Local News

Wolk bill targets funding for rail accidents

By From page A4 | June 17, 2014

In light of a proposal to expand shipments of crude oil by train along the Capitol Corridor, which runs through Davis, state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, introduced a measure Friday to provide funding for adequate local emergency response to accidents and spills involving rail transports of crude oil and other hazardous materials.

“California needs to keep in step with the significant increase in shipments of these dangerous materials in order to respond to the growing risk to California’s citizens,” she said in a news release. “Starting early next year, there are plans to run 100 train cars of crude oil a day through the heart of the Capitol Corridor to the Valero Refining Company in the city of Benicia, in my district.

“And, as things stand, local governments along these transport corridors don’t have sufficient funding to protect their communities. This measure will help communities like those in my district prepare and respond to potential accidents or spills.”

Senate Bill 506, co-authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, chair of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Environmental Quality, would levy a fee on railroad tank cars transporting crude oil and other hazardous materials in California to fund developing and maintaining an emergency response system to deal with accidents and spills involving these materials.

Several destructive crude oil rail accidents have taken place in the United States and Canada in recent years, including the July 2013 derailment of 72 tanker cars loaded with 2 million gallons of flammable crude oil in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, that killed 47 people and caused more than $1 billion in damage.

Oil shipments by train increased in California by more than 500 percent to 6.3 million barrels last year, and are expected to increase by up to 150 million barrels by 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by the California Public Utilities Commission, California Environmental Protection Agency, and other state agencies.

The report recommended more state rail inspectors, emergency response program improvements and real-time information from railroads.

Under SB 506, railroad operators transporting hazardous materials by tank car in California will be required to register with the State Board of Equalization, which will collect the fees on a quarterly basis based on the number of tanks cars transporting hazardous materials.

Enterprise staff

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