Contra Costa Times Guest commentary: Say no to toxic oil trains for the future of our children

Repost from The Contra Costa Times

Guest commentary: Say no to toxic oil trains for the future of our children

By Carolyn Norr, 01/12/2015

I haven’t met Greg Garland, CEO of Phillips 66. I don’t know if he has kids, and if he does, I don’t know what he tells them about the world. But I know he has a plan, one I’m not sure how to explain to my own children, to ship tar sands crude oil by rail through my town.

As a mom, this is in no way OK with me. These oil trains spill poisons, leak toxins into the air, and contribute to the climate chaos my kids will be dealing with their entire lives.

In June, the Oakland City Council took an admirable stand against oil trains coming through our city. But now Phillips 66 proposes an expansion of its facility 250 miles south of here, that would bring a mile-long toxic train every day past our homes and schools.

It’s up to the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors to decide whether to allow that. Supervisors will be voting in early 2015. So now, I’m inviting any concerned parent, along with the City Council, to speak and urge them to protect our families by rejecting Garland’s plan.

Phillips’s latest environmental review admits that the proposed facility would create “significant and unavoidable” levels of air pollution, with increased health risks — particularly for children — of cancer, heart disease, asthma and more. Oakland already has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country.

Garland must not be one of the growing number of people who watch our kids deal with this, or he might reconsider.

Meanwhile, across the U.S. and Canada, oil train derailments, spills and fires are increasing as Garland and his colleagues in big oil move more oil by rail. The tar sands crude Phillips would be moving through our city is particularly toxic: the same carcinogenic, impossible-to-clean-up stuff of the infamous Keystone XL pipeline.

In Oakland, the potential spill zone includes much of downtown and the flatlands, where kids are already dealing with more than their fair share of dangers.

Besides, tar sands oil creates particularly huge amounts of the global warming gasses that are driving the climate into chaos.

What we burn now, our kids will be dealing with their entire lives. Scientists agree that a global temperature rise of 3.6 degrees may well be inevitable, and with it a level of droughts, super storms, forest fires and famines beyond anything we’ve seen.

Now we are fighting against the real possibility the temperature could increase twice that, making my kids’ very survival uncertain. As a mom, it’s crazy for me to know that. And when I hear about plans to deny or ignore those facts, I have to say no.

I don’t know Greg Garland personally. I don’t know if every night he tucks in his kids and tell them they are safe. But that is what I do, and I don’t mean my reassuring words to be hollow.

I invite the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors, my City Council, and everyone who cares about the safety and future of families in California, to join me in doing everything in our power to stop this plan. No to the expansion of Phillips 66, no to oil trains in our communities.

Carolyn Norr is a resident of Oakland. To get more involved, email or contact Forest Ethics.