and was seen embracing her friends outside of Benicia City Hall.

      “If there were any spills where we are in Benicia, it would be in the Bay and go all over the place,” she said. “Benicia is concerned about the greater good and it’s just wonderful. It was really hard sticking it out for so long, but they gave every chance to Valero. In the end, we’re really talking about life on earth. So, when the decision comes through like this under tremendous pressure, I’m really grateful to every member of the planning commission and city council.”

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        LATEST DERAILMENT: Diesel fuel leak in heart of Toronto, no injuries

        Repost from the Toronto Star

        Freight train derailment a ‘wake-up call’ on rail safety, councillor says

        Human error blamed for freight train derailment in heart of the city after a Canadian Pacific Railway train collided with another on Sunday morning.
        By Ebyan Abdigir, Aug. 21, 2016
        A CP Railway freight train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts., early Sunday after two trains collided, causing a diesel fuel spill. CP blames human error for the collision.
        A CP Railway freight train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts., early Sunday after two trains collided, causing a diesel fuel spill. CP blames human error for the collision. (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE / TORONTO STAR)

        Human error is being blamed for a freight train derailment in the heart of Toronto Sunday morning that had crews scrambling to contain a diesel fuel leak.

        The derailment happened after a train struck the tail of another train at about 5:20 a.m. near Dupont and Bathurst Sts., Canadian Pacific Railway spokesperson Martin Cej told the Star.

        No one was injured in the collision and subsequent derailment and the diesel fuel leak, which Toronto police said had not been a threat to public safety, was quickly contained.

        Cej said that one car was carrying batteries and aerosols, which are classified as “dangerous goods” under Canadian regulation, but they did not leak, he confirmed.

        City councillor Josh Matlow raised new concerns Sunday about freight trains running through densely populated neighbourhoods.

        A CN train derailed near Bridgeman and Howland Aves., East of Bathurst and Dupont Sts.
        A CN train derailed near Bridgeman and Howland Aves., East of Bathurst and Dupont Sts.  (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE) 

        “While it was incredibly fortunate no one was hurt today, this derailment should act as a wake-up call for the federal government to move swiftly on rail safety,” he said.

        This spring, Mayor John Tory, Matlow and 16 other councillors whose wards are nestled by rail lines, signed a letter sent to Marc Garneau, the federal Transport Minister, calling for better rail safety.

        The 2016 federal budget allocated $143 million to be used over three years to improve rail safety.

        Cej said “early indications” point to human error as the cause of Sunday’s collision and derailment and that equipment failure was not a factor.

        Bartlett Ave., north of Dupont, was closed while police and rail officials investigated the incident.

        A crowd gathers near where a CP Railway train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts. on Sunday morning.
        A crowd gathers near where a CP Railway train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts. on Sunday morning.   (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE)

        Although there were no dangerous goods on board either train Sunday, roughly 9 per cent of goods transported by CP in Ontario are regulated dangerous goods, according to a disclosure to Transport Canada for 2015.

        A 2014 investigation by Star reporter Jessica McDiarmid monitored CP’s rail line that crosses Barlett Ave. on its way to Dupont St. in the Junction before it goes northward, west of the Don Valley.

        Between two 12-hour shifts, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the Star found that more than 130 cars and tanks carried dangerous goods such as crude oil, methyl bromide and ethyl trichlorosilane, and more.

        A little over three years ago, a train hauling 72 cars of crude oil, derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Que. It resulted in an inferno that killed 47 people, and spilled six million litres of crude.

        Since the 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster, rail companies are required to provide information to municipalities for emergency planning, however, under strict confidentiality agreements. Canada’s largest railroads already did this upon request.

        In February 2015, the federal government introduced a bill that increased the amount of insurance railways must carry to cover costs in the event of a derailment.

        A worker grabs hold of the railing of a derailed CN engine near Bridgeman and Howland Aves. on August 21.
        A worker grabs hold of the railing of a derailed CN engine near Bridgeman and Howland Aves. on August 21.  (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE) 

        With files from Fakiha Baig and Star Staff

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