Tag Archives: Clean Water Action

Targa Withdraws Plans For Crude Oil Terminal In Baltimore

Email and press release from Jon Kenney, Maryland Community Organizer, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, July 11, 2016 11:03AM

Victory! Targa Resources formally withdraws permit to construct oil terminal in Baltimore!

Hi everyone,

I wanted to share some very good news to start the week. On Friday afternoon, Targa Resources formally withdrew their permit to construct a new crude oil shipping terminal in the Fairfield area of South Baltimore, which will keep out hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil from being shipped through the city.

This was a result of the combined effort of many groups and community members, but lead the Environmental Integrity Project and CCAN. EIP submitted technical comments on their draft permit last year, and CCAN submitted hundreds of public comments and turned community members out to a public hearing. While there are still crude oil trains moving through the city, this is a great step forward in the fight.

Congrats to everyone involved! Please see the press release below for details, and be sure to send the news to your networks!




Decision by Texas-based Targa Terminals Reduces Dangerous Bakken Oil by Rail Through City

Media contacts: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project, 443-510-2574 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org
Kelly Trout, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-396-2022, kelly@chesapeakeclimate.org
Jennifer Kunze, Clean Water Action, 410-235-8808. jkunze@cleanwater.org

Baltimore, Md. – Environmental groups today applauded a decision by a Houston-based company to withdraw plans for a crude oil terminal in the Fairfield area of South Baltimore that could have shipped over 383 million gallons of crude by rail through the city and the Chesapeake Bay.

“It is great news for residents of South Baltimore living near rail lines that Targa Terminals has now withdrawn its application for a crude oil terminal permit,” said Leah Kelly, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). “Bakken crude oil is volatile and potentially dangerous, and this permit would have allowed one 35-car train per day of Bakken crude to travel through South Baltimore neighborhoods to the terminal.”

Shipments by rail of crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota have been involved in several large explosions since 2013 following train derailments, including an explosion in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown area, and, last month, an explosion and fire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge that resulted in an evacuation and, reportedly, cancelation of the last week of school in a nearby town.

Late on Friday, July 8, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) informed EIP that Targa had withdrawn its request for a permit to ship crude oil through its existing terminal in the Fairfield area of South Baltimore.

“This is a victory for Baltimore communities and for the climate,” said Jon Kenney, Healthy Communities Organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Thanks to citizen and legal pressure, Targa has terminated its plan to ship more dangerous crude oil out of Baltimore, and bring a new surge of oil trains through our communities. However, we know there are still thousands of gallons of crude oil rolling through Baltimore every week, putting communities in danger. As a next step, the City Council must act on legislation requiring health and safety studies of oil trains.”

Targa Terminals applied in 2014 for a permit from MDE that would have allowed crude oil shipment and storage at its Fairfield terminal. The company specifically requested approval to handle

In May 2015, MDE put its review of Targa Terminals’ crude oil permit application on hold in response to legal comments filed by attorneys with EIP on behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation. MDE said at the time it was not moving forward with any further review “until the department receives additional information from the company.”

On June 29, 2016, Targa Terminals withdrew that application rather than provide the information required by MDE. In a responsive letter dated July 8, 2016, MDE advised the company that, until a crude oil permit is granted, the company is “prohibited from receiving, storing, and/or transferring crude oil at the Baltimore Terminal.”

“We’re happy and relieved that Targa Terminals has chosen not to pursue constructing a crude oil storage and loading facility in South Baltimore,” said Jennifer Kunze, Maryland State Organizer for Clean Water Action. “If it had been constructed, this would have increased the air pollution in an already-overburdened area of Baltimore, where neighbors just won the fight to stop construction of the nation’s largest trash-burning incinerator. It also would have meant more trains carrying volatile crude oil through South and Southwest Baltimore, neighborhoods where people’s homes, parks, churches, and businesses are just yards from the tracks – putting them at risk of an explosion if one of those train cars derailed.”



SF CHRONICLE: Pits of drilling waste threaten water, air safety, report charges

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
[Editor: Significant quote: “The report says there are 790 active pits in California and that 60 percent of them have out-of-date permits or no permit at all. Monitoring of the pits, which allow toxic substances in the water to percolate into the ground, is inadequate, and regulations are ineffective, according to the report.”  – RS]

Pits of drilling waste threaten water, air safety, report charges

Dumped oil, gas byproduct hazardous, watchdog says
By Peter Fimrite, March 7, 2016
Traffic moves along the road as pumpjacks operate at the Kern River Oil Field in Bakersfield in this January 2015 file photo. Photo: Jae C. Hong, AP / AP
Traffic moves along the road as pumpjacks operate at the Kern River Oil Field in Bakersfield in this January 2015 file photo. Photo: Jae C. Hong, AP / AP

Hundreds of open pits containing toxic waste produced by oil and gas drilling are threatening groundwater in California, and regulators have failed to protect drinking and irrigation water supplies from the danger, an environmental watchdog group concludes in a report set to be released Monday.

Oil industry leaders deny that the pits, which are primarily in the Central Valley, have contaminated any groundwater. But the report by Clean Water Action argues that oversight of the waste is so flimsy that the state should immediately prohibit disposal of wastewater in the evaporation pits.

“The oil and gas industry continues to dump toxic wastewater into open waste pits, and that’s threatening, and potentially polluting, groundwater,” said the report’s author, Andrew Grinberg, the special projects coordinator for Clean Water Action, an Oakland nonprofit.

‘Highest standards’

“It’s appalling that the wealthiest industry in the history of civilization can’t deal with its wastewater in a more responsible way,” he said. “State regulators should prohibit this disposal method.”

The report says there are 790 active pits in California and that 60 percent of them have out-of-date permits or no permit at all. Monitoring of the pits, which allow toxic substances in the water to percolate into the ground, is inadequate, and regulations are ineffective, according to the report.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said the report’s findings were “simply false.”

She said water disposal practices are monitored and tested by multiple state and local agencies, including the State Department of Conservation, the State Water Resources Control Board and local water quality boards.

“California’s energy producers operate under the nation’s most rigorous laws and regulations, which ensure transparency, accountability and the highest standards,” Reheis-Boyd said. “We outright reject these allegations and rely upon scientific data and our safety record to demonstrate the safe manner in which we operate every day.”

Disposal of oil and gas drilling wastewater is a big issue in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, where most of California’s petroleum production takes place. Kern County is the top oil-producing area in the state, but disposal of waste is also a concern in parts of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties, which have been major oil producers since the early 1900s, when the demand for gasoline began growing.

Oil drillers suck up 15 barrels of water for every barrel of oil they reap. If the water is clean enough, it can be treated and used for irrigation, but most of it contains salt, boron, petroleum and other toxic substances that can poison groundwater and kill birds.

The recommended way to get rid of it is to inject it into the ground, preferably into the oil-bearing formation or deep enough so that it won’t seep into an aquifer. For many years, though, standard practice was to dump the water into a pit so that it would evaporate or percolate into the ground. Grinberg said many permits were issued for the pits in the 1950s and 1960s.

No toxic substances found

The report highlighted contamination near disposal facilities known as Racetrack Hills and Fee 34 east of Bakersfield, with a plume of wastewater spreading into an aquifer that supplies irrigation wells and flows into a tributary of the Kern River, a source of drinking water. However, toxic substances have not been detected in drinking water or in wells.

Air monitoring around a western Kern County pond known as the McKittrick Pit detected elevated levels of methane and the compounds benzene and hexanone, according to the report.

“Every year since 1990 it was monitored and inspectors saw it was in violation, but there was no enforcement action,” Grinberg said of McKittrick, adding that the California Air Resources Board is developing plans to monitor air emissions around open pits.

Clay Rodgers, assistant executive officer of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in Fresno, said operators of both the Racetrack and McKittrick pits have been ordered to expand their monitoring.

“We’re looking at it closely to evaluate whether that series of pits is appropriate,” Rodgers said, explaining that evaporation ponds have gone out of favor in the past two decades. “A lot of these pits have closed down, and now most of the water is disposed of through underground injection.”

In a 2014 report, Clean Water Action presented evidence that the pit technique threatened groundwater and air quality. The state and regional water quality control boards have since stepped up research and enforcement, which the new report noted.

California lawmakers have passed legislation in recent years compelling operators to monitor their wastewater pits and report their findings to the state. Open-pit disposal was also prohibited in hydraulic fracturing operations, known as fracking.

Inaction charged

Grinberg said that while progress has been made, the regional water quality boards are still allowing discharges that threaten groundwater. The Central Valley board has failed to close facilities with open pits or punish companies with no permits, he said.

The report being released Monday also says no studies have been done on 2,074 inactive pits dating back to 1990 that the state has in its inventory, and that the records on these pits are incomplete. Over the past year, Grinberg said, 50 previously undocumented pits have been identified.

“The more they look, the more they are finding,” he said. “This is one negative aspect of oil production. Putting groundwater at additional risk is potentially catastrophic. These polluting activities we don’t believe are worth it, especially during a drought.”

Baltimore City Council holds hearing on crude oil transport

Repost from The Baltimore Sun

City Council holds hearing on crude oil transport

By Christina Jedra, July 8, 2015, 9:57pm
Crude oil train in Maryland
Port Deposit, MD — A Norfolk-Southern train transporting crude oil heads north through Port Deposit past a railroad crossing near the U.S. Post Office. Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The City Council held its first public hearing Wednesday on the safety of shipping crude oil through Baltimore, with environmental advocates expressing concern about the practice.

“Right now, we are in a blast zone,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “City Hall is in a blast zone.”

According to advocates, 165,000 Baltimore residents live within a one-mile radius of train routes that are potentially vulnerable to explosions from crude oil train derailments.

City Council Vice President Edward Reisinger said the informational hearing was called to evaluate the threat the shipments pose to the city.

Reisinger said recent derailments — such as one in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people in a massive explosion — are cause for concern. He also pointed to an April 2014 derailment in Lynchburg, Va., that spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into the James River.

The hearing Wednesday evening at City Hall lasted about two hours. Dozens of advocates — many from the climate action network and Clean Water Action — held a rally outside earlier.

“It’s not a matter of if another oil train will derail … it’s only a question of when,” said the Rev. Amy Sens of six:eight United Church of Christ.

The Maryland Department of the Environment recently denied an application by a Houston-based company to ship crude oil through Baltimore’s port terminal near Fairfield. A Connecticut-based company, Axeon Specialty Products, ships tens of millions of gallons of crude oil through the terminal.

It’s not known how much crude oil is shipped through the city or state. Norfolk Southern and CSX sued the state agency to prevent it from releasing the information.

Tidwell said the “No. 1 thing” advocates want is transparency — knowing the quantities, routes and times that hazardous materials are transported in local areas.

Trisha Sheehan, the regional field manager of Moms Clear Air Force, said she would like to see trains rerouted away from “vulnerable populations,” such as hospitals and schools, and a transition to renewable energy sources.

City emergency management officials answered questions for council members. Executives from rail companies, including Norfolk Southern and CSX, also were invited to attend.

Jon Kenney, a community organizer for the climate action network, said the hearing was necessary to raise public attention.

“Residents of Baltimore want [the council] to take action on oil trains in their communities,” Kenney said. “We have been talking to community members who live along the rail routes, and they are concerned. The rail companies are keeping everyone in the dark.”

Reisinger said the council can take little action to influence the sorts of shipments made along rail lines. Still, he said, it is important to discuss how prepared the city and the companies are to safeguard communities from future accidents.

Dave Pidgeon, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, said company officials recognize that communities like Baltimore look to them to operate the rail lines safely. He said Norfolk Southern has long had a record of safe delivery of hazardous materials.

“This country depends on the railroads to operate safely,” he said. “That is something we have to shoulder.”

He declined to say how much crude oil Norfolk Southern transports through Baltimore, citing safety concerns, among other reasons. Crude oil makes up less than 2 percent of the company’s total traffic, he said.

He said the company works to make sure the shipments it delivers are carried on tank cars that meet the strictest safety standards.

“We have no choice,” Pidgeon said. “We have to haul hazardous material, including crude oil. If a customer gives us a tank car that meets safety standards, we have to haul it. There’s no question.”

Philadelphia Council calls for speedy tank car replacement

Repost from The Philadelphia Inquirer
[Editor: See similar coverage at Newsworks.org.  – RS]

City Council wants tighter oil train rules

Andrew Maykuth, March 13, 2015, 1:08 AM
Recent oil train derailments have increased pressure on the federal government to improve safety standards. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)
Recent oil train derailments have increased pressure on the federal government to improve safety standards. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Philadelphia City Council on Thursday urged the federal government to tighten regulations on trains carrying crude oil, in the aftermath of a series of fiery derailments.

City Council unanimously approved a resolution that calls on Washington to approve new rules for railcars. It also calls for the city to plan emergency-response workshops for communities along oil-train routes.

Philadelphia-area oil refineries have become increasingly dependent upon rail shipments of domestic crude oil, which has displaced more expensive imported oil delivered by ships.

Two major freight carriers, CSX and Norfolk Southern, now move from 45 to 80 oil trains through Philadelphia each week, according to city officials.

The U.S. Department of Transportation sets rules governing railroad safety and railcar standards, so Council’s action is symbolic.

“With the increase of train traffic in Philadelphia, we are flirting with disaster,” said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, the resolution’s sponsor.

Environmental groups including Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and PennEnvironment have lobbied Johnson’s office to take action since a CSX oil train last year derailed on a bridge near Center City. The accident caused no leaks, but the sight of oil cars tilted over the Schuylkill drew much attention to the issue.

Last month’s accident in West Virginia – one of five in recent weeks – has inspired a surge in calls for action.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration last year issued several emergency orders and advisories to address safety issues. The government is also considering new rules to phase out old tank car designs, though several of the most recent explosive derailments involved newer-model tank cars.