By KIM MACKRAEL AND GRANT ROBERTSON The Globe and Mail Aug. 19 2014
A railway with a “weak safety culture” and a federal regulator that was asleep at the switch combined to bring about the worst accident in modern Canadian history, says a report by the Transportation Safety Board.
The agency’s investigation into the rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., last summer – which killed 47 people when a train loaded with crude oil derailed and exploded in the centre of town – places considerable blame on the railway, Montreal Maine & Atlantic, for failing to operate safely.
But the findings also take aim at Transport Canada for failing to recognize the railway had safety problems, and for not ensuring MM&A was following the government’s own safety rules.
In its criticism of the federal government, the watchdog agency investigating the crash referred to Transport Canada as “a regulator that did not audit” the safety procedures it required the railway to follow. Transport Canada didn’t do enough inspections and “they didn’t assess the risks properly,” including looking into a company that the government knew had a problematic safety record
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“…each tank car of crude holds the energy equivalent of two million sticks of dynamite or the fuel in a wide body jetliner.”
By Russell Gold and Betsy Morris Wall Street Journal May 22, 2014
Emergency responders in Cincinnati know that trains full of crude oil have been rumbling through their city; they can see mile-long chains of black tank cars clacking across bridges over the Ohio River.
But they don’t know enough to feel prepared for the kinds of fiery accidents that have occurred over the last 10 months after oil-train derailments. How many of the 100 trains that pass through residential neighborhoods and warehouse districts daily are carrying oil, for example? And when crude is carried, is it the kind that federal investigators have linked to explosions?
“We have no idea when trains are moving through and when they aren’t,” said Thomas Lakamp, special operations chief for the Cincinnati Fire Department. “The railroads aren’t required to report to us.” Continue reading
By Robert Rogers Contra Costa Times 08/15/2014
MARTINEZ — An 84,000-pound spill of sulfuric acid that burned two workers at Tesoro’s Golden Eagle refinery in February resulted from insufficient tightening between a tube and a compression joint in the facility’s alkylation unit, according to a report released by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board on Friday.
The incident occurred when the operators opened a block valve to return an acid sampling system back to service; soon after, the tubing directly downstream of the valve came apart, spraying two operators with acid, according to a CSB news release.
The Feb. 12 incident was followed by another a month later in which two more workers were burned. The workers in both incidents were treated at hospitals and released.
“Four workers burned by sulfuric acid in less than a month clearly demonstrates there are significant opportunities within the refinery for improvement in safety performance,” CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said in a statement.
In an email, Tesoro spokeswoman Megan Wright said, “It is unfortunate that these incidents occurred; however, we are fortunate that there were protective measures in place that helped ensure that the injuries were minor.”
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating chemical accidents but does not have the power to issue penalties. The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, is conducting a comprehensive inspection at the Tesoro refinery with an emphasis on mechanical integrity and operating procedures, according to the CSB.
Editor’s note: This basically says a CBR disaster is imminent. Government doesn’t respond to mere “fears”.
By Tony Bizjak Sacto Bee Thursday, Jul. 24, 2014
Saying California’s emergency responders need more training to handle major calamities, state and local leaders are pitching plans to build a world-class $56 million training facility in eastern Sacramento County that would pit fire crews against a variety of realistic, pressure-packed simulated disasters.
Emergency crews would be required to douse a real 727 jet as it lies in pieces across a field after a simulated crash at the training site; or make split-second decisions on how to approach a derailed train leaking crude oil; or figure out how to quickly pull survivors out of a partially demolished and unstable building after a terrorist bombing or earthquake.
Initial construction on the Emergency Response Training Center has begun on 53 acres east ofMather Field in Rancho Cordova. The facility, billed as one of the most varied, modern and sophisticated training sites in the country, would be “a total disaster city,” said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Chief Kurt Henke, one of the officials behind the push.
“This is a one-stop shop,” he said. “Anything you can think of, you can set it up at this facility.”
The project is a joint effort between Henke’s fire department, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Sacramento Fire Department. The three departments have set up a joint powers group called the California Fire & Rescue Training Authority.
The effort, years in the planning, has hit a key moment this summer. The authority has invested $13 million to launch the project, some of it raised from local fire districts, some from federal Department of Homeland Security grants. But to move forward, the agencies must find more money now.
Seizing on fears about increased shipments of volatile crude oil on trains through the region and state, Henke and the state OES Chief Kim Zagaris are asking the Legislature and Governor’s Office for $5 million to build a hazardous materials training feature at the Mather site as soon as possible. It would include rail track and oil tanker cars, as well as props that mimic an oil refinery, chemical plant and oil loading station. Those discussions are ongoing. Continue reading
Editor’s Note – Too bad we citizens don’t get any real data on the sulfur dioxide release in Martinez. Was it worthy of a warning siren? I didn’t hear one.
Shell Martinez Refinery Operating at Planned Rates After Work
“Following maintenance activities, the Shell Martinez Refinery is currently operating at planned rates,” Destin Singleton, a spokesman for Shell, says in e- mail.
Shell Martinez Reports Completion of Flare System Repair
Co. said repair work to be done on one of its flares at Calif. refinery earlier today, according to website.
Shell Martinez Refinery Reports Emissions Release
Co.’s Calif. refinery reports sulfur dioxide release today due to flaring incident, according to hazardous material spills report with the Governor’s Office Emergency Services.
Valero Benicia Reports Emissions, 617lbs Sulfur Dioxide Release
Refinery in Benicia, Calif. reported that emissions were released during a planned shutdown, according to hazardous material spills report with Governor’s Office Emergency Services.
Recently I have been spending more time in city and county meetings where the topic is theoretically how local government will regulate the activity of a local refinery – which is actually a multi-national multi-billion dollar entity with a local franchise. Somehow during these meetings the regulation of health and safety of the community always seems to take a back seat to jobs and money.
We all know one thing that these big oil companies have is a lot of MONEY. For example, the 2013 profits for the BIG 5 oil companies, you know, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell – were $93.3 billion last year! That’s $177 G’s per minute.
Admittedly, Big Oil companies do have some expenses. But where they are spending this money may surprise you.
Over the past 15 years, Big Oil spent $123.6 million to lobby Sacramento and $143.3 million on California political candidates and campaigns. I wouldn’t know from experience but I’d bet you can make a lot of friends with that much money dropping out of your pockets, year after year. Continue reading