Tag Archives: Sacramento Superior Court

Central Valley Business Times: Oil company abandons plans to handle Bakken crude in Sacramento

Repost from Central Valley Business Times

Oil company abandons plans to handle Bakken crude in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, October 22, 2014

•  Cites lawsuit filed by environmentalists
•  “This is a victory for the health and safety of the people of Sacramento”

InterState Oil Company says it is surrendering its air pollution permit that lets it transfer highly volatile Bakken crude oil from railcars to trucks at its transloading facility located at 4545 Dudley Boulevard in the McClellan industrial park in Sacramento.

The decision comes a month after Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sierra Club challenging the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District for issuing permits allowing the project without public or environmental review.

Now the air agency says the permit was “issued in error because it failed to meet District Best Available Control Technology requirements.”

The agency and the company have agreed that the transfers will stop by Nov. 14.

“This is the first crude transport project that has been stopped dead in its tracks in California,” says Suma Peesapati, Earthjustice attorney. “This is a victory for the health and safety of the people of Sacramento, for communities along the path of the trucks hauling this dangerous product to the Bay Area, and for the refinery communities where the crude is eventually processed.”

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club on Sept. 23, holding the air district and InterState Oil accountable for neglecting to consider the risk to public health and safety of the project. The lawsuit also challenged the air district for deliberately avoiding its obligations for review under the California Environmental Quality Act despite the fact that the project would have significant increases in air pollutants, including toxic air contaminants.

The air district first issued a permit to InterState to trans-load crude from rail to truck on March 27, however according to an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, the company had been trans-loading crude without a permit as early as six months before that date. No notice was given to local fire and emergency responders or other officials about the handling of the highly flammable substance just seven miles north of the California state capital.

“This is a huge victory for Sacramento residents and communities across California who are put in harms way by trains carrying volatile, hazardous crude that are known to derail and explode,” says Devorah Ancel, Sierra Club staff attorney. “Local, state and federal governments must take further immediate action to notify the public when hazardous crude is railed through their communities and to ban the use of unsafe DOT 111 tank cars.”

As a result of today’s decision, Sacramento Superior Court is expected to dismiss the lawsuit, Earthjustice says.

Bakken crude, a type of shale oil, is more volatile than other kinds of crude oil. It has been blamed for some spectacular — and tragic — accidents, the worst of which was the July 2013 derailment of a train of oil cars carrying Bakken crude in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic. The explosion and fire killed nearly 50 townspeople and leveled more than 30 buildings.

Groups Challenge Sacramento Air District’s Furtive Approvals of Crude Oil Project

Repost from The Sacramento Bee
[Editor: See also EarthJustice’s account, and a Public News Service brief that appeared in the Benicia Herald.  Significant quote: “It’s becoming increasingly clear in California that the oil industry is cozying up to decision-makers who are deliberately bypassing environmental and health laws to usher in perilous oil transport projects that put people in danger,” – EarthJustice attorney Suma Peesapati.  – RS]

Sacramento air quality officials sued over crude oil trains

By Tony Bizjak, Tuesday, Sep. 23, 2014

A Bay Area environmental group has filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District for failing to require an environmental review of a crude oil transfer station at McClellan Business Park.

The group, Earthjustice, accuses local air quality managers of quietly rubber-stamping permits for InterState Oil Company, allowing it to use McClellan as a site for transferring highly flammable crude oil from trains into tanker trucks headed to Bay Area refineries.

Earthjustice filed the complaint Monday in Sacramento Superior Court on behalf of the Sierra Club. It charges that Sacramento air quality officials and InterState failed to review the potential hazards of running trains of inadequately designed tank cars full of crude oil through neighborhoods, and asks the court to halt the transfer operations until a full environmental review is conducted.

InterState Oil Company has been making the transfers at McClellan since last year, initially without applying for a permit. Inspectors with the air quality district discovered the oil transfers and required InterState to file for a permit, but did not require the company to conduct any review of the environmental impact of the project. Permit documents allow InterState to unload an estimated 100 train cars every two weeks. Officials with InterState could not be reached for comment.

Air district official Larry Greene told The Sacramento Bee last month that the oil company had an existing permit to transfer denatured alcohol and that the switch to crude oil transfers didn’t cause any emissions increases. The district issued a permit this year for crude-oil transfers but considered that action “ministerial,” meaning it did not trigger an environmental review, Greene said.

Environmental groups said they see that stance as an abrogation of duty by local regulators.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear in California that the oil industry is cozying up to decision-makers who are deliberately bypassing environmental and health laws to usher in perilous oil transport projects that put people in danger,” said Suma Peesapati, Earthjustice attorney. “We saw it in Richmond, we saw it in Kern County, and now we’re witnessing it in Sacramento. If we’re going to stem the flood of fossil fuels into California and protect the public from hastily approved, poorly planned projects, we demand transparent and law-abiding leadership.”

“This is an example of a public agency skirting the law and failing to ensure that everything possible is done to protect the public,” said Terry Davis of the Mother Lode Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Earthjustice recently sued a similar operation in the Bay Area city of Richmond, where the Kinder Morgan oil transportation company currently moves volatile Bakken crude oil from trains to trucks that take it to local refineries. That lawsuit was rejected a few weeks ago in court when a judge ruled the six-month statute of limitations for a lawsuit had expired. That project involves 100-car oil trains that come through midtown Sacramento.

Attorney Peesapati of Earthjustice said she does not believe the statute of limitations issue applies in the Sacramento case because this week’s lawsuit is within six months of the air quality district’s initial permit issuance this year.

A handful of recent derailments and explosions involving trains carrying crude oil, notably the lighter and more volatile Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, have prompted federal and state officials to push for more rail safety measures.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/23/6729786/sacramento-air-quality-officials.html#storylink=cpy