Friday, October 31, 2014

Oly Oil Trans Hearing Draws Capacity Crowd- Will Ecology Listen?

Tammy and CCH tankers at Olympia hearing and rally.

More than 750 people turn out for meeting on oil-train study

Hundreds of people concerned about the increasing number of oil trains traversing the state came to a Thursday evening meeting in Olympia to comment on the preliminary findings of a state study on oil-train safety and spill response.

By Hal Bernton   Seattle Times staff reporter  10/30/14

State officials are proposing more funding and more regulatory authority to step up oversight of the surging numbers of oil trains carrying crude through Washington, and to better prepare for any possible spills. 

The proposals are included in the preliminary findings of a state Department of Ecology study, which was reviewed at a Thursday evening meeting that drew more than 750 people, the vast majority of whom are opposed to increased oil train traffic in the state.....  more here
Citizens say no oil by rail during Olympia public hearing - See more at:

  at the rally

and from the (semi) Daily World:
More than 600 people gathered in Olympia on Thursday night to show state regulators they’re against rail shipments of crude oil and coal throughout the state..... [includes great comments from Ocean Shores' Larry Thevik!].... read more

Zoltan Grossman's pics here
Judy Christensen Carter's video here 

The boom in domestic oil production through fracking is posing new risks to Washington’s rails and waterways. The state is taking comments on the initial

and from The Olympian:

700 show up to tell Ecology: tougher steps needed to ensure

safety of oil-by-rail shipping

Read more here:


Transportation Officials Say 3,000 Rail Crossings In Washington Go Un-Inspected

Oct. 29, 2014 | Northwest News Network
Citizens say no oil by rail during Olympia public hearing - See more at:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oil tanker trains threaten to trash US northwest- and other news

Oil tanker trains threaten to trash US northwest

America’s expanding oil production threatens the pristine region of the country with a rash of new oil terminals along coast

 Pic: Carol Von Canon/Flickr    29 October 2014         By Valerie Brown

Oil and coal producers in the US are planning to use mile-long tanker trains to transport vast quantities of fossil fuels to the coast through areas that environmental groups believe should be protected.

The change in world fossil fuel production, consumption and costs caused by tar sands exploitation in Canada and the fracking boom in the US is causing what Bill McKibben − author, environmental activist and co-founder of the international climate campaign group − calls a “chokepoint” in the unspoiled Northwest of the country.....  read more here

Canada toughens train brake rules, to impose 'audit blitz'

By Richard Valdmanis    Oct 29, 2014     (Reuters)

 - Canada has issued an emergency order to railways detailing how many handbrakes they must set on unattended trains to prevent deadly runaways, and will hire new staff to conduct an "audit blitz" of rail companies' safety systems.

The changes are the latest in a slew of regulatory moves in North America since a train carrying crude oil crashed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last year, killing 47 people and highlighting the dangers from a surge in oil transport by rail.

The announcement on Wednesday came in response to the Canadian Transportation Safety Board's final report in August on the Lac-Megantic crash that found shortfalls in railway safety culture and federal oversight of the industry....

.....Canada's Conservative government has already imposed several new regulations in the wake of Lac-Megantic, including toughening tank car safety and requiring railways do risk assessments, produce emergency response plans, and improve the security of parked trains.... read more here


Unknotting rail congestion compels investment

Railway Age     by  Frank N. Wilner     10/28/14

Unraveling the knot restricting rail network fluidity cannot be achieved through Surface Transportation Board (STB) intimidation of rail CEOs, or by the agency's issuance of an emergency service order instructing one railroad to operate over the tracks of another, or by merging the nation's seven major rail systems into a North American duopoly.

None would cause to appear, in sufficiently short order, the required additional locomotives and track capacity essential to curing the problem.....

.... The knot of railroad congestion is one of capacity constraint. It imposes costs on freight shippers, Amtrak, and the economy as a whole, plus menaces homeland security. Unraveling the knot entails added capital investment — and time.....

.....public spending on infrastructure improvements generates impressive economic returns to society, according to academic studies such as Canada 2020 Think Tank. It found that $1 billion in infrastructure spending creates almost 17,000 jobs, including manufacturing, business services and transportation; increases gross domestic product by as much as $1.8 billion; boosts tax revenue by at least 30% without increasing taxes; and, longer-term, lowers production costs for business..... read more here

Truth in Advertising ? -   in the oil business.....


UPDATE: Marine and Rail Oil Transport Hearings- yesterday Spokane, tomorrow Olympia!

Tomorrow, Oct 30th, will see the second public event- this one in Olympia:

2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transport Hearing    (Join us! free bus info at this link)   


Dan Leahy just wrote:

Just got back from the Spokane hearing. If the study definition (transport) keeps people from saying that Gov. Inslee has direct control over whether to construct four oil terminals ( one via EFSEC and three via HIS Dept of Ecology), Ecology will have won and we will have lost the use of the public hearing forum. 

Ecology is so nervous about what they are doing that there were six fully armed state patrol troopers and three Spokane cops making sure the mainly elderly crowd didn't rush the stage given the complete banality of Ecology's presentation and the study itself.

If you can put my comment on your blog, please do.

Appears the Governor and Dept. of Ecology expect us to quietly accept their $300,000 charade. I for one, don't think so! -cwr

Another report from Spokane:

Yesterday was Spokane's chance to speak out and Mark Glyde of Resource Media  provided this report:

Good initial coverage of the rally and hearing on Governor Inslee’s oil by rail study. About 70 people braved the rain to show up at the rally and more than 200 attended the hearing where the vast majority testified against or voiced strong concern about oil transport and coal export.

KXLY-TV story (Spokane CBS affiliate): Interviews with King County Executive Dow Constantine and Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart on the dangers of oil trains to “people and property” and how they could displace inland agricultural products and slow them getting to market via ports on the coast:

Spokesman-Review story focuses on challenges of emergency response with great quotes from local fire chief Andy Hail:

KHQ-TV (ABC Affiliate): Focus on huge increase in oil trains, number of people living near rail lines and potential taxpayer costs – technical difficulties bumped interview with Ben Stuckart


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ND may require crude volatiles removal/ NY groups seek ban on DOT-111s

North Dakota crude safety standards coming in November

By Ernest Scheyder    Oct 27 (Reuters)

- North Dakota plans to issue new rules for the treatment of crude oil on Nov. 13, with regulators leaning away from any requirement specifying whether volatile components should be removed at the well site or a regional hub, so long as they are removed before transport, a state official said on Monday.... 

...The North Dakota Industrial Commission, the state's main oil regulator, plans to issue the standards at its November hearing, and these rules likely will take effect on Jan. 1.....  read more here

Legal petition seeks NY ban on outdated rail cars

The Legislative Gazette  By MARY ESCH, The Associated Press   10/27/14

A coalition of environmental groups and Albany residents filed a legal petition last week seeking a ban on older model rail tanker cars carrying volatile crude oil from North Dakota to the Port of Albany, citing their history of rupturing and exploding in a series of catastrophic derailments.

The petition, filed by a group represented by Earthjustice, asks Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens to issue an order prohibiting receipt and storage of crude in DOT-111 tank cars at the port, which has become a hub for rail shipments of North Dakota's Bakken crude bound for coastal refineries.....

....The petition argues that federal transportation law wouldn't apply in this case because the abatement order would be against the two companies receiving the oil and transloading it onto Hudson River barges, not against the rail carriers. ...  read more here

Tar Sands Train to Ruin

How tar sands producer Southern Pacific Resources is going broke on shipping tar sands by rail   10/28/14
Lorne Stockman, co-written with Anthony Swift, Attorney at the International Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

...In the summer of 2012, advocates of Keystone XL hailed Southern Pacific Resources’ announcement that it had signed a five-year contract to bypass pipeline bottlenecks and ship tar sands by rail to the Gulf Coast as proof that tar sands projects would move forward with or without pipelines. Two years after becoming the first tar sands producer to attempt to rely entirely on rail to ship its production to the Gulf, Southern Pacific Resources’ stands on the brink of financial ruin.

Rather than proving that rail can be an alternative to pipelines to the Gulf Coast, Southern Pacific Resources’ experience illustrates the profound economic obstacles associated with tar sands production.....

....The State Department looked to Southern Pacific Resources as an example of the feasibility of tar sands by rail to the Gulf.....

...Unfortunately for Southern Pacific Resources, it hasn’t worked out. The combination of high transportation costs and poor performance at its main tar sands SAGD project have driven the company to the verge of bankruptcy. ....  read more here

Hat Tip to Mary Kaye for this link!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Railroad Engineers Warnings Ignored In Inslee's Oil Report

On August 6th the Chairman of the WA State Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Shahraim C. Allen, sent a letter of concerns to Scott Ferguson, Department of Ecology, lead for Gov. Inslee's Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study.

None of Chairman Allen's concerns about rail safety are mentioned in the October 1st draft report.

Areas of BLET concern include imminent risk to public health and safety 
due to :

*   the number of inexperienced,  “new hire” railroad employees entering the railroad workforce inadequately trained and/or familiarized with the workplace environment.

*   the proposed use of  Single-Person Train Crews in freight rail operations.

*   both chronic and acute fatigue in  the railroad industry.

*   track maintenance not commensurate with the number of heavy tonnage trains operated on rail lines in Washington State.

*   inadequate regulatory oversight and cumbersome rulemaking by the Federal Railroad Administration.

*   the lack of accountability in all  area of operations management within the railroads.

*   crew fatigue caused by inaccurate train line-ups, and poor or improper crew lodging conditions.

*   inadequate Whistleblower  protections afforded railroad employees.
Chairman Allen’s letter runs to eleven pages and is available by request here:  (pending- check back)

Why were these public safety concerns not addressed in the Gov's report??