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Oil Trains Now Delivering Utah Crude to Portland

May 16, 2014 — Tony Schick — OPB

A fuel terminal along the Willamette River is now accepting train shipments of crude oil from Utah, making it Oregon’s second oil-by-rail destination, state officials have confirmed.

Union Pacific trains carry the crude out of Utah, into Oregon and along the Columbia River Gorge toward Northwest Portland. Once in the city, the oil trains are being unloaded at a plant owned by Arc Terminals, according to Robert Melbo, state rail planner at the Oregon Department of Transportation. From there, the oil is being loaded onto ships or barges destined for West Coast refineries. The company has a contract with Chevron, Melbo said.

Investors in Arc Terminals purchased the facility in January with plans to invest $10 million for infrastructure updates. The site has 84 tanks and a total capacity of 1.5 million barrels. It is situated adjacent a BNSF Railway yard in a cluster of petrochemical tank farms between the river and Highway 30.

“We don’t have any idea on the volume,” Melbo said. “But we know that they can actually place about 20 cars at a time at that facility.”

Train shipments of crude oil have been increasing throughout the Northwest, up 250 percent in Oregon since 2012. A former ethanol plant in northwest Oregon near Clatskanie began receiving rail shipments of North Dakota Bakken crude oil in 2012. Trains also carry crude through the state into California and Washington. Several refineries in Washington recently began accepting crude by rail, and a terminal has been proposed at the Port of Vancouver.

Rail lines in the Northwest and throughout the country have been a crucial component in the recent boom in North American oil production, offering flexible routes to a wider customer base for oil extracted in regions like North Dakota, Utah and Canada.

The safety of shipping crude by rail has come under intense scrutiny, though, after several trains carrying Bakken crude derailed and in some cases exploded. Federal data shows more oil — nearly 1.15 million gallons — spilled from rail cars in 2013 than in the previous 37 years combined.

Utah crude oil is waxy, heavy and generally considered less volatile than Bakken crude. It has not been involved in high-profile explosions. Its shipment on Northwest rails is a newer phenomenon, though.

“It’s a very dynamic situation in terms of the ability to move this stuff around as opposed to the days when it was pretty much all just in pipelines. And it could go this place or that place and that was about it,” Melbo said.

Michael Zollitsch, emergency response unit leader at Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, has said the agency doesn’t yet understand the different types of crude moving through the state as well as it would like, and that heavy and waxy crudes could pose additional challenges for spill cleanup.

Governors in Oregon and Washington have called for reviews of oil train safety, as have numerous legislative hearings. The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a handful of emergency orders designed to make the shipment of crude oil safer, the most recent of which requires railroads to notify states about the location, frequency and makeup of crude oil shipments through their communities.

That applies only to Bakken crude, however. After the federal notice, Oregon’s two U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, wrote to the Department of Transportation arguing the new requirements should apply to all shipments of crude oil.

© 2014 OPB

 

Kitzhaber takes aim at Boardman Coal Terminal, proposes to propose new statewide environmental law

April 19, 2014 –  Non-executive Summary–  Governor Kitzhaber has proposed to propose a new and comprehensive statewide environmental law. This would be the first such act adopted by a state in over 40 years according to Columbia Riverkeeper.

After years of hedging, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber proclaimed emphatically that “It is time to once and for all to say NO to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest. It is time to say YES to national and state energy policies that will transform our economy and our communities into a future that can sustain the next generation”.

The Governor stated that he expects the Oregon Department of State Lands to reach its final decision on Ambre Energy’s proposed Boardman Coal Terminal by  May 31, 2014.

At the same time, however, the Governor claims to lack the authority to do much about the darn coal terminals right now:

Unfortunately, Oregon law is more limited (than Washington state) in terms of what we can consider in reviewing large-scale projects such as the proposed Ambre coal export facility. I assure you, however, that we are carefully reviewing all of the issues under our authority, and that I will do all that I can within the context of existing Oregon law to ensure that we do not commit ourselves to a coal-dependent future.

Furthermore, I have asked my staff to develop proposals for the 2015 Oregon Legislature that, going forward, will assure that there is a comprehensive public review of the costs and benefits of significant development proposals like the coal export facilities now on the drawing boards…

“Oregon law is only limited if you interpret it narrowly,” quips Nicholas Caleb, an attorney, professor at Cascadia University and a recent City Council candidate.

The question remains whether new and comprehensive statewide environmental laws are necessary or whether the Governor could exercise significantly more authority within Oregon’s existing legal framework.

In any case, join Rising Tide and allies to give the Gov a push.

Full text of the address can be viewed here.

Coal Export Developer Challenges Tribal Claims To Fishing Sites On The Columbia

May 2, 2014 — OPB —  An Oregon coal export developer is challenging claims that its proposed dock on the Columbia River would interfere with tribal fishing sites.

The Confederated Tribes of The Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have submitted letters and affidavits to the Oregon Department of State Lands indicating they have tribal fishing sites in the area where Morrow Pacific has proposed to build a dock in Boardman, Oregon for coal barges.

The Morrow Pacific project, backed by Ambre Energy of Australia, would transport around 9 million tons of coal per year from Wyoming and Montana to Asia. The coal would be delivered by train to the dock site in Boardman, where it would be transferred to barges on the Columbia River. The barges would carry the coal to another dock site downstream near Clatskanie, Oregon where the coal would be transferred onto ocean-going ships.

The project needs a permit from the DSL to build a dock at the Port of Morrow in Boardman. DSL rules say the state can issue the permit as long as the action would not “unreasonably interfere” with preservation of water for navigation, fishing and public recreation.

The company submitted a letter to the state Thursday arguing that its dock will not “unreasonably interfere” with fishing. It also argues that considering fishing impacts from the dock is outside the DSL’s authority for this permit.

Brian Gard, a spokesman for Morrow Pacific, says the company disagrees that tribes have proven their members fish at the dock site. He says the affidavits submitted to the state either misidentify the site geographically or they fail to show that tribal fishing has taken place in the dock location.

More Here

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Wash. Port Releases New Lease Details For Oil-by-Rail Terminal

May 1, 2014 — The Columbian —  The Port of Vancouver on Wednesday released an updated version of its lease for the Northwest’s largest oil-by-rail transfer terminal, featuring fewer censored details but maintaining redactions of key issues the port considers sensitive.

The port released the updated version of its lease (429 pages in electronic format) with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies in response to multiple requests made in April by various parties, including the Columbian and The Oregonian newspapers, Theresa Wagner, the port’s communications manager, said Wednesday.

In the original version of the lease, the port had kept secret a total of 22 pieces of information. In the updated rendition, the port revealed 11 of those 22 pieces of information, Wagner said.

One revelation: The port is allowed to terminate the lease if Tesoro and Savage fail to launch construction within four months after both parties are presumed to have fulfilled certain other contractual obligations.

Previously, the port had censored the companies’ construction timeline.

More Here

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File photo of proposed site for an oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Washington. | credit: Port of Vancouver USA

Unpermitted Oil Terminal Seeks DEQ Approval

Blog post by Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Columbia Riverkeeper; Phot0 by Rob Davis, The Oregonian

March 21, 2014. The oil terminal along the Columbia River at Port Westward has been operating outside the law by moving more explosive Bakken crude oil than their current air pollution permit allows. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the crude oil company Global Partners (aka “the Columbia Pacific Biorefinery”) violated air quality laws by moving nearly four times more crude oil than their permit allows.

Global Partners is now applying for a new permit with DEQ to bring 1.8 billion gallons of oil annually through Columbia County, enough to fill 50 trains per month. Submit a comment about Global’s attempt to increase crude oil train traffic.

 Public Hearing

DEQ is holding a public hearing on April 3 for the new permit.

Can’t attend the hearing? DEQ is holding a public comment period on the air pollution permit through 5:00PM on Friday, April 11. Submit your comment today!

Recent oil spills and train explosions pose serious threats to rail communities. Last year, 47 people were killed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, when a unit train of crude oil, identical to those traveling to Port Westward, from the Bakken region derailed and exploded. Additional derailments and explosions in Alabama and North Dakota of Bakken crude oil trains have raised alarms at local, state and federal levels across the nation, including a moratorium on new crude oil infrastructure in Albany, New York, where Global Partners operates a Bakken crude oil terminal.

Click here for an in-depth report from The Oregonian

4 Hurt, 400 Evacuated After Explosion At Wash. LNG Plant

March 31, 2014 — AP Newswire

Plymouth, WA  —  Authorities now say one of the four injured in an explosion and fire at a natural gas processing plant along the Washington-Oregon border was sent to a hospital in Portland, Ore., with burns.

The other three were treated for minor injuries at a hospital in Hermiston, Ore.

Monday morning’s blast at the Williams Northwest Pipeline liquefied natural gas facility in the town of Plymouth, WA, shook nearby homes and led to the evacuation of about 400 residents.

A deputy says the evacuation could last overnight.

Benton County, Wash., Sheriff Steven Keane says plans call for sending up a helicopter for a better look at the damage to the plant.

Keane says a Washington State Patrol bomb squad robot equipped with video also will be sent in, because of safety concerns.

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WikiLeaks Exposes Obama’s Weakening of Environmental Policies in TPP

ecowatch.com | January 15, 2014 — The U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries aren’t on the same page regarding environmental policies within the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, and the dissension has been exposed by WikiLeaks.

Organizations who have viewed the leaked version of the TPP’s environment chapter say it shows that the U.S. could ease up on pollution control requirements, a shark fin harvesting ban and other regulations it had previously been negotiating for. Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, told The New York Times that the environment chapter no longer contains language she believes would have ensured that more trade doesn’t equate to destruction of the environment.

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The Columbian: Just Say No to Oil Terminal

Having provided months of thorough coverage of the Tesaro/Savage proposal, the Columbian came out flat against the terminal in an editorial published on January 12 —

Tesoro-Savage proposal bad for safety, economic development, quality of life

—  In the end, it’s no contest: The drawbacks to building an oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver greatly outweigh the benefits of such a plan, and state officials eventually should reject the proposal.

At the heart of the issues are the future of Vancouver’s waterfront, the local economy, the quality of life for residents, safety concerns, and the image the city wishes to portray to the rest of the world. On each count, the proposal approved by port commissioners comes up short:

• The deal reached with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies is butting heads with a $1.3 billion redevelopment of the former Boise Cascade site along the Columbia River, less than two miles upriver from the proposed oil terminal. Given the proximity of the projects and the fact that oil-bearing trains would pass within 100 feet of much of the development, these proposals are, indeed, mutually exclusive. It is unrealistic to think the waterfront development would not be hampered by the oil terminal, and a mixed-use project would have far greater growth potential for the city.

• The proposed $110 million oil terminal would bring an estimated 120 full-time jobs to the port, handling as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day. It would be worth at least $45 million to the port for the first 10 years of the agreement. But broad-based economic development such as that provided by the waterfront development would have more far-reaching economic benefits.

• Trains carrying up to 380,000 barrels of crude per day through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Washougal, Camas, and then Vancouver, would do little to enhance the region’s quality of life. Port Commissioner Brian Wolfe said at a recent public meeting that BNSF Railway currently is operating at full capacity and that it’s the railroad company’s responsibility to address that, not the port’s. That is not an adequate answer. Considering a spate of oil-train explosions in North America over the past six months, port officials must do more to reassure the public regarding safety concerns.

• That brings us to an inconvenient truth: Nothing could adequately reassure the public regarding safety concerns. The fact is, regardless of how many safeguards are in place, transporting oil is fraught with peril, and transporting it through heavily populated areas is an invitation to disaster.

• Cities throughout the country in recent decades have repurposed their waterways and riverfronts. What once were conduits for heavy industry now are locations for tourism, service industries, and white-collar jobs, and that speaks to what kind of image Vancouver wishes to cultivate. Look at it this way: Will residents more effectively promote their city by telling outsiders, “Hey, we have a new oil terminal and lots more trains going through the heart of the city,” or by saying, “We have an amazing new waterfront development along the majestic Columbia River”? Or look at it this way: If Vancouver were being built from scratch, the last thing officials would do is put railroad access along the waterfront. It would be a travesty to exacerbate that unfortunate situation by becoming more reliant upon already crowded rail lines.

More than 31,000 public comments regarding the oil terminal were received by the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which will determine which factors to consider and then launch a lengthy evaluation process. Eventually, Gov. Jay Inslee will have the final say on whether the proposal is approved. Because of the proposal’s vast, long-lasting impact upon Vancouver, every possible environmental and economic factor should be considered. If that happens, the final decision will be no contest.

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Another Oil Train Blows Up, Because That’s What They Do

Major fire in New Brunswick after derailment–

Sightline–Eric de Place, January 8, 2014 —

 

This one in New Brunswick:

A Canadian National Railway Co. (CNR) train carrying crude oil and propane derailed in the eastern province of New Brunswick and sparked a blaze that was still burning more than 12 hours after the accident.

A helicopter is being brought in today to pinpoint what is ablaze in the wreckage of the 122-car train that jumped the tracks… There are 14 cars and a locomotive in the fire zone, Feeny said.

About 50 to 60 people were evacuated in a two-kilometer (1.2 mile) radius of the accident…

When oil trains explode or catch fire, they are incredibly dangerous. In New Brunswick, for example, it took emergency responders about half a day just to get aerial surveillance of the wreckage and figure out how to safely get ground crews near the accident. Normally, there is little fire fighters can do to extinguish the blaze; the response is generally to try to evacuate the vicinity and let blaze burn itself out.

No one was injured or killed in this latest incident, thank goodness, but the mishap is more evidence that loaded oil tanker cars are ticking time bombs. Trains carrying Bakken crude are now rolling through small towns and major cities every day. And when they explode in a place where people live—as happened in Quebec—the result is awful: dozens of people incinerated and whole city blocks leveled.

The consequences of another oil train explosion in an urban area is chilling to contemplate. It could happen in Belltown or Burlington, Spokane or Sprague. The oil trains are in our neighborhoods already.

More news coverage here.

This post is 14 in the Sightline series: The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails

Photo by Christopher Sessums, cc.

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Casselton, N.D. residents flee town after oil train explosion

Minneapolis Star Tribune– David Shaffer and Susan Hogan, December 31, 2013 — CASSELTON, N.D.

Officials on Monday night were calling for the evacuation of the entire town of Casselton, N.D., after a BNSF grain train derailed and crashed into a crude oil train in North Dakota on Monday afternoon, causing tank cars to explode in towering mushroom-cloud flames.

No one was injured in the accident that happened about 2:10 p.m. near Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo, but smoke billowed for hours.

Monday night, however, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office was “strongly recommending” that the town’s 2,300 residents leave immediately. Those who live within 5 miles south and east of the city also were told to leave.

“Information from the National Weather Service indicates a shift in the weather resulting in a high pressure system that will push the plume of smoke down increasing the risk of potential health hazards,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Amy McBeth, a spokeswoman for BNSF, said a grain train derailed on a track parallel to an eastbound crude oil train with 106 tank cars, striking some of the tanks and triggering explosions.

It was not clear how many tank cars were struck, nor how many were burning, she said.

“It was black smoke and then there were probably four explosions in the next hour to hour and a half,” said Eva Fercho, a Casselton resident who saw the fiery aftermath.

An estimated 11 to 12 crude oil unit trains depart daily from the oil region in western North Dakota. Lacking sufficient pipelines, 69 percent of the state’s oil is currently shipped to market by rail. The main railroads, BNSF and Canadian Pacific, have tracks through the Twin Cities.

Fercho said the BNSF main line runs right through Casselton, and just two blocks from her home.

“We are very thankful it didn’t happen in the city limits,” she said.

The accident also spared the Tharaldson Ethanol plant, west of Casselton. Plant Manager Ryan Carter said the accident was about 2 miles away from the plant, but the burning tank cars were visible from there.

“It was pretty much flames and smoke,” said Carter, who estimated that about 30 tank cars were involved.

Carter Hackmann, who lives about a mile away from the site of the wreck, said he heard at least three explosions, and took photographs from his house of billowing flames and smoke that resembled a mushroom cloud.

The city sent out e-mail alerts warning people to stay indoors.

North Dakota officials have said that even more crude oil is expected to move by rail in 2014. The state is approaching 1 million barrels per day in output, and trails only Texas and the separately counted Gulf of Mexico in U.S. oil production.

In July, a runaway train loaded with North Dakota crude oil crashed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying that city’s downtown as tank cars exploded and burned.

Officials on Monday night were calling for the evacuation of the entire town of Casselton, N.D., after a BNSF grain train derailed and crashed into a crude oil train in North Dakota on Monday afternoon, causing tank cars to explode in towering mushroom-cloud flames.

No one was injured in the accident that happened about 2:10 p.m. near Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo, but smoke billowed for hours.

Monday night, however, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office was “strongly recommending” that the town’s 2,300 residents leave immediately. Those who live within 5 miles south and east of the city also were told to leave.

“Information from the National Weather Service indicates a shift in the weather resulting in a high pressure system that will push the plume of smoke down increasing the risk of potential health hazards,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Amy McBeth, a spokeswoman for BNSF, said a grain train derailed on a track parallel to an eastbound crude oil train with 106 tank cars, striking some of the tanks and triggering explosions.

It was not clear how many tank cars were struck, nor how many were burning, she said.

“It was black smoke and then there were probably four explosions in the next hour to hour and a half,” said Eva Fercho, a Casselton resident who saw the fiery aftermath.

An estimated 11 to 12 crude oil unit trains depart daily from the oil region in western North Dakota. Lacking sufficient pipelines, 69 percent of the state’s oil is currently shipped to market by rail. The main railroads, BNSF and Canadian Pacific, have tracks through the Twin Cities.

Fercho said the BNSF main line runs right through Casselton, and just two blocks from her home.

“We are very thankful it didn’t happen in the city limits,” she said.

The accident also spared the Tharaldson Ethanol plant, west of Casselton. Plant Manager Ryan Carter said the accident was about 2 miles away from the plant, but the burning tank cars were visible from there.

“It was pretty much flames and smoke,” said Carter, who estimated that about 30 tank cars were involved.

Carter Hackmann, who lives about a mile away from the site of the wreck, said he heard at least three explosions, and took photographs from his house of billowing flames and smoke that resembled a mushroom cloud.

The city sent out e-mail alerts warning people to stay indoors.

North Dakota officials have said that even more crude oil is expected to move by rail in 2014. The state is approaching 1 million barrels per day in output, and trails only Texas and the separately counted Gulf of Mexico in U.S. oil production.

In July, a runaway train loaded with North Dakota crude oil crashed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying that city’s downtown as tank cars exploded and burned.

More here

Bruce Crummy/The Associated Press

 

 

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