MEG Adopts Resolution In Opposition to Single Employee Train Crews

Whereas, the major rail carriers have made it clear in their words and actions that they wish to conduct operations to the extent possible, “conductor only” in remote control (RCO) yard operations, and “engineer only” on road trains; and

Whereas, the major U.S. rail carriers have long stated their intentions to operate road trains with a single employee, when more than decade ago they made their intentions known to both unions of the operating crafts through a “Section 6” notice addressed to the unions dated 11/1/04; and

Whereas, in the words of a Joint Petition filed with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in June 2009 by both unions of the operating crafts, “No conditions exist where one-person operations are safe;” and

Whereas, both unions of the operating crafts support a bill before Congress known as “The Safe Freight Act” (HR #3040), that would outlaw single employee train operations in the U.S.; and

Whereas, the FRA itself proclaimed on 4/9/14 that “safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew — safety dictates that you never allow a single point of failure.”

  

Whereas, the implementation of single employee operations will invariably result in a serious degrading of worker safety, security, and quality of work life;

Whereas, these unsafe working conditions referenced above would pose a danger to shippers, pedestrians, motorists, trackside communities, the environment and the general public;

Therefore, Be it Resolved, that Martinez Environmental Group opposes any current use, and any further expansion of, single employee operations anywhere in North America, in the yard or on the road; and

Be in Further Resolved that Martinez Environmental Group is committed to support the efforts of railroad workers and their organizations to ensure a two employee minimum on every train crew; and

Be it Finally Resolved that Martinez Environmental Group calls on other community organizations, civic groups, environmental organizations and labor unions to join with us in this crucial fight against single employee operation of trains.

 Adopted by Martinez Environmental Group on March 30, 2015

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MEG Adopts Resolution on Train Crew Fatigue

Whereas, all too many railroaders in North America work long, irregular hours and all too often are chronically sleep deprived; and

Whereas, most North American railroad workers have no schedule whatsoever, and are generally called to work at all hours of the day, seven days a week, with just two hours’ notice of work; and

Whereas, these long hours without enough sleep have been the cause of countless wrecks, injuries and fatalities over the years, both on and off the job; and

Whereas, this chronic fatigue contributes greatly to all sorts of problems on and off the job – physical, mental, emotional, marital, family, etc.; and

Whereas, excessive work hours means less time for other aspects of life – hobbies, interests, family, friends, community and union work, etc.; and

Whereas, the rail carriers compound the problem when they implement draconian

“availability policies”, making it nearly impossible for some railroaders to take the necessary time off work; and

Whereas, countless studies have proven that fatigue — having a very similar effect upon the brain as excessive alcohol consumption — has been a major contributor to disastrous railroad accidents in recent years: and

Whereas, despite study after study, meeting after meeting, the unions and the carriers have more often than not been unable to reach agreement on ways and means to provide adequate and proper rest for train and engine crews;

Therefore, Be it Resolved, that MEG recognizes that excessive work hours and the resultant crew fatigue are major issues in the rail industry that can no longer be ignored; and

Be in Further Resolved that MEG supports a nationwide campaign to combat the chronic fatigue and excessive work hours that North American railroad workers are subject to.

Be it Finally Resolved that MEG calls on community organizations, civic groups, environmental organizations and labor unions to join with us in this important fight against train crew fatigue.

Adopted by Martinez Environmental Group on March 30, 2015

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Tesoro union employees returning to work

http://www.argusmedia.com/News/Article?id=1013031

Tesoro union employees returning to work
25 Mar 2015, 3.15 pm GMT

Houston, 25 March (Argus) — Union employees at Tesoro were returning to work this week but the US independent refiner still had no timeline for restarting the only facility shut during the longest refining strike in decades.

United Steelworkers (USW) employees at Tesoro’s 120,000 b/d Anacortes, Washington, refinery, the 260,000 b/d Carson, California, refinery and 168,000 b/d Golden Eagle, Martinez, California unit ratified contracts this week as companies and the union work through the last steps of a four-year labor contract that triggered strikes on 1 February.

The work stoppage spread to 12 refineries representing 20pc of US refining capacity. National talks between USW and Shell, representing the refining industry, produced a framework on 12 March for a four-year agreement.

Only Tesoro’s Golden Eagle refinery, which was under maintenance when the strike began, reduced operations. The refiner operated the facility as a terminal rather than restart without union labor.

“We continue to make progress on our plans to restart our Martinez facility, but cannot currently speculate on when the restart might happen,” the company said today.

Workers at Shell’s 340,000 b/d joint venture Deer Park refinery and associated chemical plant would return to work next week, on pace with company plans to return all workers by the end of the month.

Talks continue at BP’s 410,000 b/d refinery in Whiting, Indiana, and 157,000 b/d joint venture refinery in Toledo, Ohio; at Marathon Petroleum’s 240,000 b/d refinery in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, and 475,000 b/d refinery in Texas City, Texas; and at LyondellBasell’s 268,000 b/d refinery in Houston, Texas.

eb/tdf

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Train cars hauling methanol derail in central Texas

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_27763141/train-cars-hauling-methanol-derail-central-texas

By  The Associated Press    03/21/2015

VALLEY MILLS, Texas (AP) — Texas authorities say a dozen train cars have derailed near Valley Mills, including five tanker cars carrying methanol.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Trooper D.L. Wilson says no injuries or fires have been reported from the Saturday evening accident. He says one or two of the methanol-hauling tanks have small leaks.

Wilson says about 10 nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution. Residents were allowed to return around 9 p.m.

Wilson says it’s unclear what caused the derailment, but says heavy rain has been falling in the area. He says the weather was making it difficult for vehicles to get to the scene to unload material from the derailed cars, which also include seven flatbeds carrying oil-well pipes.

He says a hazardous materials crew is on the scene.

 

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Climate Science vs Fossil Fuel Fiction

By the Union of Concerned Scientists

To help fight disinformation, click HERE

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Clean air agency proposes new rules to cut and track oil-refinery emissions [OR DOES IT? – Editor’s note]

http://www.contracostatimes.com/News/ci_27709531/Clean-air-agency-proposes-new-rules-to-cut-and-track-oilrefinery-emissions

03/13/2015    Contra Costa Times

The Bay Area’s clean air agency has proposed two new rules to measure, track and reduce oil refinery air pollution as part of a new approach toward curbing oil-industry emissions.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District will hold four public workshops this week on the rules.

Political pressure for the tougher rules mounted after a 2012 fire at Chevron’s Richmond oil refinery sent thousands to hospitals with eye, throat and lung irritation.

With the new proposals, clean air regulators say they want a more holistic approach that goes further than existing rules and permits aimed at reducing pollution from specific types of boilers, towers, other equipment and manufacturing processes.

“We want to understand and address all the emissions from refineries,” said Greg Nudd, the air district’s manager of rule development. “We want to continue to assure public health is protected even if there is a change in refinery operations, such as a change in the type of crude oil that is refined.”

The rule would apply to the Chevron, Shell, Tesoro, Phillips 66 and Valero refineries along the East Bay’s petrochemical belt.

For the first time, refiners would be required to develop an annual inventory of all their emissions and track

progress toward achieving the district’s new goal for an overall 20 percent overall emission reduction.

Refineries would be required to consider reductions if there was a substantial pollution increase that met certain thresholds, and if it is economically feasible to cut emissions. Industries could be eligible for an exemption from most of the reduction requirements, however, if the increased pollution was caused by the refinery increasing its use of crude oil.

The proposals also would require refineries to develop and operate a network of fence line and community pollution monitors to measure their emissions.

Reaction to the rules is mixed. An oil industry group said the proposed rules go too far in demanding reductions without a proven need. Meanwhile, one environmental leader said the rules don’t go far enough.

“We are very disappointed with the staff proposal,” said Andres Soto, a community organizer with the Oakland-based Communities for a Better Environment. “The community suffers asthma, increased cancer risk and other problems from this pollution.”

Soto said it’s wrong for the industry to exempt refiners from pollution-reduction requirements if an emission increase resulted from processing more crude oil.

“It’s ludicrous to have this loophole,” Soto said. “It was clear the air board wants a 20 percent reduction in

emissions by 2020. This undercuts that.”

Soto also said it would be a mistake to trust oil companies to run the pollution-monitoring stations.

“Refineries should not police themselves,” he said.

Air district staffers said it’s not unusual for industries to be operate pollution monitors under government set standards.

Air district staffers said it’s not unusual for industries to be operate pollution monitors under government set

http://www.contracostatimes.com/News/ci_27709531/Clean-air-agency-proposes-new-rules-to-cut-and-track-oilrefinery-emissions standards.

Guy Bjerke, Bay Area manager for the Western States Petroleum Association, agrees the air district should run the community-monitoring stations. But he said it’s arbitrary to set a 20 percent reduction goal

and require reductions even when a refinery has made big cuts over decades and meets the many existing regional, state and federal reduction-emission rules.

“We think this is unfair and interferes with the existing permits and vested rights of facilities,” Bjerke said.

“We have made a strong argument that approach is not legal.”

He said the new requirements stray far from a traditional approach of adopting rules aimed at bringing air quality into compliance with state and federal heath public health standards for smog and other impurities.

“These proposed new rules are not based on science,” Bjerke said.

Air district officials said they have not yet completed estimates of how much it will cost to comply with the two rules.

Air district spokesman Aaron Richardson said the proposed new rules would protect against emissions increases. “We don’t want to backslide,” he said.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.

OIL REFINERY POLLUTION RULES workshops

Benicia: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday: Benicia Senior Center, 187 L St.

Richmond: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday: Madeline Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza

Martinez: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday: Contra Costa County supervisors chamber, 651 Pine St.

San Francisco: 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday: Bay Area Air Quality Management District board room, 939 Ellis St.

For more information, go to proposed refinery emission tracking and mitigation rules at http://bit.ly/1CeukLu

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Minor fire extinguished at Shell Martinez, Calif. refinery

Fri Mar 13, 2015 4:28pm EDT

(Reuters) – A small fire was extinguished at Shell’s 156,400 barrel-per-day refinery at Martinez, California on Friday, news website mercurynews.com reported.

The fire broke out at about 9 am (local time) and was quickly put out by the company employees.

There were no injuries, the report said quoting Shell spokesman Steve Lesher.

The fire did not impact refinery operations, the report added.

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Refinery deal struck, gasoline prices set to fall

http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27700553/refinery-deal-struck-gasoline-prices-set-fall

By George Avalos    03/12/2015

MARTINEZ — Shell Oil and the United Steelworkers have reached a tentative agreement on a national contract, a deal that eventually could push gasoline prices lower and pave the way to end a walkout at several fuel factories, including the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery in Martinez, union and industry analysts said Thursday.

The tentative deal was confirmed Thursday by Jim Payne, a spokesman for USW. Local 5, which represents about 425 unionized workers at the Golden Eagle Refinery.

“We are pleased that the USW. and Shell reached agreement on the pattern for the industry,” said Tina Barbee, a spokeswoman for Tesoro.

Bargaining involving Local 5 was under way on Thursday, although details weren’t available. Terms of the new tentative four-year contract weren’t immediately known.

The Tesoro refinery is shown Dec. 13, 2003. in Martinez. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

“Tesoro remains committed to direct, good faith discussions with USW. local representatives and we will work toward ratification of local agreements at our represented locations,” Barbee said.

The Tesoro refinery in Martinez has been idled since nearly the beginning of the walkout. It has 650 employees and can process 166,000 barrels of oil a day.

Tesoro had begun a planned maintenance at the Martinez plant prior to the start of the strike. Once the United Steel Workers included the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery in the strike, Tesoro decided to idle all of the units at the refinery and extend the maintenance efforts.

About 4,000 workers at nine plants, including seven refineries accounting for 10 percent of U.S. refining capacity, have been on strike since early February in California, Kentucky and Texas. The California refineries involved are the Tesoro plants in Martinez and Carson in Los Angeles County.

“Gasoline prices are set to go lower in the coming weeks,” said Allison Mac, a spokeswoman for GasBuddy.com, an online site that tracks the fuel markets.

Gasoline prices have been relatively stable over the past week, Mac said.

On Thursday, gasoline prices were at $3.40 a gallon in Santa Clara County, down from $3.41 a week ago; $3.38 in the East Bay, down from $3.40 a week ago; and $3.49 in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region, unchanged from a week ago, according to GasBuddy.

“Since we see an end to the strike, it’s looking good for consumers,” Mac said.

Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.

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Trains in Canada derailments carried synthetic crude for Valero

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/10/canada-derailment-crude-idUSL1N0WC15020150310

Reuters Tue Mar 10, 2015

(Reuters) – The two oil trains that derailed and burst into flames in recent weeks in northern Ontario were both carrying synthetic crude to Valero Energy Corp’s refinery near Quebec City, the U.S.-based company said on Tuesday.

Saturday’s CN Rail derailment came less than a month after another CN train carrying oil went off the tracks and ignited in northern Ontario. The railway had said both were carrying crude from Alberta, but declined to give their exact destination.

"We take safety very seriously, so we’re concerned anytime there’s an incident," said Valero spokesman Bill Day. "Despite the number of rail incidents recently, it is very rare for cargo not to be delivered to its destination safely."

Day said all of the rail companies Valero works with, including CN Rail, have good safety records.

Synthetic crude is produced from Alberta’s oil sands in upgrader plants, and usually commands a premium to conventional crudes because it is lighter and easier to refine into valuable byproducts such as gasoline.

Valero’s Jean Gaulin refinery is in Levis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.

In May 2013, the company said it would build a rail off-loading facility at the Jean Gaulin refinery so it could start using Western Canadian crude rather than relying on pricier imports. The company told Reuters it would take light, sweet Western Canadian crude rather than heavier oil sands crude.

Shipments of North American crude to the refinery ramped up early last year. On a July earnings call, the company said North American grades made up 83 percent of the refinery’s feedstock in the second quarter of 2014, up from 45 percent in the first quarter and 8 percent higher than a year earlier.

Separately on Tuesday, CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the train that derailed in February had been carrying petroleum distillates in addition to synthetic crude.

"The contents of the tank cars are a subject of interest and the TSB will be testing the contents to determine what they were," said John Cottreau, spokesman for Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incidents.

In a note to shippers on Tuesday, CN said a temporary bypass track would likely be completed by late afternoon, reopening its main line in northern Ontario. (Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto, and Scott Haggett and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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America is literally on fire: How out-of-control oil spills are destroying our population centers 

http://www.salon.com/2015/03/ 10/america_is_literally_on_ fire_how_out_of_control_oil_ spills_are_destroying_our_ population_centers/#comments

By DAVID DAYEN   TUESDAY, MAR 10, 2015    Salon.com

Disasters are raging with such force and regularity that
firefighters have to give up. Welcome to the new reality 

A CSX Corp train burns after derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, February 16, 2015.  (Credit: Reuters/Marcus Constantino)

A CSX Corp train burns after derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, February 16, 2015. (Credit: Reuters/Marcus Constantino)  

It’s a good bet that someplace in North America is on fire right now, raging so out of control that officials have to let it burn itself out. And it happened because highly flammable oil was placed on a train for shipping, and something went drastically wrong. Because so much oil is transported by rail these days, the probabilities of catastrophe have elevated significantly. We haven’t ruined a major population center yet only through dumb luck; and we haven’t cracked down on this treacherous practice only because of the enormous power of the industry.

Last Thursday, 21 oil tanker cars derailed near Galena, Illinois, and five of them burned for three days. Firefighters gave up combating it because of the intensity of the heat. Tanks tumbled into a bank along the Mississippi River, threatening the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The EPA said the fire posed an “imminent and substantial danger” to the river. On Saturday, another train caught fire near Gogama, Ontario, damaging a bridge and sending five tank cars into the water. A similar train fire occurred on Feb. 14 near the Ontario town of Timmis, and on Feb. 16 in the almost perfectly named town of Mount Carbon, West Virginia. In all, over the past five weeks there have been five crude oil train derailments, threatening ecosystems and human health. You can follow all the “action” at the DOT-111 Reader.

The industry estimates that 9,500 carloads of oil moved along rail lines in 2008. In 2014 that number jumped to 500,000 carloads, transporting 15 billion gallons of crude. By some estimates that could double this year. Moreover, harder-to-reach oil, from the Bakken shale of North Dakota to the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, is more flammable and explosive, igniting at much lower temperatures, according to U.S. regulators.

The exponential increase of shipping more dangerous product just magnifies the risk. These trains – or bombs on wheels, if you prefer – pass through big cities like Philadelphia, Seattle, Newark and Chicago. A derailment in a big city would be very destructive; when the relatively tiny town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec (population 5,932), suffered a runaway train explosion in its downtown in 2013, 47 people died and $1.2 billion in property was damaged, making it the worst train disaster in Canada since 1864. So continuing to run these trains through major cities is like lighting a fuse to dynamite.

Oil companies pledged a commitment to safety by improving the quality of the tank cars, replacing thin-skinned DOT-111 cars with a new model called CPC-1232. But that hasn’t mattered a bit; the Galena derailment involved these allegedly safer CPC-1232s, as have several other recent tragedies.

Those who respond to oil train derailments by claiming that the Keystone XL pipeline would solve the problem neglect the fact that a pipeline would not be able to carry even half of what flows from the Bakken region. More important, because of the collapse in oil prices, new infrastructure like a pipeline has ceased to make economic sense, relative to the existing infrastructure of transporting by rail.

Perhaps the scariest part of all of this is the perilous financial state of the oil industry today, which if anything will increase the danger. Energy companies are rapidly going bankrupt, as they cannot service debt with lower oil revenue. Companies on the edge will have to cut costs to keep afloat, and when costs are at issue, traditionally safety goes out the window.

What can be done about these massive explosions-in-waiting currently traipsing around the country? The Department of Transportation did propose new rules last July, to phase out the old DOT-111 cars, increase speed limit requirements and improve brakes. They plan to finalize those rules in May, after missing an initial deadline. But DoT’s proposal did not include a rule that oil companies remove explosive gases, including excess natural gas, from their shipments. A state version of that rule in North Dakota is supposed to take effect April 1.

According to a report in Reuters, the White House considered a provision to remove these volatile gases (known in the industry as “light ends”), but ultimately punted, letting North Dakota rules govern. Federal officials were concerned about their jurisdiction to dictate treatment of light ends. But critics believe the federal government relying on North Dakota – a conservative state not exactly known for its strict adherence to regulations – increases the risk of shipping oil by rail. That’s especially concerning when you consider that the trains travel all across the country, and that some Bakken shale comes from neighboring states like Montana. For their part, the White House denied they held off on improving oil train safety.

Sen. Chuck Schumer urged federal regulators to mandate the removal of light ends from crude oil in a letter last week, and Dick Durbin, whose state was charred by the Galena disaster, called for strengthening tank cars. There are indications that the Galena tank cars, though the stronger CPC-1232, were “unjacketed,” without insulated steel shells.

The DoT regulations will finally emerge from the Office of Management and Budget’s internal process in May. Officials at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which analyzes federal regulations for OMB, held at least 10 meetings with the oil and rail industries last spring, after initially receiving the rules. That includes meetings with the biggest oil-by-rail company, BNSF, a division of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Basically, the oil companies point to track maintenance, and the rail companies point to inadequate tank cars. Whatever doesn’t cost them money is what they blame.

Increased domestic oil production is always depicted as an unalloyed good, with no discussion of the costs, like turning trains into bombs nationwide. There’s reason to believe that no tank car is safe enough to carry something this volatile, and that the risks exceed what the public should reasonably bear. DoT has nonchalantly predicted 10 derailments a year on oil trains, with billions in damages. If anything that’s an underestimate.

One reason the planet continues to boil is that oil companies have been allowed to externalize their costs onto government. Oil appears “cheaper” than solar or wind, because these costs never come into account. But solar power doesn’t blow up while being carried through a major city on a train. And if we want to seriously talk about what kind of energy we can afford in the future, that has to enter the conversation.
David Dayen is a contributing writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter at

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