Category Archives: Vapor pressure

California Attorney General Calls on Trump to Close Loophole that Exposes Communities to “Bomb Trains”

Press Release from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
[Editor:  See also KQED California Report, “AG Becerra Wants Trump Administration to Make Crude-Carrying ‘Bomb Trains’ Safer”  Also, see the NRDC blog on this story.   And … sadly … see a similar story from December, 2015.  – RS]

Attorney General Becerra Calls on Trump to Close Loophole that Exposes Vulnerable California Communities to “Bomb Trains”

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov
  • Without Action, California Could Be Exposed To Freight Trains Carrying Highly Flammable, Highly Explosive Crude Oil
  • San Bernardino-Riverside And San Luis Obispo Among Regions Bearing Greatest Potential Risks

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is urging the Trump Administration to immediately close a loophole to prevent highly flammable, highly explosive crude oil from being shipped by freight rail via so-called “bomb trains” through communities in California, including the highly populated San Bernardino-Riverside and San Luis Obispo regions. High hazard areas for derailments would exist along every freight rail route in California. Many of these areas are also adjacent to California’s most sensitive ecological areas.

“Millions of Californians live, work, and attend school within the vicinity of railroad train tracks,” said Attorney General Becerra. “A derailment or explosion in California could put countless lives at risk and cause major damage to our land and waterways. This risk is simply unacceptable. I urge the Trump Administration to act immediately.”

So-called “bomb trains” are responsible for several catastrophic rail accidents in recent years, including the 2013 explosion in Quebec that killed 47 people.

In comments submitted to federal regulators, Attorney General Becerra called for immediate action that would require all crude oil transported by rail in the U.S. achieve a vapor pressure of less than 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi). Vapor pressure is a key driver of the oil’s explosiveness and flammability. Attorney General Becerra joined attorneys general from Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New York and Washington in calling for this requirement.

The comments were filed in response to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) issued by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Earlier this month, as part of his efforts to protect vulnerable California communities, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit in federal court that seeks to protect state residents from dangerous pollution that results from coal mining. Coal mined on public lands is transported by train through California and exported from ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Richmond and Stockton — areas next to several vulnerable communities. The transport of coal in open-top rail cars, as well as its storage and handling at export terminals, emits dangerous pollution. These emissions can result in a wide variety of serious health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, cardio-vascular diseases and cancer.

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10 Senators call for crude oil vapor limits before oil train transport

Repost from the Albany Times-Union
[Editor: for a copy of the letter, see the announcement on Sen. Schumer’s website.  California Senators Feinstein and Boxer also signed in the letter.  – RS]

Schumer adds voice to call for crude oil safety boost

Federal officials urged to limit vapor pressure before oil transport
By Brian Nearing Published 7:38 pm, Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Tank cars head to the siding in the Port of Albany over the port entrance road Wednesday June 29, 2016 in Albany, N.Y.  (Skip Dickstein/Times Union) Photo: SKIP DICKSTEIN
Tank cars head to the siding in the Port of Albany over the port entrance road Wednesday June 29, 2016 in Albany, N.Y. (Skip Dickstein/Times Union) Photo: SKIP DICKSTEIN

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer was among nine Democratic senators on Wednesday who urged federal officials to use emergency powers to limit potential flammability of crude oil transported nationwide every day by massive tanker trains.

The group wrote U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urging he reduce limits on acceptable crude oil vapor pressure, which indicates how easily oil can ignite during a train derailment.

Train derailments of tankers carrying crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota have caused several explosions in the U.S., including one this month in Oregon. “The oil companies are making tons of profits, they can afford this. Safety has to come first,” Schumer said during a call with reporters.

Also signing the letter to Foxx were Sens. Bernie Sanders, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president; Patrick Leahy, also of Vermont; Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both of Washington state; Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Jeff Merkley and Ronald Wyden, both of Oregon; and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both of California.  (continued)

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New York AG calls on PHMSA to close crude-by-rail safety loophole

Repost from Progressive Railroading
[Editor:  See also New York Wants Oil Companies to Treat Oil Shipped on Trains – Wall Street Journal, and NYS attorney general pushes federal limit on crude oil train explosion risk – Albany Times Union.  – RS]

New York AG calls on PHMSA to close crude-by-rail safety loophole

December 4, 2015

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called on the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to limit the vapor pressure of crude oil shipped by rail.

In a petition for rulemaking, Schneiderman asked the agency to require all crude transported by rail in the United States to achieve a vapor pressure of less than 9 pounds per square inch (psi). Vapor pressure is a key driver of the oil’s explosiveness and flammability, according to a press release issued by Schneiderman’s office.

In his petition, the attorney general argues that reducing crude oil vapor pressures is practical and necessary for minimizing the risk and severity of accidents involving tank cars.

Crude oils with the highest vapor pressures — including crude produced from the Bakken Shale formations in North Dakota — have the highest concentrations of propane, butane, ethane and other highly volatile gases, Schneiderman noted. 

While the vapor pressure of crude involved in train accidents is often undisclosed, the vapor pressure in such accidents in which the levels were disclosed have exceeded 9 psi, including the crude train accident in Lac Megantic, Quebec, that caused 47 fatalities.

“Recent catastrophic rail accidents send a clear warning that we need to do whatever we can to reduce the dangers that crude oil shipments pose to communities across New York State,” Schneiderman said in a prepared statement. “In New York, trains carrying millions of gallons of crude oil routinely travel through our cities and towns without any limit on its explosiveness or flammability — which makes crude oil more likely to catch fire and explode in train accidents. … The federal government needs to close this extremely dangerous loophole, and ensure that residents of the communities in harm’s way of oil trains receive the greatest possible protection.”

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