The Davis City Council passed a unanimous resolution Tuesday opposing projects in Benicia and Santa Maria that would increase the number of oil trains running through the city until certain safety issues have been addressed.
If both the Philips 66 Santa Maria refinery project and the Benicia rail terminal proposal are approved, 180 more oil cars will chug daily along Second Street and through downtown. A majority would roll in from Canada and North Dakota, whose Bakken shale oil has been recognized as especially flammable.
To support the opposition, the staff report cites the derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, last year that killed 47 people and caused $1 billion in damage, and the 1.15 million gallons of crude oil spilled in the United States in 2013. In addition, the railroad in Davis has one of the few turns in this area of the corridor, requiring trains to reduce their speeds.
“Given the record of crude-oil rail accidents in recent years, an event such as Lac-Mégantic could have catastrophic effects if it occurred amidst any populated area,” the report reads.
While railroads generally are regulated by the federal government, cities have local control over permits for land use, among others. The Davis City Council resolved to file comments opposing oil project permits “with the objective of ensuring that adequate … safety measures … are in place to ensure the safety and security of residents and visitors of the city of Davis and our adjacent habitat areas.”
The city will simultaneously work with railroad and transport companies, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, to assess and mitigate risk, including outdated rail cars and updated systems to warn operators of upcoming changes in speed.
The resolution’s passage followed a meeting hosted by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments on April 17. Berkeley’s city council passed a similar resolution opposing the Philips 66 project and Richmond called for tighter regulations last month.
— Reach Elizabeth Case at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow her on Twitter at @elizabeth_case