East Bay: Rodeo’s Phillips 66 refinery fire extinguished
By George Kelly, 08/03/2015 06:27:13 AM PDT
RODEO — A small fire Sunday at the Phillips 66 refinery spurred the county health department to issue a public health advisory for the towns of Rodeo and Crockett.
The fire began around 3 p.m. at the refinery site in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue, spurring a response from refinery fire staff and Rodeo-Hercules fire district firefighters, Phillips 66 spokesman Paul Adler said in a statement. No injuries were reported, and the fire’s cause is under investigation, Adler said.
The Contra Costa County incident warning system issued an alert just before 3:15 p.m. that staff concerned with hazardous materials were responding to a report of a fire at the refinery. County officials advise people with respiratory sensitivities to avoid the area or stay inside and rinse any irritated area with water but added that most people should not be affected.
The county’s hazardous materials incident response site listed the refinery’s last major incident as a little more than three years ago. On June 15, 2012, an overpressured sour water tank left splits in two tanks, sending chemical vapors into the air and leaving odors detectable in surrounding communities, according to a tally of major accidents at the county’s chemical and refinery plants.
Letter to the editor, The Benicia Herald [Editor: Note that letters do not appear in the online edition of the Benicia Herald. Andrés Soto lives in Benicia and is well-known throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for his environmental justice advocacy and his mastery of the saxophone. I particularly like Andrés’ focus on 19th century historical context. – RS]
Not fooled by Big Oil and Big Rail
By Andrés Soto, July 23, 2015
The recent phenomenon of transporting dangerous, volatile Bakken Crude by rail has created an opportunity for the American people to learn the true motives of Big Oil and Big Rail and what we as impacted communities can do about it.
Continuing derailments, explosions, fires and evacuations have shined the light on the Profit At Any Cost attitude of Big Oil and Big Rail. These industries grew up together in the late 19th century and led to some of the most egregious periods of income inequality, corruption and social conflict in US history.
Now these industries are asking us to trust them and allow them to bring Bomb Trains through our communities, putting our town’s economic viability at risk for a short-term economic gain. Exploding trains all over North America tell us a different story and we are not fooled.
Currently, the Valero Crude By Rail Project and the Phillips 66 San Luis Obispo Crude By Rail Project both put our town at risk for a catastrophe. Communities all over the country are standing up to oppose this high risk venture by Big Oil and Big Rail. Recently, the WesPAC Crude By Rail Project in Pittsburg, California removed the rail part of the project to make it a straight pipeline project.
Fracked Bakken Crude and strip mined Alberta Tar Sands Crude are just two of the Extreme Extracted Crude strategies by Big Oil to bring oil to market that would be better left in the ground. An intelligent global cooling plan to save our planet for future generations and all species requires the we leave the oil beneath the soil!.
Valero has already admitted it can and is bringing Extreme Crude in by barge to the Port of Benicia, thus it does not need the Valero Crude By Rail Project to be profitable. Therefore, it begs the question: Why would we, the people of Benicia, allow this project to proceed when it is just too dangerous?
Global warming is going to cause significant parts of Benicia to be underwater. Shouldn’t we be working on preventing that, rather than trying find ways to contribute to the problem?
We are the people of Benicia and our voices need to be heard! The Benicia Planning Commission and the Benicia City Council have a responsibility to listen to us and do what is in the best interests of ALL Benicians. Stop Valero’s Dangerous Crude By rail Project!!!
Repost from an email, Lynne Nittler, of Davis, CA [Editor: Lynne Nittler and her friends at Cool Davis and Yolano Climate Action do a great job of organizing. Davis is a primary “uprail community” that would be at high risk if Valero Benicia Refinery’s Crude By Rail proposal is permitted. I appreciated Lynne’s recent update and summary, below. – RS]
Oil Train: photos, Ca Energy Commission powerpoint, & actions
From: Lynne Nittler Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:15 PM
Dear oil train friends,
1. July 11 Stop Oil Trains Action – photos
On July 11, over 80 Davis residents turned out to remember the 2013 oil derailment that decimated Lac-Megantic, taking 47 lives. Davis faces the threat of a similar accident. Currently, at least one oil train of Bakken Crude per week passes through Davis headed to the Bay Area. Two more 100-car trains per day are planned for the near future for the Valero Refinery in Benicia and the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo…unless citizens stop them.
Locally, the ForestEthics www.Blast-Zone.org map shows endangered homes and businesses along 2nd Street including the police station, Carlton Plaza Senior Living and Rancho Yolo. The entire Davis downtown is vulnerable along with parts of UC Davis campus and apartments complexes along Olive Drive.
The July 11 Vigil and Rally highlighted public opposition to oil trains passing through Davis. Too many residents live in the oil train blast zone, the one mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.
Wearing fiery red, yellow and orange shirts, Davisites met at the train station and walked through the Davis blast zone downtown to the Rotary Stage in Central Park.
We sang feisty songs led by the Raging Grannies. We’ll be starting a group in Davis. Let Lynne know if you’re interested.
At the state level, Senator Lois Wolk shared the past and present legislative responses to the sudden surge of crude-by-rail transport into California aimed at protecting the public as well as sensitive habitat and waterways.
3. Urgent Action: Urge Assemblyman Bill Dodd to support SB32 & SB350! Information on the proposed Yolo ban on fracking were available as well as a letter to Assemblyman Bill Dodd urging him to support two critical climate bills due for a vote in mid-August:
SB32 extending our CA carbon reduction bill, and
SB350 aiming for 50% lower car emissions, 50% greater building efficiency, and 50% more solar and wind-generated electricity by 2030.
There is NO safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude. Two years after Lac-Mégantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising. Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety, and our climate.
Given the unresolved dangers of crude oil transport by rail and the overload of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere, a more prudent path is to leave all extreme crude in the ground, transition to clean, renewable energy, and practice energy conservation in an effort to reverse climate change and live sustainably on a finite planet.
Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo: We are waiting for a hearing announcement where we can testify.
Valero Refinery in Benicia: The revised DEIR will be released on Aug. 31 for a 45-day written public comment period. Our letters will be crucial when the Planning commission and late the City council makes their decisions whether to finalize the EIR and permit Valero’s rail spur.
Put politics aside and think safety first when it comes to oil trains
Risks associated with increased oil train activity are too great; supervisors must act to protect our communities from disaster
VIEWPOINT, By Jan Marx, July 17, 2015
Like other residents of the city of San Luis Obispo, I am proud of our beautiful 165-year-old city, dubbed the “Happiest City in North America.” Residents may be happy about our city, but we are not happy about the risks proposed by the Phillips 66 rail spur expansion project.
Why? As we’ve all seen on the news, when trains carrying this oil derail, they don’t just spill — they explode, and burn for days. Those derailments and resulting hazardous air and soil contamination have increased as oil-by-rail transport has increased. The Phillips 66 project would result in five or more additional trains a week bearing highly volatile crude from far away oil fields, traveling through our communities to Nipomo, each train approximately a mile in length. Residents, to put it mildly, do not want these oil trains traveling through our city.
In response to concerned city residents , the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to write a letter to the county Board of Supervisors opposing this project and asking them to protect the safety, health and economic well-being of our city. The city of San Luis Obispo is honored to lead the way in our county and stand alongside a growing number of cities, counties and public agencies throughout the state, allied in opposition to this project.
The increased risk posed by this project is a major statewide issue and is a threat to every community with a railroad running through it. However, this project poses a uniquely extreme risk to the city of San Luis Obispo, made even more extreme by our unique topography.
Just to our north, in the open space immediately behind Cal Poly, is the mountainous Cuesta Grade area, which Union Pacific Railroad has rated as one of the state’s highest risk areas for derailments.
This unspoiled and beautiful part of our greenbelt, full of sensitive species and habitat, with the railroad tracks and Highway 101 snaking through it, is also rated by Cal Fire as being at extreme risk for wildfire. The current extreme drought has created a tinder-dry situation, and when under Santa Ana-downdraft conditions, our city is often downwind from Cuesta Grade.
Were there to be an oil car derailment in the Cuesta Grade or Cal Poly area, the campus — with its 20,000 students and 10,000 staff members — as well as the densely populated downtown and northern part of our city would be extremely difficult to defend from the ensuing oil fire.
However, that is not the only area of our city that would be threatened, because the railroad tracks go right through the heart of our city, putting most of our residents, visitors, businesses and structures at risk.
Our emergency responders are simply not funded, trained or equipped to deal with a disaster of the magnitude threatened by this project. If there were an oil disaster in our community, we taxpayers would be stuck with the bill for firefighting, hazardous material cleanup and repair of infrastructure. The damage to our lives, our environment and our economy would be devastating.
Like all businesses, Union Pacific and Phillips 66 desire to increase profits for their shareholders. But the problem is that these businesses wish to do so by vastly increasing our community’s risk of exposure to an oil-train disaster. Are we going to be forced to bear that risk? Is there no way to protect ourselves?
The answer to that question is up to the Board of Supervisors. As the permitting agency, the county Board of Supervisors is in a uniquely crucial position. It is the only entity in the county with the land use authority to deny the permits, which are needed for the project to proceed.
County residents have the opportunity to urge the Board of Supervisors to reject this project. They should do so for the sake of the health, safety and welfare of everyone who lives or works within the “oil car blast zone,” approximately a half-mile on each side of the railroad tracks.
The supervisors have the opportunity to put political differences aside and make the safety and wellbeing of their constituents their first priority by rejecting this project. Hopefully, they will rise to the challenge.