Thursday, January 29, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Report finds insignificant risk for oil spills, accidents

Oil Trains

In this Dec. 30, 2013, file photo, a fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D. Warning that a "major loss of life" could result from an accident involving the increasing use of trains to transport large amounts of crude oil, U.S. and Canadian accident investigators have urged their governments to take a series of safety measures. AP file photo

By
From page A1 | June 18, 2014 |

The long-anticipated draft of the environmental impact report for the Valero Benicia refinery project was released on Tuesday. A risk assessment concluded that significant spills along the Roseville-Benicia line are extremely unlikely, and the report further stated that precautions in place adequately mitigate the risk.

The likelihood of a significant spill — 100 barrels of oil or more — was estimated to be 0.009 for all trains going from Roseville to the refinery in a given year, partially based on the promise that Valero would use newer, sturdier tank models known as CPC-1232. Valero Benicia spokesperson Chris Howe confirmed that the company would use only these cars for transport.

The oil trains would come through downtown Davis, on the east-west freight and passenger rails known as the Capitol Corridor.

The report recognized four major crude oil accidents, including the accident in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, that resulted in the deaths of 47 people. Three of these involved older “legacy” DOT-111 tank cars. The most recent, in Lynchburg, Virginia, involved some of the newer CPC-1232s.

Since the accidents, regulatory agencies have issued orders revising requirements for unattended trains and requiring crude oil to be classified as the highest of two out of three hazardous materials groups.

“Although the consequences of a release are potentially severe, the likelihood of such a release is very low,” the report read.

Any efforts by cities to change the amount of oil brought in by rail, however, are pre-empted by federal law. Only the federal government can regulate rail activity; state and local bodies can identify risks and make suggestions, but not actively enforce laws pertaining to goods transported by rail, as acknowledged at the end of the report.

“Valero’s proposal has elicited concerns from the public and, in turn, elected officials throughout Northern California, regarding the safety risks of transporting highly volatile crude oil through densely populated areas in our region,” said Davis City Councilman Lucas Frerichs. “Our concerns are not unfounded, as there has been a significant increase in accidents throughout the country as oil by rail shipments have increased.”

The Davis City Council has opposed the project until safety concerns have been addressed.

If the project moves forward, the Valero Benicia refinery will be able to accept 70,000 barrels per day of crude oil coming in by rail, replacing the same amount of oil that currently arrives by ocean vessel. The number of required marine vessels will drop 82 percent, and correspondingly, the chances of a spill.

In the past few years, state oil imports by rail have increased dramatically, and the California Energy Commission estimates California could receive up to 25 percent of its oil by train in 2016, up from just 0.3 percent in 2012 — though Capitol Public Radio reported that Union Pacific Railroad’s Liisa Stark has said California does not have the infrastructure for that much oil-by-rail.

As the amount of oil brought in by rail increases, the risk of spill does as well. As of May 6, there have been 24 small crude oil spills in California this year; there were 25 total in 2013, according to a preliminary oil-by-rail safety report released by the state on June 10.

The analysis found some high-risk rural areas, including in Yuba County, to be lacking in hazardous materials teams that are prepared to respond to spills. UC Davis has a hazmat team that is prepared to be first responders, said Davis Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht. Additionally, a team of firefighters will be going to Colorado this summer for specialized hazardous material training, paid in full by Union Pacific Railroad.

However, the state lacks funds to implement some of the report’s safety recommendations, which include increasing the number of rail inspectors and developing emergency response teams. State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, co-authored a measure introduced Friday that would tax railroad tank cars transporting hazardous materials through California, earmarking those funds for emergency preparedness.

The public comment period for the Valero Benicia impact report will run until July 31.

— Reach Elizabeth Case at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow her on Twitter at @elizabeth_case

Comments

comments

Elizabeth Case

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Work continues to modernize Davis Healthcare Center

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Holman continues to educate and inspire

    By Daniella Tutino | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    ‘Huck’ and ‘Tom’ float old Arboretum dock to removal

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Teens arrested after midnight joyride

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Biologists: Raising California dam would harm salmon

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Overweight video game avatars ‘play’ worse than fit ones

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Meet the mayor for coffee at Peet’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Author joins radio show

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Make your own SoulCollage on Sunday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Walk through Quail Ridge Reserve on Feb. 14

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Calling all chicken owners: Apply for coop crawl, share information

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Hopmans named associate vice provost for global affairs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Review motivation to refresh your healthy-habits plan

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Tips to protect skin this winter

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    For health and healthy appearance, there’s just one quick fix

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Measles outbreak grows

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    NAMI-Yolo examines inpatient services at potluck

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    Basement living, with attitude to match

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Can climate change bring us together?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Paso Fino coming to a vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    50 years since Ash Hall

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    .

    Sports

    Two in a row for Devil boys

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Aggies still looking for record hoops win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Blue Devil Hammond has a huge day at home

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Pent up? Join Davis’ latest athletic event

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD roundup: Aggie football players crack the books

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    Youth roundup: Harper hoopsters off to hot start

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Treys send Toronto past Kings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    What’s happening

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

     
    College Corner: Have wanderlust? Go overseas for college

    By Jennifer Borenstein | From Page: A8

    District learns from bomb threat incident

    By Kellen Browning | From Page: A8

     
    It’s Girl Scout Cookie time!

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Feenstra-Fisher wedding

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Arts

    Show explores the evolution of dance

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    A rose by any other name — if there is one

    By Michael Lewis | From Page: A11

     
    Acclaimed guitarist Adrian Legg to play at The Palms on Saturday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    James George Tingus

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, January 29, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B6