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California Department of Toxic Substances Control Public Meeting & Hearing
November 5, 2014 at 6:30 PM
Las Juntas Elementary School – Multipurpose Room
4105 Pacheco Blvd in Martinez
The Acme Fill Hazardous Waste dump is located at 950 Waterbird Way, 1/3 of a mile from the neighborhood bordered by Arthur, Central and Irene Streets off Pacheco Boulevard. The dump is between the Shell & Tesoro refineries, and adjacent to protected wetlands & creeks.
By Elisabeth Nardi Contra Costa Times 10/17/2014
MARTINEZ — City leaders urged state and federal agencies this week to place rail safety above cost savings when moving crude oil by rail through their city.
But it’s a move environmental groups and some candidates running in the November election call weak. They say city officials need to work harder to stop crude oil from rolling through Martinez.
On Wednesday, the City Council passed a resolution that urges rail safety regulators to be “vigilant” in their enforcement and asks them to require newer, safer rail cars. But residents who have been asking the city for months to come out against crude by rail criticized the resolution, saying it will do nothing.
Resident Amy Durfee, who lives near the Alhambra train trestle, criticized city officials over the resolution, which she called “flimsy.”
“It makes no concrete action to address this issue of the highly explosive trains that are coming across that trestle every seven to 10 days,” she said. “You are putting the city’s head in the sand and putting us all in danger.”
Even some of the council members who voted for the resolution didn’t feel it was tough enough. But others said something was better than nothing.
“At least it makes a public statement that the City Council is concerned about the public safety of its residents,” said Mayor Rob Schroder, noting the city is also concerned about rail shipments of other explosive chemicals. “This is just the beginning; as we go on into time, we will be taking more actions with respect to this issue.
Members of the Martinez Environmental Group were especially critical of the council, even drafting their own resolution they asked the council to pass. They wanted something similar to what cities such as Richmond and Berkeley passed earlier this year, which call for crude oil rail shipments to cease in their cities.
Concern has grown about train bridge and rail safety in general — especially in light of the increase in rail crude oil shipments, which grew 158 percent in California from September to December 2013, according to the state Energy Commission. Many are also worried about exploding trains and derailment. There have been several crude oil train explosions in North America over the past two years, including one in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people.
Derailments “are not something that could happen; it’s something that does happen,” said Gay Gerlack, who is running for mayor against Schroder.
Residents also called on the council to have more emergency plans in place in case of a derailment.
Councilwoman Lara DeLaney said the resolution is vague, and it doesn’t demand enough from state and federal authorities. She didn’t vote “no” because anything that encourages any kind of safety is better than nothing, she said.
Councilman Mark Ross, who is not up for election, said the resolution has been seen by some as a “political selfie” before the November election, and others don’t know why Martinez is getting involved in something over which it has no jurisdiction.
The resolution “doesn’t really do anything more than express our concern,” Ross said.
All on the council vowed to do more with the issue. Meetings with the head of the railroads are planned, and officials are working with the League of California Cities.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617.
Last night, sixteen Contra Costa County residents presented testimony asking the Martinez City Council to vote against a weak resolution on Crude By Rail (CBR).
With about fifty supporters in attendance – including the Martinez Environmental Group (MEG), Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC), Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment, (CRUDE), the Sunflower Alliance, and local candidates for Mayor, Gay Gerlack and for City Council, Mark Thompson – all speakers asked the council to postpone the vote and work on strengthening the proposal for the good of the community.
Despite the presentation of a fully fleshed-out proposal by MEG to the council in May of this year, Mike Menesini sprung his alternative on community members two weeks ago. MEG members let him know that his proposal was unacceptably weak. Multiple efforts to meet with all members of the council proved fruitless, with the exception of Lara Delaney, who made time to meet with MEG members, and also made a last minute attempt to bring stronger wording to the proposal.
Unfortunately, the council voted unanimously to pass the flimsy resolution, while also promising “to do more” in the future. It’s difficult to understand their hurry – a desire to be done with it or an election stunt? Their resolution says nothing about a desire to stop CBR through Martinez, until/if it is made into a safe mode of transport.
These kind of trains roll through our town every 7 to 10 days, over that rusty old John Muir trestle on their way to Kinder Morgan in Richmond. Once there, the extreme crude oil is loaded onto tanker trucks and driven back over the tinder dry area on either side of Highway 4 to Tesoro for refining. So Martinez gets it coming and going!
At one point, Mark Ross suggested that the only way things change is when something awful happens, citing the deadly Caldicott Tunnel explosion and fire that initiated a ban on explosive materials passing through the tunnel. Clearly he has not paid attention to the (at least) 11 other derailments and spills caused by CBR in the USA just this year, or the tragedy in Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed their downtown area. The council seems content with responsive rather than proactive safety measures. But it should be crystal clear to everyone that by the time we respond to an event of this nature, the people are already dead and the water, land, and wildlife have been devastated. All you can do is let the fireball burn itself out.
MEG is so grateful to all the passionate speakers who showed up with the intention to stop the next accident before it happens! Public testimony was insightful, educational, and heartfelt.
Although many of us were visibly disheartened at the outcome, we will be back to continue this on-going struggle. CBR is just beginning. If the oil companies and politicians in their pockets have their way, California will soon be crawling with bomb trains carrying extreme crude oil!
Report on Central Coast refinery project that could bring crude oil trains through East Bay cities available for public review
By Tom Lochner Contra Costa Times 10/15/2014
Tanker rail containers are photographed along Waterfront Road in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
BERKELEY — A revised environmental report for a rail expansion project at a petroleum refinery on the Central California coast that could bring ¿crude oil by trains through densely populated East Bay cities has been published by San Luis Obispo County, the lead agency overseeing the project.
The Phillips 66 Company Rail Spur Extension Project envisions bringing unit trains with 80 tank cars plus locomotives and supporting cars to a new crude oil unloading facility in Santa Maria from the north or from the south along tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad.
The approach from the south would be through the Los Angeles area and up the Pacific Coast. An approach from the north would go along the Amtrak Capitol Corridor from Martinez via Richmond, Berkeley and Emeryville to Oakland, and from there south along the Capitol Corridor or Coast Starlight route via Hayward, Fremont and Santa Clara to San Jose and on to Santa Maria.
The prospect of trains loaded with crude oil has raised concerns of residents and public officials worried about the specter of exploding trains as well as other consequences. There have been several crude oil train explosions in North America over the last two years, including one in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people.
In March, the Berkeley and Richmond city councils voted unanimously to oppose the transport of crude oil by rail through the East Bay. Days later, the San Luis Obispo County Department of Planning and Building announced it would recirculate the original draft report due to the large volume of comments it had generated, many of them complaining that certain impacts and dangers of the project had not been addressed.
The recirculated report is available on the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department website at http://www.sloplanning.org under “Environmental Impact Reports.”
By Denis Cuff Contra Costa Times 10/16/2014
SAN FRANCISCO — Pushing the envelope on reducing air pollution, Bay Area air quality officials said Wednesday they want to cut oil refinery emissions by 20 percent.
Environmentalists called the plan a groundbreaking new approach, while industry leaders said it was radical and placed illegal restrictions on oil plants.
Though it set no deadline for reductions, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board said it is steering a course to push oil refineries harder to upgrade equipment to cut emissions. Officials want a road map by December for considering new rules or procedures in 2015 to help meet the target. Refineries that show they already have the best and most modern equipment, and therefore could not meet the 20 percent requirement, could receive waivers.
“Refineries have made a lot of progress in reducing emissions as a result of aggressive rule making, but there is more work to be done,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, also a regional air board member. “We know there is technology out there to do better.”
Dear Martinez Neighbors and allies:
We need your voice at the Wednesday Martinez City Council to stop Bakken trains! The time has come…if you are concerned about explosive Bakken crude oil coming through Martinez every 7-10 days on its way to the Kinder Morgan railyard in Richmond (and then back to Tesoro by tanker trucks over Highway 4), we need you to make your voice heard at this week’s Martinez City Council meeting:
We really need people to come and speak at public comment and/or show support in the audience. Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, compare the two resolutions below:
2) City Council member Mike Menesini’s CBR resolution which is still in draft form and not on the agenda. We have alerted him that MEG is not in favor of such a watered down resolution.
By ALISON SIDER and CASSANDRA SWEET
For the past decade, the U.S. shale boom has mostly passed by California, forcing oil refiners in the state to import expensive crude.
Now that’s changing as energy companies overcome opposition to forge ahead with rail depots that will get oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. Thanks in large measure to hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. has reduced oil imports from countries such as Iraq and Russia by 30% over the last decade. Yet in California, imports have shot up by a third to account for more than half the state’s oil supply.
“California refineries arguably have the most expensive crude slate in North America,” says David Hackett, president of energy consulting firm Stillwater Associates.
Part of the problem is that no major oil pipelines run across the Rocky Mountains connecting the state to fracking wells in the rest of the country. And building pipelines is a lengthy, expensive process.
Railroads are transporting a rising tide of low-price shale oil from North Dakota and elsewhere to the East and Gulf coasts, helping to keep a lid on prices for gasoline and other refined products.
Yet while California has enough track to carry in crude, the state doesn’t have enough terminals to unload the oil from tanker cars and transfer it to refineries on site or by pipeline or truck.
Just 500,000 barrels of oil a month, or 1% of California’s supply, moves by rail to the state today. New oil-train terminals by 2016 could draw that much in a day, if company proposals are successful.
Where is it?
The Acme Fill Corporation’s hazardous waste site is located at 950 WaterBird Way – east of 680, next to the Waterbird Preserve and less than a quarter mile from a densely populated neighborhood. The entire facility and buffer zones cover 516 acres.
What’s in it? The dump contains:
• Methylene chloride – predominantly used as a solvent and a “probable human carcinogen” according to US EPA.
• Trichloroethane (methyl chloroform) – long term inhalation exposure has caused heart problems, specifically ventricular arrhythmias.
• Tetrahydrofuran – highly flammable; prolonged exposure may cause liver damage.
• Acetone – highly water soluble, so it tends to leach to groundwater; long-term exposure in animals has led to kidney, liver, and nerve damage, birth defects, and lowered ability to reproduce in males.
• Alkaline sludge – possible petroleum refinery byproduct with variable composition.
• Sand blast waste – produced by removing rust or paint (could include lead paint).
• Catalyst fines – byproduct of oil refining, specifically the catalytic cracker.
By Tony Bizjak and Curtis Tate Oct. 8, 2014 Sacto Bee
The battle over crude oil trains in California intensified this week, reaching into the legal sphere with potential national repercussions.
The state’s two major railroad companies, Union Pacific and the BNSF Railway, went to federal court Tuesday to argue that neither California nor any other state can legally impose safety requirements on them because the federal government already does that.
The lawsuit came days after California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined other officials in challenging one crude-by-rail project, in the Bay Area city of Benicia. In a letter to Benicia officials, Harris said the city has failed to adequately analyze the potential environmental consequences of Valero Refining Company’s plan to ship two 50-car oil trains daily throughNorthern California to its Benicia refinery.
Those shipments would run through downtown Sacramento and other Valley cities.
The Valero project and similar plans by other oil companies prompted the state Legislature this summer to pass a law ordering railroad companies to submit an oil spill prevention and response plan to the state, and to provide proof to the state that they have enough money to cover oil-spill damages.
Railroads fired back this week, filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento. Their argument: Federal law pre-empts the state from imposing safety restrictions on the railroads.
The suit was filed by the two largest railroads in the Western United States, Union Pacific and BNSF Railway Co. The industry’s leading trade group, the Association of American Railroads, is listed as co-plaintiff.
The fight involves a long-standing friction point between railroads and U.S. states and cities. Railroads contend that local governments cannot place requirements or restrictions on freight travel because federal laws cover that ground.
The railroads have used the federal pre-emption argument to stop states from trying to impose speed limits on trains and ban certain types of shipments. In one notable case, railroads got the courts to overturn a Washington, D.C., law that attempted to ban trains carrying hazardous materials from using tracks within 2 miles of the U.S. Capitol.
“Federal law exempts this entire regime,” the railroads declared in the California lawsuit. Citing “a sweeping set of intricate federal statutes and regulations,” the lawsuit argues that allowing states to impose a “patchwork” of requirements on railroads essentially interferes with interstate commerce.
In a separate email statement Wednesday, BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said, “The state gives the industry no choice but to challenge the enforcement of the new law so as to not inhibit the efficiencies and effectiveness of the freight rail industry and the flow of commerce.”
Officials at the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the state agency listed as the defendant in the case, declined comment Wednesday, saying the agency does not publicly discuss pending litigation. Harris’ office is listed as a co-defendant.
The U.S. Department of Transportation in July proposed a rule that would require railroads to have oil spill response plans for trains carrying large volumes of crude oil. But that proposal could be months away from becoming law.
National transportation law and safety experts say the onus may be on California to prove that it is not usurping federal law or impeding interstate commerce.
“The state has to prove it is tackling what is a local or statewide issue, that it is not incompatible (with federal law) and doesn’t unreasonably burden interstate commerce,” said Brigham McCown, an attorney and former head of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “That is a high bar.”
California might have an opening in a 2007 law Congress passed after the 9/11 Commission issued its recommendations. The 9/11 Act required rail companies to develop security plans and share them with state and local officials. The requirement was not limited to planning for a terrorist attack, but for any rail disaster, including derailments and spills involving hazardous materials.
“Those plans are required to be done and required to be shared,” said Denise Rucker Krepp, the former senior counsel on the House Homeland Security Committee, who wrote the provisions.
The Transportation Security Administration has not enforced the requirement, Krepp said, partly because of its focus on aviation security. But now that the railroads have taken California to court, Krepp said the state could use the 9/11 Act as leverage to get what it tried to get from the railroads through legislation.
“It’s never been tested like this,” Krepp said of the federal law.
It was unclear Wednesday whether the railroads also are challenging the section of the California law that imposes a 6.5-cent fee on oil companies for every barrel of crude that arrives in California on rail, or that is piped to refineries from inside the state. The resulting funds, estimated at $11 million in the first full year, will be allocated for oil spill prevention and preparation work, and for emergency cleanup costs. The efforts will be focused on spills that threaten waterways, and will allow officials to conduct response drills.
Crude-oil rail shipments have risen dramatically in the last few years. Those transports, many carrying an unusually flammable crude from North Dakota, have been involved in several spectacular explosions, including one that killed 47 residents of a Canadian town last year. Federal officials and cities along rail lines have been pushing for safety improvements. California officials have joined those efforts, saying they are concerned by estimates that six or more 100-car oil trains will soon be rolling through the state daily on the way to coastal refineries.
Harris, the state’s top law enforcement official, sent a letter to Benicia city planners challenging that city’s conclusion in an environmental impact report that the Valero rail shipment plan poses an insignificant threat of derailment. The report, she writes, “underestimates the probability of an accidental release from the project by considering only a fraction of the rail miles traveled when calculating the risk of a derailment.”
“These issues must be addressed and corrected before the City Council of Benicia takes action” on the project, Harris wrote.
Harris’ letter repeats earlier criticism leveled by the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response and state Public Utilities Commission.
The letter is one of hundreds Benicia has received in the past few months in response to the city’s initial environmental study. Benicia interim Community Development Director Dan Marks said the city and its consultants would review the comments and prepare responses to all of them, then bring those responses to the city Planning Commission for discussion at an as-yet undetermined date.
Under the Valero proposal, trains would carry about 1.4 million gallons of crude oil daily to the Benicia refinery from U.S. and possibly Canadian oil fields, where it would be turned into gasoline and diesel fuel. Valero officials have said they hope to win approval from the city of Benicia to build a crude-oil transfer station at the refinery by early next year, allowing them to replace more costly marine oil shipments with cheaper oil.
A representative for the attorney general declined comment when asked if Harris would consider suing Benicia to force more study of the project.
“We believe the letter speaks for itself,” spokesman Nicholas Pacilio said. “We expect it will be taken seriously.
Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059