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.”