March 19, 2015 | By Joel Connelly Seattle PI
Three oil trains pass through Seattle each day, headed to north Puget Sound refineries, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is prodding federal regulators to take a long, hard look at what will happen to their cargoes if a train derails.
Cantwell wants something called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to probe the volatility of gases in tank cars hauling Bakken crude oil, and how that can contribute to the risk of explosions if cars derail.
“Oil production has increased faster than the infrastructure needed to transport it in the safest ways,” Cantwell told a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Thursday.
“And I want to be clear about this. We currently do not have the regulations on the books to safely transport this product. I am going to be working for further measures to make sure that we do get those standards in place.”..... more here
By John Lipscomb on March 19, 2015 Riverkeeper
A CSX freight train derailed just south of the Beacon Metro-North station early Saturday morning, according to a story published in the Journal News/Lohud.com
The train was using Metro North’s tracks east of the Hudson to carry construction debris, though the majority of freight trains operating in the Hudson Valley travel on the CSX-owned tracks running along the river’s west bank, where the company hauls six million gallons or more of crude oil each day..... more here
By Rory Carroll SAN FRANCISCO, March 19, 2015 Reuters
Five northern California cities - Berkeley, Richmond, Oakland, Martinez and Davis - have voiced their opposition to crude by rail in general. An additional nine communities specifically oppose a Phillips 66 project to enable its refinery in San Luis Obispo to unload crude-carrying trains..... more here
....the new reality of crude-by-rail traffic has environmentalists on edge. Oil train derailments in Illinois, West Virginia, North Dakota and other places have led to fires, spills and, in one case, lost lives. A 2013 crude-by-rail explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killed 47 people, prompting regulators in the United States and Canada to review the inherently piecemeal rules governing crude-by-rail transportation.
The federal government has authority over certain details, such as standards for tank cars used to haul crude. But most expansion plans and related environmental concerns are left to local agencies situated along oil routes. The result is a hodgepodge of permitting decisions by local authorities following varying state laws, while a team of environmental lawyers challenges expansion projects one by one.
"It's a little bit like Whac-A-Mole because there isn't a big permitting scheme," said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles, who represented six environmental groups in the Skagit County appeal. "It makes it difficult and makes it frustrating for the public."....
.....The key to all of these challenges is Washington's State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Similar to the National Environmental Policy Act, SEPA requires government agencies to conduct a broad environmental impact statement for any major actions that may significantly affect the environment.
For projects in Skagit County, Grays Harbor and now Vancouver, state and local officials considering challenges look to SEPA to determine how rigorous environmental review must be, based on whether projects are expected to have major impacts. To Dufford, the Skagit examiner, the answer is plain.
"Unquestionably, the potential magnitude and duration of environmental and human harm from oil train operations in Northwest Washington could be very great," he wrote..... more here