Tag Archives: San Luis Obispo County

San Jose State’s Spartan Daily on last week’s derailment: University is in potential impact zone

Repost from The Spartan Daily at San Jose State University
[Quote: “Last Wednesday a Union Pacific train pulling empty gravel cars derailed near Taylor and Seventh streets in Japantown. There were no injuries, but stalled traffic forced public transit to reroute, according to a report by NBC Bay Area.”   Editor:  See also the NBC report.  – RS]

Trains will bring oil through Downtown San Jose

By Jeremy Cummings Mar 18, 2015 2:36 am

Despite growing public opposition to transportation of crude oil by rail since serious accidents such as the Lac-Megantic crash in 2013 a proposal to the Santa Maria Planning Commission might bring a crude oil train directly through Downtown San Jose.

Jill and Jack Sardegna, two concerned San Jose natives who live close to the train tracks, worry about pollution and other risks the trains could bring.

“We didn’t think that this was a possibility here, and certainly not through a residential area,” Jill Sardegna said, “But here it is.”

San Jose State is in the potential impact zone of fires that could result from a derailment downtown, according to blast-zone.org, but the school’s administration is unprepared at this point to respond to such an event, according to SJSU Chief of Staff Stacy Gleixner at a press conference with student media last Wednesday.

“I don’t think we’ve given thought yet to what kind of precautions we might need to have in place,” Gleixner said.

The train, run by Union Pacific Railroad, will carry oil to the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo County and was proposed in 2013.

According to a draft of the proposal’s environmental impact report on slocounty.ca.gov, up to five 80-car trains will run to the Mesa refinery a week.

The commission has the final say on whether or not the oil trains will run, a decision which will impact some citizens’ lives all throughout California, according to Council member Ash Kalra.

Safety risks of oil trains

Complete safety cannot be guaranteed when transporting oil by rail, according to Francisco J. Castillo, director of corporate relations and media at Union Pacific Railroad.

Castillo said although oil by rail arrives safely 99.99 percent of the time, there is a risk associated with this shipping method as there is with any other.

In July 2013 an oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, killing 47 and causing significant damage to the city.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported that this crash was a result of simple human error. A conductor failed to set the train’s brakes correctly, allowing it to run out of control into the town center.

Data from a report released by environmental watchdog Mesa Refinery Watch Group shows that approximately 462,000 gallons of crude oil are confirmed to have spilled in the United States alone since 2013.

Unconfirmed amounts of oil have been spilled in other derailments such as one that occurred in Aliceville, Alabama, in December 2013.

The most commonly used tank car by the Department of Transportation is the DOT-111.

According to data from dot111.org and 2014 North American Freight Railcar review, DOT-111s make up approximately 75 percent of the North American Rail Fleet.

These tank cars are a big concern to environmental groups such as the Mesa Refinery Watch Group, which say DOT-111s follow outdated safety standards and leak large quantities of hazardous materials during transit.

Carol Ziegler, a representative of Phillips 66, said all of the cars in its fleet meet the newest safety standards for oil transportation.

Local Impact

Last Wednesday a Union Pacific train pulling empty gravel cars derailed near Taylor and Seventh streets in Japantown.

There were no injuries, but stalled traffic forced public transit to reroute, according to a report by NBC Bay Area.

The Lac-Megantic accident shows the potential consequences of an oil train derailing in a populated area.

According to San Jose Fire Department Chief Curtis Jacobsen, San Jose Fire is not equipped to contain the fires that could result from a derailment.

The Sardegnas are worried by the lack of publicized information about this issue, and have contacted multiple news outlets including the Mercury News trying to get the word out.

“This is a big concern for us that students don’t even know this is happening,” Jill Sardegna said.

Councilmember Kalra said it’s important for SJSU students to educate themselves about this and other issues so they might make a difference going into the future.

ABC7 News: San Jose public forum opposes plan for oil trains through East Bay

Repost from ABC 7 News
[Editor: Significant quote: “Phillips 66 says it must increase oil production in California and detouring trains around the Bay Area isn’t possible.”  – RS]

San Jose opposes rail shipments of crude oil

By Cornell Barnard, January 25, 2015

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — A plan to allow oil trains to pass through San Jose is facing opposition.

Phillips 66 would build a rail terminal at its Santa Maria refinery that would send trains with up to 80 cars of crude oil through Southern California and the Bay Area.

Millions of gallons of crude oil would move through the Bay Area weekly if this plan is approved. The city of San Jose opposes the idea and held a public forum at City Hall Sunday to educate residents.

Trains move through San Jose 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some carry people and others move freight. But a proposal by Phillips 66 could allow heavy crude oil to be transported by rail from Canada to a refinery in San Luis Obispo County, right through the Bay Area and Coleen Huffman’s downtown neighborhood. “Really scary, I mean the loud noise, the pollution, the fear of what if it crashed,” she said.

“This project if approved is a disaster waiting to happen,” Center for Biological Diversity spokesperson Valerie Love said.

The group held a public forum to educate residents about the dangers of so called oil trains. “We’re talking primarily about tar sands oil, heavy crudes from Canada, so this is one of the most toxic, the most carbon intensive, the dirtiest fuels on the planet,” Love said.

There have been accidents. A train carrying crude oil derailed near Quebec, Canada in 2013 killing dozens nearby.

Doug Sunlin has concerns about crude moving through large cities like San Jose. “Primarily the safety, if they are old cars they could have leaks,” he said.

In a statement, Phillips 66 says, “We have one of the most modern crude rail fleets in the industry, which exceed regulatory standards. Safety is our top priority.”

Phillips 66 says it must increase oil production in California and detouring trains around the Bay Area isn’t possible.

San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra opposes the idea, which he says won’t help keep gas prices low in the Bay Area. “It’s not benefiting us. It’s not lowering gas prices for Californians or Americans and yet we have to suffer the consequences.”

Folks signed a petition urging the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission to deny the oil train project.

Contra Costa Times Guest commentary: Say no to toxic oil trains for the future of our children

Repost from The Contra Costa Times

Guest commentary: Say no to toxic oil trains for the future of our children

By Carolyn Norr, 01/12/2015

I haven’t met Greg Garland, CEO of Phillips 66. I don’t know if he has kids, and if he does, I don’t know what he tells them about the world. But I know he has a plan, one I’m not sure how to explain to my own children, to ship tar sands crude oil by rail through my town.

As a mom, this is in no way OK with me. These oil trains spill poisons, leak toxins into the air, and contribute to the climate chaos my kids will be dealing with their entire lives.

In June, the Oakland City Council took an admirable stand against oil trains coming through our city. But now Phillips 66 proposes an expansion of its facility 250 miles south of here, that would bring a mile-long toxic train every day past our homes and schools.

It’s up to the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors to decide whether to allow that. Supervisors will be voting in early 2015. So now, I’m inviting any concerned parent, along with the City Council, to speak and urge them to protect our families by rejecting Garland’s plan.

Phillips’s latest environmental review admits that the proposed facility would create “significant and unavoidable” levels of air pollution, with increased health risks — particularly for children — of cancer, heart disease, asthma and more. Oakland already has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country.

Garland must not be one of the growing number of people who watch our kids deal with this, or he might reconsider.

Meanwhile, across the U.S. and Canada, oil train derailments, spills and fires are increasing as Garland and his colleagues in big oil move more oil by rail. The tar sands crude Phillips would be moving through our city is particularly toxic: the same carcinogenic, impossible-to-clean-up stuff of the infamous Keystone XL pipeline.

In Oakland, the potential spill zone includes much of downtown and the flatlands, where kids are already dealing with more than their fair share of dangers.

Besides, tar sands oil creates particularly huge amounts of the global warming gasses that are driving the climate into chaos.

What we burn now, our kids will be dealing with their entire lives. Scientists agree that a global temperature rise of 3.6 degrees may well be inevitable, and with it a level of droughts, super storms, forest fires and famines beyond anything we’ve seen.

Now we are fighting against the real possibility the temperature could increase twice that, making my kids’ very survival uncertain. As a mom, it’s crazy for me to know that. And when I hear about plans to deny or ignore those facts, I have to say no.

I don’t know Greg Garland personally. I don’t know if every night he tucks in his kids and tell them they are safe. But that is what I do, and I don’t mean my reassuring words to be hollow.

I invite the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors, my City Council, and everyone who cares about the safety and future of families in California, to join me in doing everything in our power to stop this plan. No to the expansion of Phillips 66, no to oil trains in our communities.

Carolyn Norr is a resident of Oakland. To get more involved, email momsagainstfossilfuels@gmail.com or contact Forest Ethics.

Berkeley Rent Board opposes crude oil transports by rail through city

Repost from The Contra Costa Times

Berkeley Rent Board opposes crude oil transports by rail through city

By Tom Lochner, 12/16/2014

BERKELEY — The city’s Rent Stabilization Board added its voice to a growing body of opposition to crude oil trains rolling through the East Bay this week, warning that derailments could trigger explosions that could damage affordable rental housing stock as well as schools, health care agencies and businesses.

“An accident is not a question of if, but when and where,” board member John Selawsky said before voting to support a resolution co-sponsored by Alejandro Soto-Vigil, James Chang, Paola Laverde-Levine and vice Chairwoman Katherine Harr opposing a plan by Phillips 66 to ship crude oil by rail from outside the state to its Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo County.

Phillips 66 has said it is confident that environmental and public safety issues raised by the project will be addressed in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The company also noted that railroads are federally regulated.

The trains, some 250 a year, each with 80 tank cars, would take several possible routes to Santa Maria, from the south through the Los Angeles basin or from the north via Sacramento, Martinez and along the shore of San Pablo and San Francisco bays through San Jose to the Central Coast, according to a revised draft environmental impact report under review by San Luis Obispo County. An alternate route could go through Stockton and Martinez and down the East Bay shore; yet another, through Stockton and San Jose via the Altamont Pass.

Tuesday’s vote was 8-0 with one abstention, by Judy Shelton, who said she firmly opposes transporting crude oil by rail through Berkeley, but questioned whether the rent board is the proper vehicle for that opposition.

Soto-Vigil noted that the rent board is a body separate from the City Council, and its own legal entity.

“Our mission is to preserve our rental housing stock,” he said.

Chang noted that the council already is on record opposing the project. In March, the council unanimously declared opposition to the transport of crude oil by rail through East Bay cities. And in November, the council signed on to comments to the DEIR by a group of environmental organizations opposing the Phillips 66 project.