Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mont. Firefighters Prepare For Crude Oil Rail Disaster


Gwyneth Hyndman
The Western News, Libby, Mont.

Libby has seen a tremendous increase in the number of crude oil tanker cars traveling through their community, so firefighters are training for any potential disasters.

July 29--Chances of a train derailment involving crude oil are minimal. But as the quantities of tank cars coming from North Dakota increase, so does the potential risk, Libby Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief Steve Lauer said.

Last week, The Western News reported that as many as 12-16 trains carrying crude oil travel through Lincoln County each week and that emergency crews were aware of this and revising emergency management plans accordingly. 

As one of the first emergency personnel to be attending any catastrophic event regarding a train derailment, Lauer and firefighter Scott Beagle went to Colorado from July 13 to 17 to a Security and Emergency Response Training Center to get instruction on the chemical and physical properties of the oil, detection and monitoring, as well as suppression tactics.

Firefighters from across the U.S. participated in the training that took place on a 52-square mile facility, paid for primarily by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), using actual railroad tank cars, Lauer said....... 

......Emergency crews were being trained to identify what a train is carrying if it derailed, and how to best manage the scenario.

"It could be as simple as a car off the tracks or it could be a catastrophe," Lauer said......
continued here

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail: Bomb Trains (video)


Oil-by-Rail safety rules: comments and Minn state expansion


Blumenthal Statement On DOT Proposed Rule For Rail Transportation Of Crude Oil

Jul 27,2014 -
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued the following statement after the Department of Transportation (DOT) released its proposed rule for rail transportation of crude oil. The proposed rule aims to: 1) require a phase out within two years of all outdated cars unless the cars are retrofitted; 2) expand the requirements governing crude oil to include ethanol and all “flammable liquids”; 3) reduce operating speeds to 40 miles per hour in certain locations; 4) require improved classification of gases and liquids; 5) ensure that trains carrying flammable liquids are traveling over the safest, most secure routes; 6) require more notification to emergency response coordinators; and 7) require enhanced braking on trains carrying flammable liquids.

“After a series of horrifying and catastrophic incidents over the past year – both in the U.S. and in Canada – we must take action to protect our communities from the dangers posed by trains carrying crude oil and other dangerous substances.

“Although the action by DOT is a step toward making our rail transport safer, it is far from the final measure necessary. More steps are vital to ensure the safe transportation of freight and people who rely each day on our country’s vast network of railroads.”

Blumenthal is the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation.

New rail regulations in Minn.

July 28, 2014 10:04 am

New laws went into effect July 1 which improve the safety of Minnesota residents who live and work near railways that carry crude oil and other hazardous materials. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety and the railroads will carry out the rail safety legislation signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton in May.

The legislation came after a string of explosive accidents involving crude oil in neighboring states and provinces. Stricter oversight of railroad companies will be implemented, providing more railway inspections and better emergency response training and preparedness in communities across Minnesota......[snip]

....The news are designed to strengthen safety requirements and improve disaster response readiness in the state and include required disaster prevention plans; more railway safety inspectors at the Minnesota Department of Transportation; railroads are required to provide emergency training every three years to every fire department located along oil train routes; railroads must file emergency response plans with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; and railroads are required to deploy enough equipment to clean up within a specified time period any spills or leaks that may occur.............continued here

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rail shipping disruptions, fees and flammable materials- new stories

Oil trains crowd out grain shipments to NW ports

Seattle Times  July 26, 2014

As oil trains hauling North Dakota crude delay rail transport of grain to Pacific Northwest ports, the prospect of growing fossil-fuel traffic has some fearing that such shipping disruptions will become a long-term problem impeding exports and the regional economy.....

2014-06-18 15.58.56

Oregon Oil Train Safety Report Calls For More Rail Inspectors, Fees

Daily Astorian    July 26, 2014

A statewide rail safety report released today identifies gaps in the resources Oregon needs to prevent and respond to an oil train derailment.

The report, ordered by Gov. John Kitzhaber in February, calls for more rail safety personnel and more funds to pay for training emergency responders for an oil train derailment. To help pay for both of those needs, the report recommends charging fees for transporting crude oil by rail through the state.....

Proposed rail transportation safety rules will impact ethanol industry 

Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation released details of its rulemaking proposal to improve the safe transportation of large quantities of flammable materials by rail — particularly crude oil and ethanol.,,,

.... Dinneen expressed concern that the rule paints with too broad a brush and fails to distinguish between products with an admirable safety record — ethanol — and those for which legitimate and serious concerns have been raised — highly volatile crude oil from the Bakken.....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Analysis and concerns about DOT's new oil-by-rail rules

RailwayAge Magazine

Analysts, legal and financial experts weigh in on DOT's HHFT NPRM

RailwayAge Magazine  
by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief     July 24, 2014
  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the U.S. DOT for HHFTs (High-Hazard Flammable Trains) hauling crude oil and other commodities the DOT deems hazardous in tank cars has produced a flurry of commentary and analysis, with varied opinions.......

As DOT issues new oil-by-rail rules, DHS lags in its security plans 

Environment & Energy Publishing 
....The agency more commonly associated with rail oversight, the Department of Transportation, yesterday unveiled a sweeping oil-by-rail rule that seeks to overhaul decades-old tank car standards and curb speeds for "high-hazard" trains.

Yet as milelong strings of crude tank cars snake their way through major cities across the country, DHS has dusted off its role overseeing the nation's rail network through the Transportation Security Administration. And the rapid rise of the "unit" oil train has also exposed gaps in the agency's approach to securing surface transportation....

Recapping Recent Derailments

Derailment intensifies concerns over oil transport through state
A train carrying nearly 100 cars of crude oil went off the track under the Magnolia Bridge in Seattle early Thursday. Nobody was hurt, no oil leaked and there was no threat to the public when five of the train’s 102 cars went off the track about 2 a.m., said BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas.
But concerns about the impacts of increased oil-vessel and train traffic were stoked by the morning derailment. It came the same day as a hearing in Seattle on increased oil transport to Whatcom County. The hearing, about a dock expansion proposed by BP at its Cherry Point refinery, was preceded by a rally just across the street.

Cause of massive fire at N.D. oil supplier unknown, flights cancelled

via Christian Science Monitor
A large cloud of gray smoke hovered over Williston on Tuesday morning. The North Dakota Department of Health and other agencies are monitoring air quality near the site for any potential threat, according to agency spokesman Tim Wiedrich.

A massive fire at an oil supply company was burning itself out Tuesday afternoon, 12 hours after it began in an industrial part of the western North Dakota oil patch town of Williston.
Train Derailed in Lycoming County
via WNEP16

According to officials, 12 cars from a Norfolk Southern train went off the tracks near River Road and four of those cars were full of coal.
Authorities said River Road is closed while crews clean up the mess.

Oil train derails, spills diesel in Wisconsin

A freight train carrying diesel oil struck another freight train in a small Wisconsin village late Sunday, injuring two and spilling thousands of gallons of diesel oil. The diesel oil spill also prompted the evacuation of dozens of homes.
A Canadian National Railway Co. train struck another freight train as it rolled through a small village in Wisconsin, causing cars to derail, injuring two people and spilling thousands of gallons of diesel oil that prompted the evacuation of dozens of homes.

No Leaks or Injuries as Non-Odorized Liquidfied Petroleum Gas Tank Cars Derail in Everett, WA

Shortly after 6:00pm Thursday night, Everett Fire was called to the 1900 block of West Marine View Drive for a report of a leak of some type. Arriving firefighters met with Burlington Northern crews who were dealing with a derailment. Firefighters determined there was no leak and quickly cleared the scene. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The fine print: U.S. government fudges phase-out of old oil tank cars

Seattle PI   |

Federal regulators in Washington, D.C., laid out new proposed safety rules for oil-carrying trains, claiming on Wednesday that old, 1960s-vintage tank cars will be phased out and replaced within two years by stronger, more explosion-resistant cars.

The promise may be hollow and deceiving.  The fine print in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposed rules suggests that the phase-out of DOT-111 tank cars — like those which exploded last summer at Lac-Megnetic, Quebec — will take at least a year longer.

“Specifically, within two years, it proposes the phase out of the use of older DOT 111 tank cars for the shipment of packing group 1 flammable liquids, including most Bakken crude oil, unless the tank cars are retrofitted to comply with new tank car design standards,” said a Transportation Department release.

Highly flammable Bakken crude oil from North Dakota is traveling by train, across Washington and through major Puget Sound population centers, to refineries at Anacortes and Cherry Point on northern Puget Sound.

The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad moves between eight and 13 oil trains through Seattle each week, each containing 1 million or more gallons of Bakken crude oil.  The entire Seattle City Council has sent USDOT a letter calling for an emergency moratorium on the shipments.
  .....continued here

Also 7/24: derailed in Seattle this morning. Sightline will provide updated analysis here

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blockade at First US Tar Sands Site

Blockade at First Tar Sands Site in US Challenges 'Brazen Disregard for Climate Crisis'

Activists target construction at PR Spring tar sands site in Utah

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer  Common Dreams 

Twenty-one protesters were arrested Monday at a blockade set up to thwart construction work on the first tar sands mine in the United States—a project the activists say will cause irreparable damage to water, land and the climate.

According to a statement from Utah Tar Sands Resistance, roughly 80 climate justice activists took part in the direct action, some of whom locked themselves to equipment. Others unfurled a banner reading "You are trespassing on Ute land," referring the project's encroachment on native land, and "Respect Existence or Expect Resistance."

Rising Tide North America is coordinating donations for legal support for the activists that were arrested.........more here

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Could You Get Blown Up by an Oil Train Crash in Seattle? Check This Map

The Stranger Posted by on Fri, Jul 18, 2014


The red area shows the half-mile Department of Transportation (DOT) evacuation zone for oil train derailments, according to ForestEthics. Yellow shows the one-mile DOT "potential impact zone in case of oil train fire."


Seattle is the fastest growing city in the country. Little do the hordes (at least regionally, according to polls) flocking to our town know, however, that our attractive quality of life comes with the hidden risk of sudden incineration by explosion.

The map above, assembled by the environmentalists at ForestEthics, shows the federal evacuation and "impact" zones in the event of an oil train derailment in Seattle, tracking the path of our railroads......
read entire article here

The national, interactive version of the map is here  plus a petition to Pres. Obama:

Tell President Obama & Congress: Get Exploding Oil Trains Off the Tracks

Oil train explosions and spills threaten millions of Americans. Safety standards lag far behind the massive increase in oil train traffic; now it’s time to protect our families. President Obama and Congress must act to take dangerous oil trains off the tracks.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Oil Industry Hits an Unexpected Roadblock


 The South Portland marina, where a 'Clear Skies Ordinance' will prevent the loading of tar sands. (Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr / Creative Commons)

A small city in Maine strikes a blow against Canadian tar sands extraction (updated below x2)

BY Cole Stangler   In These Times   July 14, 2014

Opponents of tar sands—the massive bituminous oil deposits in Alberta, Canada with a greenhouse gas impact four times greater than that of standard crude—have inched one step closer to a major victory.

On Wednesday night, the City Council of South Portland, Maine voted 6-1 to pass an early version of an ordinance that would ban the loading of crude oil onto ships and related infrastructure within city limits. It’s a local land use issue with staggering global implications: The oil industry, activists worry, wants to reverse the flow of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, a series of pipelines first built in World War II that now ships imported crude from the coast of Maine to Montreal. Amid ongoing tar sands extraction in Canada—and a dearth of export routes there—it would make more economic sense for the pipelines to flow the other way.

As it stands, two hotly contested pipeline proposals in Canada—TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 9 expansion—would, if approved, transport tar sands oil from Alberta to eastern Canada. From there, the industry still needs access to overseas markets. By closing the door on exports from South Portland, the local ordinance essentially eliminates one potential path to the sea—the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line. This matters in Alberta: As a recent International Energy Agency report found, future tar sands extraction depends heavily on export capacity......continued here 


South Portland City Council set for final vote on tar sands oil ban on Monday night

   results below

South Portland approves law barring tar sands oil

The final vote is 6-1 in favor of the controversial ordinance, which may be challenged in court or at the polls in the fall.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Buffett Tank Car Maker Urges New Rules Include Rail Operations

Buffett Tank Car Maker Urges New Rules Include Rail Operations

Bloomberg  ,   Jul 18, 2014

Warren Buffett’s Union Tank Car Co., which makes cars that carry crude oil, is urging U.S. regulators to adopt new rules for rail operations in addition to sturdier tank-car standards to improve safety.

The railroad procedures need more scrutiny because most crude-oil derailments were triggered by rail operators’ actions or their infrastructure, according to a July 11 letter signed by Union Tank Chief Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Fischl and the CEO of lessor GATX Corp (GMT), Brian Kenney.

“The quickest and most meaningful way to improve crude-by-rail safety is to approve new regulations regarding railroad operating procedures and classification and testing of flammable liquids,” according to the letter the CEOs wrote to Cynthia Quarterman, chief of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The letter shows the push back from oil tank car owners against an agreement between railroads and shippers through their trade groups that focuses mostly on a new tank-car design and the modification of older ones, which could cost as much as $60,000 per car.
  continued here

Friday, July 18, 2014

ILWU Dockworkers Protest Crude-By-Rail Terminal and Unfair Labor Practices

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union raised a banner from cranes calling out unfair labor practices and protesting unsafe oil at the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

| July 18, 2014    Eco Watch

In remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the Lac-M├ęgantic oil train tragedy that killed 47 people, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) raised a banner from cranes today calling out unfair labor practices and protesting unsafe oil at the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

 The Port of Vancouver is under intense scrutiny because it has not supported the locked-out ILWU Local 4 who have worked the docks in Vancouver since 1937. The port refuses to assist the ILWU during a labor dispute with the multinational United Grain Corporation.

At the same time, the port is trying to ram through a dangerous and dirty crude-by-rail terminal proposed by Tesoro. This terminal would send 42 percent of the capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline—360,000 barrels per day—by train to Vancouver, where the oil would be loaded onto oceangoing vessels to sail down the Columbia River. The ILWU has taken a stand against the massive crude-by-rail project.

“Longshoreman would be the guys tying up and letting the ships go, but our local said, ‘no, the risk isn’t worth the reward,’” said Cager Clabaugh, president of the Local 4, ILWU. “We don’t believe in jobs at any cost.”

The 1,500 square foot banner read:
Unfair grain
Unsafe oil
Under Attack

The ILWU Local 4 is requesting people call Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to ask him to end the labor lockout and reject the Tesoro oil terminal. Now is the time for labor and enviros to stand together for clean water and safe working conditions.

Older oil rail cars would be phased out under industry proposal; EIA's map to Petroleum

Train carrying liquefied petroleum gas derails in Everett

By KOMO staff Published: Jul 17, 2014 at 8:19 PM PDT

Older oil rail cars would be phased out under industry proposal
Bloomberg News, July 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — The oil industry and the railroads that haul its crude have offered U.S. regulators a joint plan to phase out a type of older tank car tied to a spate of fiery accidents, according to two people familiar with the proposal.

The plan also calls for slightly thicker walls for new cars to make them less vulnerable to puncture, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private communications. The parties agreed to scrap a fleet of thousands of DOT-111s within three years if manufacturers agree they can replace or retrofit the tank cars in that period......

....In an interview before reaching the agreement, Edward Hamberger, chief executive officer of the AAR [Association of American Railroads], said there was a need to balance risk with the need to move the oil.

"Where do you draw that line? We have that challenge every day," Hamberger said. "What is the need for commerce? What is the need for having a tank that actually has some capacity? You could make them a foot thick and then have them carry three gallons each. There will always be some risk."
   read entire article here

2Q railcar orders, deliveries flex muscle 

Railway Age   July 18, 2014

The Railway Supply Institute on Friday, July 18, 2014, released its railcar industry order, delivery, and backlog statistics for the second quarter, with the data showing strong growth, which one analyst attributes largely to ongoing crude-by-rail (CBR) developments.

Orders totaling 33,912 cars were the highest since the first quarter of 2011. Deliveries of 16,056 were the highest since the third quarter of 2008. The second-quarter backlog totalted 99,78 cars.

Industry orders for tank cars totaled 10,628 in the quarter, more than double the first quarter's total of 4,769 tank cars, reflecting a burst in demand for new tank cars able to meet the demand, the regulations, and concerns related to CBR shipments...... continued here

Only thing missing from detailed U.S. energy map? Crude by rail routes

McClatchy Washington Bureau  July 17, 2014 

As some railroads have continued to push for states to keep details about their crude oil shipments confidential, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has been developing a map that shows pipelines, refineries and rail and ship terminals used in crude oil transport.

Though no federal law protects the information railroads don’t want the states to disclose, some have signed confidentiality agreements and denied open records requests from media organizations and environmental groups.

The interactive, layered map shows just about every energy-related asset in the country.
Jonathan Cogan, a spokesman for the agency, said that no one had objected to the publicly available map’s level of detail.  continued here

Read more here:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vancouver site zoned OK for oil terminal

Panel: Vancouver site zoned OK for oil terminal

                                   Credit: Facebook: Portland Rising Tide
Panel: Vancouver site zoned OK for oil terminal
VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — A state panel reviewing a plan to build the Northwest's largest crude-by-rail terminal says the proposed site is properly zoned for the purpose.

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council said Tuesday that zoning at the Port of Vancouver site allows for an oil terminal.

Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies want to build a rail-and-river operation that could handle as much as 380,000 barrels of crude oil per more here

Sun News Network
Safety stalls on the rails
Our opinion: The federal government is failing to assure safety as rail traffic surges. Nor is it willing to make the kind of investments in transportation infrastructure that helped build this nation. 

Few priorities are as fundamental to government as ensuring a safe and easy-to-access transportation system.

Yet a year after a crude oil-laden freight train crashed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and flattening the town, the federal government is no closer to protecting neighborhoods and downtowns that, like Albany’s, are traversed by rail lines. Nor is the government maintaining the transportation infrastructure essential to the nation’s commerce......continued here

Canadian Pacific Freight Train Derails in Saskatchewan

CP Says 24 Railcars Derailed, Causing No Injuries or Leakage

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Petition to Protect Grays Harbor from dangerous Crude By Rail proposals

Dear Gov. Inslee, Hoquiam City Admin. Brian Shay, Mayor Durney, Hoquiam City Council Members and other elected officials:
Due to its explosive nature and the potential danger to our communities and the environment, crude oil should not be transported by rail through Washington State, stored in earthquake/tsunami zones or shipped by tanker through our waters. The permits for the three storage terminals in Grays Harbor should be denied.  We urge you to do everything in your power to stop the construction of new oil and coal terminals in Grays Harbor and the State of Washington. 
Sign this petition here!

Report Shows Coal, Oil Trains Would Quadruple Rail Traffic, Alarming Lawmakers

File image
“The economic benefits of these proposals are incredibly modest. The costs are off the charts,” said state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle     July 16, 2014

Lawmakers are expressing concerns over an updated report outlining the combined impacts of coal and oil trains that would roll through the Northwest if plans for export terminals move forward.
Elected officials in the Leadership Alliance Against Coal, a group that formed under the leadership of former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, met in Seattle Tuesday to hear from the author of the report.
Proposals for two export terminals are still on the table in Washington: one in Cherry Point, near Bellingham, and one in Longview. A third is planned for the Port of Morrow near Boardman, Oregon.

Shipments of domestic oil products are already slowing rail traffic. They’ve more than doubled over the past four years. And if all plans for export terminals go forward, added volumes from coal and oil trains would be more than triple the current shipments for agriculture, according to the report commissioned by the Western Organization of Resource Councils, a network of grassroots community groups.

“We’re talking about capacity problems on every single route," said the report's author, Terry Whiteside. "We’re talking about service disaster for a while.” ...... continued here

“Now I’m afraid to be in my own home,” she says. “Do you know how fast we could die here?”

A Year After a Deadly Disaster, Fears Grow About the Danger of Crude Oil Shipped By Rail

The U.S. is producing more oil than it has in decades—and much of that oil is being transported by railroads that travel through crowded cities

When 21-year-old mother Kahdejah Johnson was told two years ago that she’d secured a spot at the Ezra Prentice Homes, a quiet housing project in Albany, she felt confident she’d found a stable home to raise her newborn son. With its manicured lawns and tidy beige row houses, the Ezra Prentice Homes are a far cry from the crumbling housing projects of large cities. “When people come into town they’re like ‘These are your projects? These are condos!’” says Johnson.

But today, Johnson is losing sleep over how close her house is to railroad tracks congested, day and night, with tanker cars carrying crude oil, visible just outside her bedroom window. The fear of an accident is so great that Johnson has taken to evacuating her apartment some nights, to spend the night at her mother’s home, further from the tracks. “Now I’m afraid to be in my own home,” she says. “Do you know how fast we could die here?”

Albany is one of a growing number of cities where residents like Johnson fear the devastating consequences of accidents involving railcars filled with crude oil......see video here and read more