City and SACOG to Submit Comments on Crude Oil Shipments by Rail
In the coming weeks the City of Sacramento and SACOG plan to submit comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Crude by Rail project proposed at the Benicia Refinery. Additionally, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson also introduced AB 380 that would protect communities from rail accidents involving crude oil.
California refineries are in the process of securing permits to build rail terminals to import Canadian tar sands and Bakken crude oils from the Dakotas. Many of these projects plan to use existing UP tracks along the Capital Corridor route through the Sacramento region. It is anticipated that as many as 100+ rail cars a day could be added. Tanker cars containing flammable crude oil have derailed in other areas. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently classified crude shipments by rail as an “imminent hazard.” Steps are being taken to mitigate some of the risk, including safety measures used during transport, regulations to improve tank car safety and a voluntary agreement to slow crude trains in urban areas and installation of safety equipment to respond to accidents. Mitigating the impacts of crude oil transporting by rail in California is a challenge as the railroads and others involved in the transport claim they are not subject to California law.
Some areas of concern that will be submitted as comments are: advance notification to local public safety of shipments, support for training and outfitting emergency response crews, utilization of best available freight cars, priority funding for rail safety projects, utilization of best available inspection equipment and protocols and limitations on storage of shipments in urbanized areas.
Assembly member Dickinson’s AB 380 would require that rail carriers communicate information about the movement and characteristics of crude oil and other hazardous materials, in order to better prepare emergency response officials in the case of an accident. It is essential that our local emergency responders have the information they need in order to minimize any damages from potential accidents.