Utilities and Transportation Commission identifies safety concerns for Grays Harbor oil projects

KBKW.com                  By  Dave Haviland                                 h/t Tammy!
Proponents of two proposed oil terminal projects in Grays Harbor County must address multiple railroad safety concerns before the project moves forward, the state rail safety regulator said on Tuesday.

In comments submitted on the Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) for the proposed Westway and Imperium oil terminal projects, the Utilities and Transportation Commission listed among its concerns the integrity of the track bringing crude oil to the facilities, the impact on rail crossings, and financial ability of the project owners to address spills or accidents.

Westway Terminal Company LLC owns an existing methanol distribution facility at the Port of Grays Harbor. If approved, the proposed projects would expand the storage capacity for crude oil facilities, adding up to five storage tanks capable of holding up to 8.4 million gallons of crude oil each, and add rail and pipeline infrastructure at the site.

Imperium Terminal Services owns an existing biodiesel production and transport facility adjacent to the Westway facility. It proposes to build up to nine storage tanks to hold up to 3.4 million gallons of liquids each, including crude oil, and add rail and pipeline facilities.

The companies expect to receive Bakken crude oil shipped by rail from the Midwestern United States. They would also load and unload crude oil and other liquids by barge and ship.

The UTC is concerned about the capacity of railroad bridges located between Centralia and the project site to carry heavy trains loaded with volatile Bakken crude oil; the accuracy of identified private railroad crossings along the oil route; failure to address safety at 17 public crossings identified by the UTC as “at-risk crossings”; and the integrity of the track and subgrade along a section which experienced three derailments in 2014.

“The DEIS raises a number of significant safety issues that need to be addressed before this project is considered further,” said UTC Chairman David Danner. “Those issues bear directly on the state’s ability to deal with spills and accidents along the oil train routes.”

State law requires state and local agencies in Washington to consider the environmental impacts that could result from government actions such as permit approval. The City of Hoquiam and the Department of Ecology are the co-lead agencies in evaluating the DEIS. The commission participated throughout the DEIS process, providing input and guidance on rail safety issues.

To read the UTC’s response, click here.

The UTC regulates railroad safety, including approving new grade crossings and closing or altering existing rail crossings, investigating train accidents, inspecting public-railroad crossings, approving safety projects and managing safety education through Operation Lifesaver.

How Cheap Crude Stalled America’s Booming Oil Trains

It was a record year for oil train mishaps—and the year crude-by-rail hit the brakes.

by Matthew Philips     Dec 2, 2015      Bloomberg Business

It’s been several months since an oil train accident grabbed big headlines—but not because there haven’t been any. A single weekend in November saw two trains derail in Wisconsin. The first spilled about 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River, followed a day later by a spill of about 1,000 gallons of North Dakota Bakken crude.

This year has already been the costliest by far for crude train explosions. Derailments in 2015 have caused $29.7 million in damage, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, a huge increase from $7.5 million in 2014. Most of this year’s price tag can be attributed to two crashes within a three-week span. The Feb. 16 derailment of a CSX train in West Virginia triggered a massive explosion near a cluster of homes along the Kanawha River and led to more than $23 million in damage. A BNSF train that derailed and exploded in Illinois on March 5 caused an additional $5.5 million in damage. Both trains were carrying highly explosive crude from North Dakota.

The lesser-noticed recent accidents haven’t come with explosions or towering fireballs. At least some of the ruptured tank cars were the newer-model CPC-1232, which are supposed to be less likely to split open. The U.S. and Canada earlier this year announced stricter tank car standards, mandating further improvements in the future. Those rules will cost companies—mostly those that ship crude—an estimated $2.5 billion from 2015 to 2034; government estimates suggest the benefits will range from $912 million to $2.9 billion, presumably from fewer accidents.

But even without changing safety standards, there’s reason to suspect that costly train accidents will decline. While 2015 will go down as the worst year for crude train disasters, it’s also shaping up to be the year crude-by-rail hit the brakes. The crash in prices has slowed activity in the oilpatch and reduced the amount of petroleum riding the rails. The number of train carloads carrying petroleum has fallen 30 percent through Nov. 20 since peaking in December 2014, according to the American Association of Railroads. The monthly data on crude-by-rail shipments kept by the U.S. government lags a few months behind, but as of September those shipments had dropped 21 percent from their peak in January 2015.....     more here

Port to consider oil train resolution today

Rail safety concerns are mentioned

The Port of Camas-Washougal Commission is expected to vote today on a resolution, that includes concerns about rail safety and mobility issues, regarding the proposed oil terminal project at the Port of Vancouver.

An increase in oil train traffic is expected, if the terminal is built.

The resolution that will be under consideration during today’s meeting includes a request from the port to the Washington Department of Transportation and the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board to analyze and study the potential economic effect of the oil train traffic on the displacement of existing economic activity.

The potential loss of access to rail transport by local and regional shippers and commuter services are also mentioned among the port commission’s concerns.....   more here

 Note: can't find any web info yet about the meeting results ....