Repost from The Sacramento Bee
[Editor: The SACOG letter can be viewed here. (Note that this download is in draft form, but the letter was approved as is.) Of interest also is this 10-page Union Pacific letter addressed TO the SACOG Board, encouraging no action. A recording of the Board meeting is available here. – RS]
Sacramento leaders question Benicia’s crude oil rail projectBy Tony Bizjak, Aug. 28, 2014
Sacramento leaders will send a letter to Benicia today formally challenging the Bay Area city to do a better job of studying train derailment risks before it approves an oil company’s plans to ship crude oil on daily trains through Sacramento-area downtowns to a Benicia refinery.
Acting collectively through the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which represents 22 cities and six counties, Sacramento representatives say they are protecting the region’s interests in the face of a proposal by Valero Refining Co. to transport an estimated 2.7 million gallons of crude oil daily on trains through Roseville, Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis. Valero officials say the oil will be refined into gas for cars in California, as well as diesel fuel and jet fuel.
“We are not taking a position on whether the project should proceed,” said Don Saylor, a Yolo County supervisor and SACOG member. “We are pointing out, as we have the responsibility to do, the public safety issues in our region. There are ways those issues can be identified and mitigated.”
Benicia officials have been collecting public comments and questions about their environmental review of the Valero project plans, and said they will respond to all comments after the comment period closes Sept. 15.
The SACOG group also is drafting a letter to federal regulators, encouraging them to make hazardous materials transport on rail safer, particularly shipments of volatile crude oil produced in North Dakota’s Bakken region. Crude oil train shipments have increased dramatically in recent years, leading to several derailments and explosions, including one that killed 47 in a Canadian town last year.
Railroad officials nationally say derailments are very infrequent. A study commissioned by Benicia determined that a derailment and spill would be a rare occurrence on the line between Roseville and Benicia. But Sacramento leaders contend Benicia has underplayed derailment possibilities, and has not adequately studied the consequences of a spill and fire.
“We think there are serious safety concerns that should be addressed by Benicia, not downplayed,” said Sacramento Councilman Steve Cohn, chairman of the SACOG board.
The Benicia trains would travel on tracks just north of downtown, through the downtown Sacramento railyard, and over the I Street Bridge.
Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis was one of two SACOG members who voted to oppose sending the letter. “I thought it is a little outside our scope. It’s a slippery slope,” he said.
SACOG’s main role is to serve as the region’s transportation planning agency and to administer a portion of the region’s federal transportation funding allotment.
Sutter County Supervisor James Gallagher also voted against sending the letter, saying many safety issues are in the federal government’s purview, not Benicia’s. He said he doesn’t want to discourage production of domestic oil that creates jobs and reduces reliance on foreign oil.
Sac Bee: More Information
- Refinery plans to ship 100 train cars of crude oil through Sacramento
- Assemblyman Roger Dickinson wants more disclosure on crude oil transport
- Details about crude oil rail shipments shrouded in secrecy
- Crude oil rail transports to run through Sacramento region
- Report minimizes risk from oil trains through Roseville, Sacramento
- State seeks more disclosure from railroad on plans to ship Bakken crude oil through Sacramento
- Yolo supervisors challenge Benicia on crude oil train plans
- Feds propose phasing out older crude-oil train tank cars
- New map shows California emergency teams not in best position for oil train response
- Sacramento leaders: Risk of oil train explosions needs to be acknowledged