Sacramento – The California State Senate this week passed Senate Joint Resolution 27 authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), which calls on the federal government to take legislative and regulatory action to protect California communities from the threat of train accidents involving transportation of crude oil.
Dixon is on the mainline of the Union Pacific, which will likely be a route for transporting much of the oil. Plans are to eventually run two trains with 90 oil tanker cars through Dixon every day.
Mayor Jack Batchelor is promoting a “Century 21 Priority Development Area” to locate “affordable” multi-family housing on land adjacent to that Union Pacific mainline – which could create a high risk in case of derailment or oil spill. Currently there is only one residence within 200 feet of the mainline, and few commercial buildings as well.
The California Energy Commission reports the volume of crude oil imported to California by rail has gone from 45,491 barrels in 2009 to nearly 6.2 million barrels in 2013 – a 135-fold increase in 4 years. According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), nationally, crude oil traveling by rail increased from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to an estimated 400,000 in 2013.
Transporting crude oil by rail throughout the country and into California to west coast refineries has been on the rise because of increased oil production in the Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana and the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.
The rapid change in the energy/transportation sector has resulted in an increase in the number of catastrophic railroad derailments and explosions in the past 3 years.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reported eight major railroad accidents in the United States in the last 3 years involving crude oil spills, not including the catastrophic accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last July, which killed 47 people.
The US Secretary of Transportation (USDOT) and the railroad industry announced “voluntary” railroad operating practices designed to increase the safety of transporting crude by rail. These voluntary practices include the use of safety technology, additional track inspections, lower operating speeds, and improved emergency response and training.
Last month an emergency order was issued by USDOT requiring railroads to notify state authorities when they are operating trains transporting more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil.
SJR 27 would urge the United States Department of transportation and other relevant federal entities to safeguard communities and environmentally sensitive areas from rail accidents involving transportation of crude oil by expediting rail safety reforms, adopting stricter design standards for tank cars and mandating that the rail industry adopt the voluntary practices announced earlier this year.