Sunday, May 17, 2015

Railroads required to plan for a worst-case oil train spill in WA state

Willamette River as part of an oil-spill training exercise in Portland

Railroads required to plan for a worst-case oil train spill in Washington state

By Samantha Wohlfeil    The Bellingham Herald      May 17, 2015 

Under a new state law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, May 14, large railroads will be required to plan with the state for “worst-case spills” from crude oil unit trains, but exactly what that worst-case scenario looks like is not yet clear.

The law requires railroads to plan for the “largest foreseeable spill in adverse weather conditions,” but doesn’t define “largest foreseeable spill.”

In April, BNSF railway employees told Washington emergency responders that the company currently considers 150,000 gallons of crude oil – enough to fill five rail tank cars – its worst-case scenario when planning for spills into waterways. Crude oil trains usually carry about 100 rail tank cars.

“We’ve already seen worse than that though, haven’t we?” asked Roger Christensen, Bellingham’s interim emergency manager,....

...The amount is lower than what has been spilled and partially burned off in several high-profile crude oil train derailments in the last three years: ....

...“Until we have further regulatory clarity from the U.S. Department of Transportation on how the agency will require railroads to calculate ‘worst-case discharges’ to waterways, BNSF is considering using 150,000 gallons,” Melonas wrote. “BNSF is open to discussing the justification of this quantity with Federal or State environmental agencies.”....

... The new law tasks the state Department of Ecology with crafting the worst-case scenario for railroad contingency plans in a process that could take a year or longer, and will include input from the railroads and the public, said Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, preparedness section manager for Ecology....   more here

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Oklahoma oil billionaire demanded university fire scientists studying dangers of fracking

RawStory    Tom Boggioni    May 16, 2015

A billionaire oil tycoon, who is a major donor to the University of Oklahoma, approached a dean at the school demanding that the university fire scientists who were studying the link between fracking and the increase of earthquakes in the oil-rich state.

According to Bloomberg Business, Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm met with Larry Grillot, dean of the university’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, in 2014 and expressed his dismay with work being done on the school’s Oklahoma Geological Survey.

“Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” Grillot wrote to Dammy Hilliard, University Vice President for External Relations and Planning.

In the email, Grillot noted that Hamm had made a veiled threat to the university, telling the dean, “he would be visiting with Governor [Mary] Fallin on the topic of moving the OGS out of the University of Oklahoma.”....    more here

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