Tag Archives: Greenpeace

Martinez to Benicia: Oil Refinery Protest Draws About 100 Demonstrators

Repost from the East Bay Express
[Editor: Many thanks to the East Bay Express for excellent coverage of this colorful and important event (below).  Benicia old timers were heard to say that sleepy little Benicia has probably NEVER seen a protest demonstration like this.  Check out two facebook pages for great photos of the day: facebook.com/stopcrudebyrail AND facebook.com/events/220829548127114/?ref=22.  – RS]

East Bay Oil Refinery Protest Draws About 100 Demonstrators

Jean Tepperman —  Mon, May 19, 2014

Accompanied by a four-kayak flotilla and a fifth-generation Martinez resident on horseback, about one hundred environmental activists marched seven miles from Martinez to Benicia on Saturday to protest the local toxic pollution and global climate impact of Bay Area oil refineries. The march was spearheaded by a Bay Area group affiliated with Idle No More, an organization of Canadian First Nations people fighting development of the tar sands oil fields in Alberta and other environmentally destructive projects on their traditional lands.


Kelly Johnson

Specific targets of the protest were proposed expansion projects at the Chevron (Richmond), Valero (Benicia), and Phillips 66 (Rodeo) refineries, a crude oil transportation terminal in Pittsburg planned by energy infrastructure company WesPac, and the major investment of Shell (Martinez) in the Canadian tar sands mines. The Saturday march was the second of four planned Refinery Corridor Healing Walks — the first, from Pittsburg to Martinez, was held in April, and future walks are planned for June and July, ending up at Chevron in Richmond. The series of walks aims to “connect the dots” to “bring awareness to the refinery communities, invite community members to get to know one another, and to show support for a just transition beyond fossil fuels,” according to the group’s website.

At a gathering at the Martinez Regional Shoreline before the march, a winner of this year’s Goldman environmental prize, South African Desmond D’Sa, described the high rates of leukemia, cancer, and asthma in his home town of Durban and the community’s struggles against Shell Oil there, urging the crowd to “fight them (refineries) wherever they are.” Penny Opal Plant, of the East Bay Idle No More group, said she only recently began to conceive of the refinery corridor as a total area suffering from the “immense devastation” caused by oil refineries.

Richmond residents have long protested pollution from Chevron, most recently the toxic explosion that sent 15,000 seeking medical treatment in August 2012. Benicia residents have also organized to oppose environmental hazards. In the last year, local groups have also formed in Pittsburg, Crockett-Rodeo, and Martinez to protest refinery expansion and transportation plans, including major increases in the amount of crude oil to be carried by rail through the Bay Area and beyond.

Describing the dangers of mining, refining, and transporting oil, and looking ahead to a future free from fossil fuel, Opal Plant said, “We are Mother Earth’s immune response awakening. We’re born at this time to do this thing.”


Kelly Johnson

The group’s route first went through the Shell refinery, then over the bridge to Benicia, with a view of the Valero refinery there. From a hilltop vista point next to Carquinez Strait, Benicia activist Marilyn Bardet pointed out refineries and planned oil industry project sites, as well as the environmentally Suisun Marsh. Railroad tracks leading to the Valero refinery, she said, go right through the marsh. A spill of tar sands crude oil, she added, would be impossible to clean up because the oil is so heavy it would sink and cause irreparable damage.

The next Refinery Corridor Healing walk is scheduled to go from Benicia to the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo on June 14.

Martinez Gazette: Healing Walk for those living near refineries

Repost from The Martinez Gazette

Healing Walk to ‘Connect the Dots’ through Martinez

May 15, 2014

Participants to walk refinery corridor, bring awareness to danger of dirty fuels

MARTINEZ, Calif. – A “Healing Walk” will be held this Saturday, May 17, starting at Waterfront Park in Martinez, as local residents hope to draw awareness to the issues related to living near refineries and show support for transitioning beyond fossil fuels.

The Valero Benicia Refinery has proposed a project to begin transporting crude oil from North American sources to Benicia by rail tanker cars. The project has raised serious questions about the health and safety of those in Benicia and beyond.

The area is home to three oil refineries, Shell and Tesoro in Martinez and Valero in Benicia.

This is the second in a series of four “Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks along the Northeast San Francisco Bay.” This walk is in conjunction with the May 17 “Day of Action against Dirty Fuels” to ask President Obama and local officials to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The Refinery Corridor Healing Walk will be one of hundreds of synchronized events with Hands Across the Sand/Land and other partners to raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fuels and the need to speed the transition to available, affordable clean energy solutions.

Citizens from Martinez, Benicia and the Bay Area will be joined by members of the Sierra Club, Martinez Environmental Group, Stop Crude by Rail, CRUDE, Sunflower Alliance, APEN, Communities for a Better Environment, The Global Monitor, CREDO Action, Greenpeace, 350.org, the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations.

Residents from Martinez and Benicia are expected to speak at the morning and afternoon rallies.

The event will begin at Martinez Waterfront Park at 9 a.m. with a sign in and an opening rally with speakers from the Martinez Environmental Group and Idle No More, and will end at the 9th Street Park in Benicia. The walk is approximately seven miles.

A group of kayakers will paddle in the Carquinez Strait as a group alongside the Healing Walk, forming a kayak flotilla. They hope to draw special attention to protecting the bay, Delta and ocean. If you plan to join or have questions, contact David at dsolnit@yahoo.com.

For more information about the walk, go to https://actionnetwork. org/events/time-to-transition-no-kxl-refinery-corridor-healing-walk.

Benicia Herald: May 17 Healing Walk – wide coalition of sponsors

Repost from The Benicia Herald

Groups plan ‘healing walk’; call for end to crude by rail

May 15, 2014 by Donna Beth Weilenman

A “healing walk” organized by several area environmental groups is expected to attract participants who will carry banners Saturday as they walk from Martinez to Benicia to the sounds of Native-American drumming and prayers, said Roger Straw, a member of one of the groups, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community.

 A HEALING WALK will be held from Martinez to Benicia on Saturday. Courtesy photo
A HEALING WALK will be held from Martinez to Benicia on Saturday.  Courtesy photo

The event will begin with a prayer and a rally with speakers from Martinez Environmental Group and Idle No More. More prayers will be said near the Shell Refinery in Martinez and later near the Valero Benicia Refinery.

As participants cross the Benicia-Martinez bridge, engaging in prayer and conversation, a flotilla of canoes and kayaks are expected to be on the Carquinez Strait below, Straw said. Depending on weather, the boats may travel from Martinez to Benicia’s Alvarez Ninth Street Park for concluding activities.

Walkers will stop at Vista Point for prayer and educational talks, then continue toward the Benicia First Street waterfront by way of the city’s ballfields on East H Street, where restrooms are available.

The next stop on the way to the waterfront will be at the corner of East B and First streets, where parking and restrooms are available and food and beverages will be available for purchase.

Walkers will then proceed to Alvarez Ninth Street Park, where they will hear speakers at a concluding rally and can express their thoughts on pieces of muslin that later will be sewn into a quilt and displayed.

Support vehicles will accompany the walkers to give them an opportunity to rest, but lunch will not be provided, Straw said. Water will be available for those who bring refillable water bottles.

Straw said the walk is backed by the Sierra Club, Martinez Environmental Group, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment, Sunflower Alliance, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, The Global Monitor, CREDO Action, Greenpeace, 350.org, the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations.

Pennie Opal Plant, spokesperson for Refinery Corridor Healing Walks, said this is the second in a series of four San Francisco Bay Area “Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks” to bring attention to the Keystone Pipeline System in Canada and the United States and its fourth phase of construction, as well as concerns about living near refineries and what Plant called “a just transition to clean energy.”

“This walk is in conjunction with the May 17 Day of Action against Dirty Fuels, to ask the president and local officials to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and other dirty fuel projects that threaten our communities and destabilize our climate,” she said.

“The Refinery Corridor Healing Walk will be one of hundreds of synchronized events with Hands Across the Sand/Land and other partners to raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fuels and the need to speed the transition to available, affordable clean energy solutions,” she said.

Plant said the actions are in response to the State Department’s announcement that it would extend its review of the Keystone pipeline.

The first walk was April 12, when participants walked from Pittsburg Marina Park to Martinez Waterfront Park.

The timing was near that of the “Reject and Protect” encampment on the National Mall in Washington from April 22-27, when farmers, ranchers and members of various Native-American organizations spent the week speaking out against the Keystone pipeline and tar sands crude.

The starting point was chosen because Pittsburg is a proposed site for an oil terminal that would bring up to 100 rail cars of crude daily for distribution. Martinez has two refineries, Shell and Tesoro.

Plant said “Connect the Dots” walks will take place monthly for four months. There is no charge to participate but walkers are asked to donate at least $5 to defer costs, and additional contributions will be accepted, she said.

This second walk will start at 8:15 a.m. Saturday with a prayer for water and a rally at Martinez Waterfront Park at Court Street at the north end of Ferry Street, Martinez, and will conclude with another rally at the end of the walk at the Alvarez Ninth Street Park.

Future walks will go from Benicia to Rodeo June 14, and from Rodeo to Richmond July 12.

Ohio: Leaders don’t keep track of oil trains

Repost from The Bucyrus Telegraph, Bucyrus, Ohio

Leaders don’t keep track of oil trains

Explosive shipments go right through city centers

Apr. 3, 2014
by James Pilcher, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Domestic oil production, including that in Ohio, keeps growing. And with oil being produced in new areas that don’t have pipelines, more crude is heading to refineries in rail cars. Yet neither federal nor state regulators track the shipments that are increasingly crisscrossing the country — potentially cutting through neighborhoods and business districts nationwide.

Much of the oil apparently is more volatile than traditional crude, with some experts saying it is as explosive “as gasoline.” A number of oil tanker accidents and explosions made headlines last year, including last July’s derailment and explosion in  Quebec that killed 47 people and all but leveled a small town. The train was pulling at least a dozen tank cars carrying crude pulled from Bakken shale deposits.

Similar types of oil are being pulled from shale fields all over the U.S., including eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and North Dakota.

“Regulators across North America simply have not kept up with the boom in moving oil by train,” said Keith Stewart, a Canadian-based researcher for the environmental group Greenpeace. “You would be shocked how little governments know how much and where and when this oil is moving by rail.”

Federal regulators don’t know what is  on the tracks at any given time. Nor do first responders and community officials, apart from getting a list of the top 25 hazardous materials that move through their communities. But because of security concerns, local officials can’t make the top 25 lists public. Railroads must keep a list internally, but those records also are not public.

The lack of disclosure could pose a problem for a city such as Cincinnati, which has one of the Midwest’s largest railyards in CSX-owned Queensgate, which sits near downtown.

“All kinds of hazardous materials go through (Queensgate) and no, we’re not notified of what is going through when,“ said Cincinnati Fire Department District Chief Tom Lakamp, who oversees special operations and hazardous materials response teams for the city.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration oversees the shipments of all hazardous materials, including crude oil, superseding state regulators for rail shipments. The agency did not make anyone available for interviews, but said in a statement that it was starting to look at changing its rules and was taking a closer look at oil shipments.

All that’s called ‘crude’ is not necessarily the same

The United States is poised to become the world’s largest combined producer of natural gas and crude oil in the coming year, according to federal data, which  indicate the country produced 7.5 million barrels of oil a day last year. Oil industry officials saying national production has been above 8 million barrels per day since November.

Ohio is a part of that growth, because of the wells in the eastern part of the state pulling up oil and natural gas from Utica shale reserves. The state produced 16,000 barrels of oil a day last year, up more than 23 percent from 2012.

But even as oil production has grown, pipeline infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. That’s forced oil producers and refiners to turn to rail shipments, especially in remote areas such as North Dakota, but also in Ohio. The railroad industry reports that crude oil shipments nearly doubled in 2013 as compared with 2012, with the American Association of Railroads estimating that more than 400,000 tank loads of crude arrived by rail last year.

A single tank car holds about 714 barrels of oil, and each barrel contains 42 gallons, meaning every tank car contains 30,000 gallons of oil. But an Ohio oil industry official says the majority of what’s called oil produced and shipped in the state is “ very volatile” and “basically liquified natural gas,” even as he points out that Ohio oil has been pumped and shipped safely for decades.

“It is still classified as crude oil, even thought it is a lot closer to gasoline,” said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Natural Gas Association. “The bottom line is that it should be treated differently than other crude oil.”

Stewart says most of Ohio’s oil is shipped out of state — although refineries in the state are starting to take on this volatile oil.

Finally, the oil is being shipped in outdated tanker cars. The National Transportation Safety Board started recommending in 1991 that oil companies stop using the older model of tanker because they have proven not to prevent spillage and explosions in case of derailments. It renewed its call this January.

“You’ve got one of the most profitable industries in the world looking to save a few dollars at the cost of safety,” said Fred Millar, a Virginia-based rail/hazmat safety consultant who has worked with major cities on safety planning.

Issue creates tensions; changes on the way?

Tension abounds between the oil and rail industries over the shipments, even as railroads court oil producers as customers.

Many carriers — including CSX and the Genesee & Wyoming railroad — actively market their capacity to oil producers. But on the other hand, national railroad officials openly acknowledge differences with the oil industry over safety standards.

“The shippers own the cars and the materials and are responsible for safe packaging and labeling, but we’re the ones liable in case of an accident,” said Holly Arthur, spokeswoman for the American Association of Railroads.

The rail industry last month agreed with the U.S. Transportation Department to voluntarily impose tighter procedures, including:

•  Installing better brakes on trains with 20 or more oil cars.

•  Limiting speeds to 40 mph on trains with 20 or more rail cars in highly populated areas.

•  Increase track inspections on lines that carry trains with heavy oil traffic.

Oil industry officials say they also are trying to improve safety, but have not yet agreed to any specifics. “Our mitigation efforts are looking at topics like tank car design and crude oil testing and classification,” said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer for the American Petroleum Institute.

As for the regulators, PHMSA is studying new variations of the domestically produced oil and its potential volatility. It’s also double-checking that domestic oil is property categorized and shipped.