Tag Archives: San Luis Obispo County CA

SACRAMENTO BEE: Tom Steyer & Steve Young – Benicia should block oil trains

Repost from the Sacramento Bee

Benicia should block oil trains

By Tom Steyer and Steve YoungSpecial to The Bee, March 14, 2016 9:30AM

•  Valero wants to bring trains carrying crude through Sacramento region to Benicia refinery
• Even without a catastrophe, oil trains pose a serious threat to public health and safety
• With clean energy and efficiency, California doesn’t need to take the risk

Railroad tracks lead to Valero’s refinery in Benicia. The company wants to ship oil there with two, 50-car trains a day.
Railroad tracks lead to Valero’s refinery in Benicia. The company wants to ship oil there with two, 50-car trains a day. Manny Crisostomo Sacramento Bee file

If approved, proposed new oil train terminals at refineries in California would turn our railways into crude oil superhighways. Mile-long oil trains would haul millions of gallons of toxic, explosive crude through downtown Sacramento and dozens of other California cities and towns. An estimated 5 million Californians live in the one-mile evacuation zone along oil train routes.

In Benicia, city officials are close to a final decision on the proposed Valero oil train terminal. It’s essential that City Council members, who hold a hearing on Tuesday, understand why oil trains are too dangerous for our communities. There is no sure way to protect public health while transporting crude oil by rail.

Tom Steyer

Valero wants to bring two 50-car trains carrying about 3 million gallons of oil to its Benicia refinery every day. The environmental review of the proposal cites the “potentially significant” hazard of a spill and fire.

In 2013, the oil train explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec, demonstrated the danger. It killed 47 people, destroyed dozens of buildings and poisoned a local lake. Three years later, residents still live with fear and anxiety, and scientists have recorded an “unprecedented” spike of fish deformities.

Steve Young

But it doesn’t take a catastrophe for oil trains to pose a serious threat to public health and safety. They disrupt traffic, delay emergency response and bring more poisoned air and increased disease. That’s why six counties and 22 cities around Sacramento have already said no to these trains. But the safety of all Californians living in the blast zone lies in the hands of Benicia city officials who will decide whether to approve Valero’s permit.

On Feb. 11, after days of testimony from experts and community members, the city Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny the permit. Valero has appealed to the Benicia City Council, which will make the final decision.

Something similar is happening in San Luis Obispo County, where the county staff and the California Coastal Commission recommended that the county reject the Phillips 66 oil train terminal proposal. The county Planning Commission must decide soon, but the final decision will rest with county supervisors.

Last year, NextGen Climate, the Natural Resources Defense Council, ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment released a report on oil industry plans to ship dirty Canadian tar sands crude to West Coast refineries. The report found that heavy crude would increase carbon pollution by as much as 26 million metric tons – the equivalent of adding 5.5 million cars to the road.

The good news is that we don’t have to live with these oil risks barreling through town. We can make our communities safer by transitioning to clean energy. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed that improvements in fuel efficiency and energy technology could help us cut oil consumption in half by 2030.

There’s no place for extreme tar sands or Bakken crude in California’s emerging clean energy economy – and there’s no place in our communities for dangerous, unnecessary crude oil trains.

Tom Steyer is founder of NextGen Climate and can be contacted at info@nextgenclimate.org.  Steve Young is a Benicia planning commissioner and can be contacted at steveyoung94510@gmail.com.

North Paso Robles County residents meet to oppose oil train rail spur

Repost from the Paso Robles Daily News

North County residents meet to oppose oil train rail spur

By Jackie Iddings, November 10, 2015 7:44 am
Tankers courtesy Mesa Refinery Watch Group
Tankers courtesy Mesa Refinery Watch Group

–A group of concerned North County residents met earlier this month at Congregation Ohr Tzafon in Atascadero for a public forum about Phillip 66’s plans to run oil trains through California to its Mesa refinery in Nipomo. Phillips 66 has applied to the county for a permit to build a rail terminal to unload oil trains carrying tar sands oil crude from Alberta, Canada.

Federal laws prohibit state and local governments from passing laws and regulations that control trains passing through their jurisdictions, but the group believes that San Luis Obispo County is in a unique position because denying Phillips 66 the permit will not only prevent the oil trains from running through San Luis Obispo County, it can significantly reduce oil-train traffic in California.

Phillips 66 proposes to bring mile-long oil trains, each carrying 2.4 million gallons of low grade tar sands crude, through San Luis Obispo county five times a week for the next 20 years. Once refined at the mesa refinery, the oil will be transported by train to the San Francisco Bay area for further treatment, then exported to the highest bidder.

Phillips 66 says importing the lower qualilty crude is necessary because it is running out of California crude, putting jobs at the Nipomo Mesa refinery at risk. The Mesa Refinery Watch Group challenges the oil company, stating “Phillips’ corporate executives have stated in writing that they want their entire company to process lower-cost crude oil in order to generate higher profits.” A statement on the Mesa Refinery Watch Group’s web site says, “The issue is about higher profits by switching to rail delivery, not about protecting jobs.”

Beth Kean from the California Nurses Association, and Lee Perkins from ProtectSLO presented concerns that would impact San Luis Obispo county in the event of an oil train accident.

Kean and Perkins stated the danger of derailments and explosions are very real. More than 95,000 people in San Luis Obispo County live, work, or attend school within a one mile blast zone around the Union Pacific tracks that would be used by the oil trains, they said. Retired Templeton fire chief Greg O’Sullivan spoke from Sunday night’s audience stating that an oil train derailment and explosion would tax local first responder resources and could result in hundreds of deaths in a populated area. O’Sullivan stated that the risk to public safety and environmental resources such as water, is just too high to be balanced by any claimed safety measures.

On October 7, 2015 the Los Angeles Times published a table showing 31 oil-train crashes between January 2013 and July 2015. Over half of thesewere credited to track issues. In an April 2015 press release announcing the Department of Transportation’s intent to improve transport safety the DOT reported the number of accidents involving trains carrying crude oil “is unprecedented.” “Operation Safe Delivery Update” a DOT report released in July 2014 reported the “potential devastating consequences of a crude oil train derailment.” Another DOT press release issued in May 2014, “Upon information derived from recent railroad accidents and subsequent DOT investigations, the Secretary of Transportation has found that an unsafe condition or an unsafe practice is causing or otherwise constitutes an imminent hazard to the safe transportation of hazardous materials.”

The DOT released derailment projections in an August 2014 issue of the Federal Register in which it presents a high end risk assessment for derailment of crude oil shipments at 5 to 15 events between 2015 and 2034. The assessment includes 10 additional events in the same time frame of “higher consequences.” These higher consequences total up to environmental damages, injuries and deaths costing between $1.15 and $5.75 billion for a single event.

A July 2013 oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic,Ontario, resulted in 47 deaths and clean-up costs were estimated at over $180 million. The railroad, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway folded because it was only carrying $25 million in liability insurance, leaving Canadians responsible for financing the costs.

A draft of the Phillips 66 environmental impact report (EIR) is available for public view on the web site for the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department. The final EIR may be released in early 2016 and public hearings can start as soon as on month after that release. Opposition to oil trains is growing in San Luis Obispo county and across the state as well as in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation.

Kean and Perkins are making presentations at the San Miguel School Board meeting at 6:30 on Nov. 12, and to the Templeton School Board meeting at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.


Santa Clara County votes to oppose oil trains

Repost from NBC Bay Area
[Editor:  See also coverage on CBS SF Bay Area.  – RS]

Supervisors Oppose Proposed Project That Would Bring Oil Trains Through Santa Clara County

By Robert Handa and Bay City News, Aug 24, 2015, 7:03 PM PDT

Santa Clara County leaders, including some fire chiefs, are looking to join the Bay Area fight to stop railroad cars filled with crude oil from traveling through neighborhoods.

The South Bay officials said they are worried a proposed plan in San Luis Obispo County could lead to a derailment, an environmental disaster and the loss of life.

A recent train derailment in San Jose made some Santa Clara County leaders suddenly very interested in blocking the Phillips 66 proposal to expand its Santa Maria oil refinery.

The plan to extend a Union Pacific rail line in San Obispo County would likely allow Phillips 66 to have up to five trains a week transporting millions of gallons of high sulfur crude oil around its Santa Maria refinery.

The route would run through 40 miles of the county in Milpitas, downtown San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy and unincorporated communities, according to Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

The project would have an option to use Caltrain from San Francisco to downtown San Jose, Chavez said.

“A hundred years ago rail lines were going through prairies. Now they’re going through communities where people live, work, play and worship,” Chavez said.

With nearly 2 million residents, Santa Clara County is a more densely populated area than elsewhere on the route, Yeager said.

In addition to the human impact an oil train derailment would have, there would also be environmental consequences on air and soil quality and an already limited water supply, Yeager said.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on a resolution against the proposal during its Tuesday meeting.

If the resolution is passed, the county plans to detail their opposition to the project in a letter to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.  [Editor: the resolution passed by unanimous vote. – RS]

The Santa Clara County Fire Chiefs’ Association has also written a letter to San Luis Obispo County officials for additional information, training and equipment to keep the county safe should the project move forward, Kehmna said.

Palo Alto fire Chief Eric Nickel, president of the fire chiefs’ association, said Phillips should provide the resources to train county fire personnel instead of billing taxpayers.

In an email Phillips 66 spokesman Dennis Nuss said, “We remain committed to safety and to our proposal. We understand that there may be opposition to the rail project, and we look forward to San Luis Obispo County providing responses to all issues that are raised and addressing them in compliance with CEQA.”

California Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Fracking

Repost from Public News Service

California Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Fracking

By Suzanne Potter, June 11, 2015

LOS ANGELES – California environmental groups filed suit Wednesday to block a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan to allow fracking and oil drilling on more than one million acres of public land.

According to Patrick Sullivan with the Center for Biological Diversity, the BLM environmental assessment was inadequate.

“We think the federal government needs to go back to the drawing board and take a really hard look at fracking pollution threats to water, air and public health,” he says.

The environmental lawfirm Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres ForestWatch. Oil companies named in the suit maintain their operations are safe and comply with all regulations.

Sullivan says fracking and oil drilling put the environment and nearby residents at risk.

“The EPA has found instances in which fracking has contaminated drinking water across the country,” he says. “Here in California we know oil companies have dumped waste fluid into protected underground aquifers.”

The federal lands in question stretch across the San Joaquin Valley, southern Sierra Nevada and along the Central Coast in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.