Rail Safety Of Bay Area Oil Shipments Doubted

SSAN MATEO (KCBS) — Last summer’s oil train accident in Quebec that killed 47 people has lawmakers and others in the Bay Area concerned that it could happen here as the volume of crude oil from fracking and other petroleum products arriving from North Dakota and Canada to local refineries surges.

On Monday’s 25th anniversary of the 1990 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said he fears the response to major oil spill will far short.

“Some of the trains that coming in—the tanker trains that crude oil will have 2.7 million gallons of oil on those trains,” he said.

In 2011, about 9,000 tank cars filled with crude oil were shipped into California by rail. In the next two years, that number is expected to jump to more than 200,000, according to the California Energy Commission.

About 10 percent of the oil will be headed to the five Bay Area refineries.

While most agree the response to water-born spills is good – the Cosco Busan tanker that struck the Bay Bridge in 2007 as an example – inland spills, however, are inherently different.

“When this oil is coming through California at the volume that it’s coming and the magnitude … we want to make sure that our citizens are adequately protected. We really don’t have the resources in place to do it,” Hill said.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget calls for a new 6.5 cents per barrel rapid response fee, but that’s for overland crude oil shipments only.

“Ethanol is just as toxic, hazardous chemical and there’s nothing in place to deal with that type of a spill.”

Curt Clumpner is a member of the Fairfield-based International Bird Rescue and got his experience during the 1990 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. He said the trains that traverse California do so alongside our rivers.

“It obviously increases the risk in terms of the environment and wildlife,” he said.

KCBS KPIX 5 and San Francisco Chronicle Insider Phil Matier said there are environmental activists who are against oil as a rule and will use such a possibility to scare people while the oil industry will likely oversimplify the issue by saying there is no need for concern.

Phil Matier: The Potential For Oil Spills By Rail Raise Red Flag for Bay Are Officials

“The truth is somewhere in between. We’ve had ethanol and we’ve had crude oil come around before but not in this volume.”

More from Tim Ryan

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