Tag Archives: Solano County Supervisor Linda J. Seifert

KGO 810 Radio: Benicia Community Groups Oppose Oil-by-Rail Plan on Safety Grounds

Repost from KGO 810 Radio, The Bay Area’s News & Information Station
[Editor: the online text below has some misquotes.  The video is MUCH better.  Good interview comments by Andrés Soto of Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community.  – RS

Benicia Community Groups Oppose Oil-by-Rail Plan on Safety Grounds

Railroad tracks (morguefile)

BENICIA (KGO) – The issue of rail safety is front-and-center in Solano County as officials consider a plan to allow oil-carrying trains to pass through the region.

The controversy surrounds a proposal by the Valero’s Benicia refinery. Refinery officials want to begin transporting crude oil to the city via railroad tanker car. The refinery currently receives crude by ship.

“We believe that it presents a clear and present danger to both the physical and economic futures[s] of the city,” says Andre Soto, a member of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, one of several groups opposing the endeavor.

“Crude by rail, as delivered by the railroad companies right now, has a terrible record of catastrophic explosions, mostly due to derailment,” says Soto.

Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert is hosting community meetings to discuss preparedness and response.

“The chances are [oil] is going to come through in greater quantities than [it] has in the past. Regulatory and schemes and ensuring that the public is safe is absolutely essential,” she says.

Crude oil by rail discussed at Solano County Town Hall Meeting

Repost from The Reporter, Vacaville, CA

Crude oil by rail discussed at county Town Hall Meeting keeps Valero Benicia Refinery project in mind

By Melissa Murphy, 09/29/2014

A community conversation Monday night attracted about 50 people from the public, county staff and elected leaders to explore the topic of rail safety along the 73 miles of railway in Solano County, in particular as it relates to proposed increases in crude oil shipments.

Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert said the evening was aimed at having a community conversation about the county’s preparedness and the potential impacts from any incident along local railways.

County officials said the timing of the event was two-fold. September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. In addition, the city of Benicia is considering an application that would allow Valero Refinery to receive and process more crude oil delivered by rail.

While instigated by the Valero proposal, that project, according to Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert, is being thoroughly vetted and Solano County leadership does not have a say in the outcome.

Still, Seifert explained Valero isn’t the only refinery interested in the transportation of crude oil by rail so it’s still appropriate to discuss the possibility in Solano County.

“Hazardous materials travel through Solano County daily,” she said, adding that the government has had very little to say about the movement of that type of material by rail. “This reduces, significantly, the local ability to impose its own constraints.”

She explained that the earthquake in August that rocked the Vallejo and Napa region is just one example of how prepared and how ready the county’s first responders are when needed.

“We know emergency responders from across the county, including the Hazardous Materials Response Team, are prepared for a wide array of potential incidents,” Seifer has said. “Proposals to process crude oil delivered by rail will change the mix of materials coming into and passing through Solano County. It is only prudent for us to explore how to increase our capability to handle the risks associated with these changes.”

Chris Howe, Valero Benicia Refinery’s director of Health, Safety, Environment and Government Affairs, explained that the proposed crude by rail project would be a third means to deliver crude oil. So far, Valero receives the crude oil by marine deliveries and pipeline.

Howe explained that there are no other production changes proposed at the refinery.

“This project has the environmental benefit of lowering annual emissions including a reduction in greenhouse gases,” he said. “This project will provide flexibility to reduce the import of foreign crudes and increase the use of domestic crude oil.”

He added that preventing accidents is a “top priority” and that Valero already has exemplary safety programs, that they train for emergencies and are prepared today for emergencies inside and outside of the refinery.

Solano Office of Emergency Services also is prepared for emergencies and disasters. They already operate with a Emergency Operations Plan and Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan, according to Don Ryan, emergency services manager. Those documents are available on the county’s website, www.solanocounty.com.

Meanwhile, Antonia Juhasz, an author and investigative reporter, shed light on the actual impacts of a derailment of train cars transporting crude oil.

Photo after photo was shown of major accidents, fires and oil spills caused by crude oil train derailments.

The biggest in the country was an Alabama derailment that spilled 750,000 gallons of crude oil in November 2013 and the biggest in the world was a 1.6 million gallon spill after a derailment in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people.

Juhasz said while transporting crude oil is a relatively new problem, it’s a serious problem. She said the crude oil coming from North Dakota is more flammable and combustible, a lot like gasoline, with a tendency to explode when derailed.

She said problems can be attributed to the train cars that are prone to puncture and the trains themselves.

The sticking point, she said, is the government doesn’t know how to regulate it. She also noted that Valero could expect a derailment every two years, with a major accident happening every 10 years. She also pointed to three derailments, two of which were carrying petroleum coke, since Nov. 4 2013 at the Valero refinery in Benicia.

Lois Wolk, D-Solano, also continues to push for increased rail safety.

“The volume of crude oil being imported into California has increased over 100-fold in recent years, and continues to increase,” Wolk said in a press release and noted that Valero’s plans to ship 100 train cars of crude oil a day would be through the heart of her district. “The recommendations I propose would help California keep in step with the growing risk to California’s citizens and environment posed by the significant increase in shipments of these dangerous materials.”

She has proposed reducing the recommended speed of trains carrying hazardous crude from 40 to 30 mph through all cities to reduce the risk of crashes. Wolk also proposes increasing the thickness of the shell of the car, adding top-fitting protections that can sustain a rollover accident of up to 9 mph, and installing Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brake systems to ensure faster braking for train cars.

Seifert said she was pleased with Monday’s turnout and reiterated the need for education about crude oil by rail.

“This was an opportunity for the public to learn and to start promoting the regulatory process,” she said and added that it also is an opportunity to make sure Solano County’s plan around emergency preparedness is sound.”

“This wasn’t about stopping the project, but to ensure the safety of the community,” Seifert added.

Once in 111 years? Could be tomorrow…

Repost from The Vacaville Reporter
[Editor: The author convincingly makes the case that when it comes to oil trains, public safety is a roll of the dice.  He then suggests that the only way to win at crude oil craps is to buy insurance and prepare for the inevitable disaster(s).  In his next column, maybe Mr. Kimme will consider a statistically proven casino strategy: don’t play the game.  NOW is the time to say NO to big oil, and to promote, develop, plan for and build clean energy.  – RS]

The odds are, tanker safety needs to be discussed

By Vacaville Reporter columnist Ernest Kimme, 09/22/2014

Many people in Vacaville live in flood plains, and pay flood insurance. The city keeps the flood maps. They show the 50 year flood zones, 100 year flood zones, and 500 year flood zones.

People often believe that means that houses in a 50 year flood zone will flood once every 50 years. If you have a flood, then the next flood will be in 50 years. Sadly, this is incorrect.

Instead, every year, nature rolls a 50 sided dice. If the dice stops with “50” showing, your house gets flooded. If you are lucky, you could roll 100 times (once a year), and never see a “50”. But if you’re not lucky, you might get “50” twice in a row. Or three times in 10 years. Probability is a fickle mistress. You might know the odds, but you just never know what is going to happen each year.

So now let’s talk about train wrecks and oil fires.

The Valero Refinery in Benicia would like to import a lot of oil by train. The trains would start in Roseville, and travel 69 miles to the Benicia Refinery. Part of that journey would be in the Suisun Marsh. Several long trains of tanker cars would make the trip each day. So people have concerns.

Some bright mathematician calculated the odds of a derailment leading to a fire. Without going into the math (your welcome), he found that the odds of a train wreck and oil fire in Solano County were once in 111 years. So every year, the lords of chaos roll a 111 sided dice, and if it comes up “111,” then that year Solano County has a terrible oil fire on the railroad tracks. The fire might not happen for 200 years, or we could have 3 fires in 3 consecutive years. It’s all luck.

For comparison, Vacaville has about 6 to 8 house fires a year. The odds of one particular house — your house — burning are about 1 in 3,500. Take a dice with 3,500 sides you get the idea. Yet we still faithfully pay for fire insurance, and pay taxes for a fire department.

Now, go back and look at the chances of a train wreck, and the chances of a house fire. Did you notice that train wrecks are more likely than house fires?

But let’s not let our knickers get all twisted up — yet. Just like a house fire, oil tanker fires are not likely to happen. We should, however be prepared. We would like the fire department to be able to put them out quickly, if and when they happen.

That’s the rub. Oil fires do not quietly flicker out. They give off big clouds of toxic smoke, often with heavy metals and sulfuric acid in them.

Oil fires burn so hot that firefighters often have trouble getting close. And oil fires need special foams and equipment. Water just spreads it out and makes it worse.

So the obvious question is: Who pays for the extra training for the firefighters and the special equipment? The taxpayers? The refinery? The railroad?

Normally the taxpayers have to pay, and then file claims after the accident in an attempt to recover costs. Usually the railroads carry insurance in case of accidents, so it becomes lawyers arguing with lawyers. Makes you wonder: What if the county got insurance to cover their costs?

We can regret the need for oil and gasoline in our society, and we should make every effort to use less fossil fuel. But until that day, we need to safely transport oil and gasoline. With that in mind, Supervisor Linda Seifert is hosting a community discussion on the tanker trains and safety, Monday, Sept. 29, 6 to 8:30 p.m., in the Supervisor’s Chambers, 675 Texas St, Fairfield. For more information, call her office.

The author is a Vacaville resident and member of The Reporter editorial board.

Solano County to hold “Rail Safety Discussion” on Mon., Sept. 29, 6pm

Repost from SolanoCounty.com News Details
[Editor: this event has been referred to alternately as a “discussion”  a “forum,” an “information session,” a “public meeting,” and a “community conversation,”   Very little has been published to indicate that the County is eager to hear from the public at this meeting.  Nonetheless, governmental meetings always provide an opportunity for the public to be heard.  If you go, plan to learn something from emergency professionals, government officials and staff … and to offer your own sage advice on the best way to contain catastrophic emergencies….  – RS]

Rail safety discussion planned for Sept. 29

September 8, 2014

SOLANO COUNTY – How can emergency responders increase their capabilities to respond to potential incidents that could happen along the 73 miles of railway that cross Solano County?

That is the question to be discussed at an information session from
6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the County Administration Center, 675 Texas St. in Fairfield

“As we prepare for and anticipate the transportation of crude oil through our county, a community conversation about our preparedness and the potential impact from an incident is essential,” said Supervisor Linda Seifert.

The meeting’s objective will be to raise awareness of the existing safety measures already in place throughout the county and to identify potential gaps and mitigations based on potential changes in rail traffic.

Invited speakers include representatives from Valero, Union Pacific Railroad, Solano County Office of Emergency Services, the Solano County Fire Chiefs Association, and local air quality management districts. Congressman John Garamendi and state Senator Lois Wolk have also been invited to participate.

County officials said the timing of the event was two-fold. September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. In addition, the City of Benicia is considering an application that would allow Valero to receive and process crude oil delivered by rail.

“We know emergency responders from across the county, including the Hazardous Materials Response Team, are prepared for a wide array of potential incidents. Proposals to process crude oil delivered by rail will change the mix of materials coming into and passing through Solano County. It is only prudent for us to explore how to increase our capability to handle the risks associated with these changes,” Supervisor Seifert said.