Sunday, August 31, 2014

Big Oil investments, reliance on Rail, Russian-roulette instead of Safety

Crude Oil Rail Terminal Operator Files for IPO

Transporting crude oil from the Bakken field in the Upper Midwest and the oil sands of Alberta has become a big business for railroads. As long as pipeline transportation remains constrained, railroads will continue to offer the best solution for producers. With that in mind, a company called USD Partners L.P. on Friday filed for an initial public offering to raise $150 million.

The company currently owns a crude-by-rail terminal in Hardesty, Alberta, with capacity to load two 120-car unit trains per day. USD Partners also owns ethanol terminals in San Antonio, Texas, and West Colton, Calif......   Read more here

BY MICHAEL MARTZ   Richmond Times-Dispatch  08/30/14
The frequency and volume of Bakken crude rail shipments are driven by oil production in North Dakota that is second only to Texas in the U.S. Production there rose from 81,000 barrels a day in 2006 to 900,000 barrels a day last year.

With production exceeding pipeline capacity, “rail became attractive because of the location and the fact there is a ready market for (light crude oil) on the East Coast,” said Sandy Fielden, an analyst at RBN Energy in Houston.....   more here

Train Derailment Cleanup 

Rail safety measures due in Virginia after oil-train wrecks

The same day a CSX train carrying almost 3 million gallons of crude oil derailed in downtown Lynchburg, federal investigators took a sample of oil at a rail transfer terminal 1,750 miles away in North Dakota.

The oil sampled in North Dakota was owned by Plains Marketing, the same Texas company that owned roughly 30,000 gallons of crude oil that either burned in a fiery, black plume above Lynchburg or gushed into the James River from one of three tanker cars that tumbled down the riverbank at 2 p.m. April 30.
Federal tests showed the North Dakota oil was highly flammable and belonged in the most hazardous category of flammable liquids under federal regulations.....    

....Jewell, the Richmond fire captain, said CSX won’t tell him the worst-case scenario of an oil-train derailment in Richmond, but he has his own blueprint — a map that shows concentric evacuation zones of a quarter- and half-mile around the triple rail crossing in Shockoe Bottom.

Emergency guidelines would require evacuation of people in a half-mile radius if one rail car caught fire and an additional quarter-mile for every other car that is “impinged” by flames that could cause a vapor explosion.       \more here

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tonight we have Alan Richrod's heart felt Memorial for Lac Megantic

Tonight we have Alan Richrod's heart felt Memorial for Lac Megantic. take a moment. light a candle.

We would especially like to thank Tom Petty for his permission to use his song. Thank You.

NEWS FROM QUINAULT: Concurring With Port of Olympia Resolution

For Immediate Release

QIN Concurs with Port of Olympia Resolution

            TAHOLAH, WA, (8/27/14)--The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) commends the  Commission of the Port of Olympia for the wisdom and foresight reflected in the Bakken Oil Resolution it passed Monday night, said QIN Councilman Larry Ralston.

            The Port of Olympia has joined with a growing number of communities that are expressing serious concerns about the risks to the economy of Washington State as the oil companies push to use our rail lines and port facilities for moving this volatile and dangerous oil in train cars and Panamex oil tankers.

            The Quinault Nation is studying the potential impacts to the treaty fisheries. However, all fishermen in the Grays Harbor area are highly concerned with the risks posed by these proposed additional crude oil terminals, mile-long oil trains and huge oil tankers that will be added to the traffic along our rail lines and in our waters.

            Recent research shows that in the Northwest, on average, one freight train derailment occurs every three-and-a-half days. The communities in Washington State have a right to know more about the risks of the vast increases in the transportation of this volatile oil before any final decisions are made to allow the oil companies this access to our lands and waterways. We also stand together with the communities that will take on the risks caused by the passage of the unsafe rail cars through the center of their towns, placing schools and other populated areas within the blast zones of these explosive trains.

            We ask people from all walks of life to stand with us.

            The Northwest is still a beautiful place to live and raise our children. Let’s keep it that way.

CONTACT:     Steve Robinson   (360) 951-2494

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Action for today!

Your Comments are needed, deadline 8/28
The fifth refinery crude-by-rail proposal has a comment period closing the 28th. This one is the Shell Anacortes refinery proposal, and Skagit County is lead on the shoreline permit. They have determined there are no significant adverse impacts requiring an environmental impact statement. This is, of course, absurd.

I've written an article explaining the situation as best I understand it, which is here: In it, I discuss the fact that the state must intervene and assume lead agency status, because Skagit County is refusing to study rail impacts at all beyond the site, much less cumulative rail and vessel traffic (for folks in the Grays Harbor area: the issues are very similar to the ones you faced there). The state may intervene during this comment period, so their deadline is alsoAugust 28th.

There is also information in the article on how to comment on the study being conducted by the state Dep't of Ecology, at the direction of the governor, on risks associated with transporting Bakken crude-by-rail. The irony is that everyone acknowledges there are risks; the only issue is how to respond to the inevitable impacts? Yet, the counties are being allowed to issue mitigated determinations of nonsignificance. This has to stop!

Please take a moment to read the article, and contact your networks to let them know we have a very narrow window to press the state to intervene in Skagit County. Please feel free to frame the issues in your own words, in whatever way you believe best communicates the issues and the urgency.

Thank you!

Terry J. Wechsler
Bellingham, WA

Columbia River Gorge fire chiefs learned mile-long oil trains moved through their communities not from railroads but because of this April photo by an amateur photographer. (Jozsef Urmos/Special to The Oregonian)

As Oregon meets to strengthen oil train disclosure, BNSF questions media's presence

"Wouldn't it be easier if the press wasn't here?" BNSF's Pat Brady asked. 

The Columbian editorial board meets with Oil Execs concerning oil train safety

5 things you should know about Oregon's coal terminal permit rejection

Oregon's Department of State Lands on Monday dealt a serious blow to Ambre Energy's proposed coal terminal, denying a key permit needed for a project to export 8.8 million tons of coal annually to Asia.
Here are five things you need to know about the decision and what happens next.


Bad news for the coal industry — Oregon just blocked plans for exports to Asia

via Vox

The coal industry got some bad news on Monday night: Oregon officials have rejected a permit for a terminal that would export 8.8 million tons of coal each year to Asia.
Why is that a big deal? The fight over US coal exports has become one of the major environmental battles in recent years. Coal use is on the decline in the United States, thanks to both a glut of natural gas from fracking and a spate of new air-pollution regulations. So US mining companies are looking to ship more coal abroad, particularly to Asia.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In Defiant Action, Pipeline Protesters Lock Themselves to Trucks

Arrested activist: "My act of defiance is an act against the machine, meant to slow and halt its destruction."

Common Dreams  8/25/14  by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

 The protesters, in a photo provided by MICATS.

Demanding a halt to pipeline corporation Enbridge's continued expansion of Line 6B—which ruptured in 2010, spilling over one million gallons of tar sands oil and diluting chemicals into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River—two activists Monday morning locked themselves to a pipeline construction truck leaving Precision Pipeline storage yard in Oxford, Michigan. The action caused a back-up of trucks leaving the facility.

Twenty-year-old Duncan Tarr and 22-year-old Dylan Ochala-Gorka, both Michigan residents and organizers with the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS), used bike locks to secure themselves to the truck around 7:30 am. They were extracted by law enforcement officials using bolt cutters and rescue tools around 9 am. Both have been taken into custody at the Oakland County Jail.

A group of about 30 supporters holding signs were also at the scene, according to organizers.  A convoy of protesters is now heading to the jail where Tarr and Ochala-Gorka are being held, with the intent of holding a vigil.

"My act of defiance is an act against the machine, meant to slow and halt its destruction," Tarr said in a statement. "Enbridge, and the pipelines they control, are a central part in the destruction of life...Their spills, leaks, and presence in my area has caused the deaths of many humans and countless other creatures, trees, and plants. Let my act of defiance be a call to others, because this land that we are standing on now is being killed. And we know exactly who the killers are."

The action comes one month after the four-year anniversary of the Kalamazoo spill. Approximately $1 billion has been spent to clean up that disaster, but experts say 20 percent of the diluted bitumen remains at the bottom of the river. But Enbridge says its clean up work is nearly finished.

"It’s those who profit from the exploitation of environment and people who need the healing and love the most," Ochala-Gorka said in a statement. "If putting my body between big oil and profits is necessary, I will continue to stand up between them and their meaningless money."

Despite frequent protests, international corporations continue to seek and build outlets for tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada. In the face of this "exploitative energy system," volunteer organizer Jarret Schlaff, who was on the scene of this morning's action, told Common Dreams that MICATS is "calling for restoration, resilience, resistance, and re-imagining."


Monday, August 25, 2014

Guest Post

My report on the 
Oil Summit @ Evergreen, 8/22-23:

I was at the Oil Summit at Evergreen this past week-end; along with Citizens for a Clean Harbor/Grays Harbor Citizens, and many other brilliant, knowledgeable and interesting participants, (too numerous to mention but read your 3-ring binder)...some from as far away as Lac Megantic, Quebec and Northern Alberta, Canada. As you well know, Grays Harbor is currently fighting 3 proposed crude oil tank farms: Westway, Imperium and U.S Development; we face a possible 110  trains per month through our communities carrying 2.7 billion gallons of crude oil for storage, then by barge to tankers and export. With that being said, I relate train watch to our battle.

What I took away from the related "Train Watch" strategizing was overwhelming. Not realizing so much was in the works--I was naive enough to think we would get directions about standing in our back yard by the tracks and counting rail cars--an activity I participate in already (when I feel like blowing off steam). This last 4th of July, The Ron Figlar-Barnes family spent the day with us, at our house on The Chehalis River in our front yard. Low and behold, before the day was over--we all had the opportunity to run to the backyard and count our own little rail cars in our own blast zone on the Chehalis.

Well, let me tell you--this session was not about that! Whew--those almost 3 hours, with 18 other comrades, in a small, stuffy, oxygen deprived room was so far beyond that! First-logistics. We were instructed in the current way to facilitate a group: using words like stack, direct, vibration check. It was foreign to me but I caught on fairly quickly, having previously managed large groups where everyone wants to talk. My comrade to the right did not catch on as quickly. This method of directing a meeting was a spin off of the "occupy" meetings. At least I was told that by Nancy, the facilitor/stacker(?). Matt, the group leader is a train watcher and recorder via Twitter out of Vancouver.
At this break out strategy session time, I serendipiteously sat next to Dean Smith, of Snohomish/Everett. (He also shared his little computer-- amazing MAC Book Air--and I want one!  We looked at what he had developed for train watch recording. Later, I read a writing on his train watch in Everett. You will find that in the workshop binder. Real grass roots--with real possibilities for pushing local awareness. He is a previous NSA employee and actually a "genius" to my way of thinking. 

What he said about evacuation in a community really hit home with me! Something certainly to bring to the attention of Hoquiam, Aberdeen, Grays Harbor! Safety first--Sounds like something for Al Smith to explore. Just kidding--but you have to admit, Al gets out there and asks the right questions. Good job at question asking, Al. What is our evacuation route in Hoquiam if there is a derailment explosion at Gateway Mall and a Tsunami from the West?

That's where I am--at this time I am not expecting to twitter in train reports, but I did manage to get on more emailing lists. Forest Ethics for one...and more. Just what I need, but we'll see how it goes. At the bottom of this email I have included the contact email for Forest Ethics--also in the binder.

What Grays Harbor needs is a shot in the arm for public commenting; public commenting for rail safety and maybe some guidance on "What to Say?" Speak out more, now on rail safety, to make ourselves heard. while the EIS is bubbling for the oil tank farms; while the appeals on ORMA, as R.D said, moves through the courts.

The idea of making our presence known at Governor Inslee's press conferences is something worth considering for our grass roots group, too. I am leaving on Sept. 1st for road trip but will try to get a press conference list--food for thought.

So, that's it. There's more but it's probably in your 3 ring binder. WE are all surely in agreement that The Summit, the  binder and the organization of the entire affair--simply remarkable. Food and pie, too. A lesson in networking. However, at 6:30 pm--possibly earlier--I hit the wall. A ten hour day proved to be overwhelming for this old lady. Brain dead at one end; plain tired at the other end. If you know what I mean; although I tried to stay alert and did not feel the need to bounce and skip until the very end.

Finally, thank you so much, Jude, for the fine foods at our table. You are amazing and Arnie's gallery of the victims at Lac Megantic should have been more duly noted at the microphone. Was it? Maybe I missed it.

The "off the rail car" mad me feel at home, Tammy. Fantastic you ALL--people of The Harbor.

I am anxious to hear reports back from others on ideas to explore from their "strategy groups."

We plan to be at Grays Harbor Coalition Thursday, Furford, 5:30 pm.
Hope to see you there.

Carol Seaman
Grays Harbor
Chehalis River
In the blast zone

Special Thanks to Kathy Rosenmeyer for generously sharing her pictures.

Stabilizing Bakken crude; and plans for Short-Line safety institute


Does ND crude need to be stabilized?

What can be done to keep trains from becoming "Bakken bombs?"

8/25/14  April Baumgarten, Forum News Service  Prairie Business

DICKINSON, N.D. - What can be done to keep trains from becoming "Bakken bombs?"
It's a question on the minds of many North Dakota residents and leaders, so much that some are calling on the state Industrial Commission to require oil companies to use technology to reduce the crude's volatility. The words are less than kind.
"Every public official in America who doesn't want their citizens incinerated will be invited to Bismarck to chew on the commissioners of the NDIC for failing to regulate the industry they regulate," Ron Schalow of Fargo wrote in a Facebook message.
- See more at:
DICKINSON, N.D. - What can be done to keep trains from becoming "Bakken bombs?"

It's a question on the minds of many North Dakota residents and leaders, so much that some are calling on the state Industrial Commission to require oil companies to use technology to reduce the crude's volatility. The words are less than kind.

"Every public official in America who doesn't want their citizens incinerated will be invited to Bismarck to chew on the commissioners of the NDIC for failing to regulate the industry they regulate," Ron Schalow of Fargo wrote in a Facebook message.... read more here

Rail News: Safety
FRA provides two grants to help develop a short-line safety institute

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will award two grants totaling $350,000 to support the development of a Short Line Rail Safety Institute, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced late last week. The FRA confirmed the grants in a press release issued on Friday.

The senators earlier this year proposed the formation of a Short Line Rail Safety Institute to enhance short-line safety, including the transportation of crude oil and ethanol. On May 15, Murray and Collins sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx expressing support for the institute, and in June they introduced legislation to authorize its formation.

The FRA will provide a $250,000 grant to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association to begin the pilot phase of safety culture assessments. Pilot testing will begin in January 2015 and initially will focus on the safety of crude by rail.

The association plans to use the grant to conduct a comprehensive review of short lines' existing safety programs; use tools developed by the University of Connecticut to identify areas of non-compliance and help small railroads develop a safety culture; provide access to effective safety training processes, programs and resources; and develop large libraries of training tools, technical materials and other educational resources to assist small railroads in instilling a safety culture.

The FRA also will provide a $100,000 grant to the University of Connecticut to conduct initial work focusing on the development, testing and validation of safety education, training and related programs for short-line managers and employees......more here


Does ND crude need to be stabilized?

DICKINSON, N.D. - What can be done to keep trains from becoming "Bakken bombs?" By: April Baumgarten, Forum News Service
- See more at:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Hidden Cost of our Nation's Oil Refineries

Full Infographic here

EarthJustice Advocacy Campaign

The Fight For Clean Air
Explosions and chemical clouds have been a part of life for communities living in the shadow of oil refineries. The EPA has finally begun developing a plan to control these toxic time bombs—and you can help make the difference. Take action today!

Across America, industrial plants are blanketing schools, playgrounds and homes in a fog of pollution—even though cost-effective controls exist now. Our bodies should not be the dumping ground for dirty industries. Join the fight.