Roseville Firefighter: increased risk. Senator Wolk: no unified response

Repost from KCRA Sacramento

State lawmakers worried about oil trains

More crude arriving by rail from fracking fields

Mar 20, 2014

KCRA report 2014-03-20

ROSEVILLE, Calif. (KCRA) —California lawmakers have expressed concern about a growing influx of freight trains loaded with oil and the state’s ability to handle a major rail disaster.

“Right now we’re seeing approximately 30 to 40 (cars) a day,” said Peter Hnat, of the Roseville Fire Department.

Hnat said the tanker cars are passing through Roseville’s busy Union Pacific railyard on their way from North Dakota to oil refineries in the Bay Area.

He said railroad companies have told the city that the number of cars is eventually expected to reach 120 a day.

“The increased volume coming through town obviously increases the risk,” Hnat said.

Hnat said the risk also comes from the fact that these tankers are not carrying typical crude, but rather oil produced from the drilling process known as fracking.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is the fracturing of rock by a pressurized liquid to extract oil and natural gas.

Hnat said the oil produced by fracking is more volatile than typical crude.

Last summer, a train loaded with fracked oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Québec, and killed 47 people.

A similar accident happened last December in Casselton, N.D.

Kim Zagaris, fire chief for the state emergency management department, said he is most concerned about specific rural areas where derailments have been more frequent.

Zagaris pointed to a map that included such areas near the foothills town of Colfax, east of Chico and through a stretch of Plumas County.

He said these areas were also more likely to be hours away from specially trained hazardous materials crews.

“We have gaps in our system,” Zagaris said. “And like I said, the more rural the area, the longer the response will take.”

Zagaris said Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal includes a plan to charge a tax on oil transported by rail, similar to a tax that already applies to maritime shipments.

He said the money would be dedicated to purchasing equipment and providing training for vulnerable areas.

According to the California Energy Commission, the amount of oil imported to the state by rail increased from more than 155,000 barrels in January 2013 to nearly 1.2 million barrels in December 2013 — a more than sevenfold increase.

State lawmakers held a hearing Thursday to discuss the issue of oil train safety.

“I’m not at all convinced that there’s a unified response by the state to this new challenge,” said Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis.