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California Takes Legislative Steps to Address Growing Crude-by-Rail Shipments
- As part of his annual budget, Gov. (Jerry) Brown wants to expand an existing prevention-and-response program for ocean oil spills to cover inland areas.The initiative would be funded by a proposed 6.5-cent-per-barrel fee on all crude oil delivered by rail to refineries. Additionally, Brown is asking lawmakers to approve hiring new track inspectors.
- Separately, state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) last week steered a similar spill-response measure, SB 1319 (May 28 legislative analysis), through the state Senate, winning approval on a 23-11 vote. [See her May 28 press release.]
- In the lower house, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) recently amended a bill that would require railroads to report to the state Office of Emergency Services information about hazardous materials, including crude oil, being transported into the state.
- His proposal, AB 380 (June 2 legislative analysis), which was unanimously approved by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Wednesday,also would require rail carriers to maintain live, 24-hour communications lines that would enable local first-responders to contact them. [See his June 4 press release.]
An emergency regulation issued last month previously took effect on Saturday, June 7 requiring "railroads to notify states of the specific routes they will use when transporting more than 1 million barrels of Bakken crude. Such oil "may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude," the U.S. Department of Transportation warned," writes Lifsher [also see KQED blog.]
However, Valero Energy spokesman Chris Howe appeared to dispute the regulator's warning.
"There is nothing inherently more dangerous about one crude than another. They are all flammable," he told Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee.
It should be noted that when talking of increased crude-by-rail shipments to California, it's important to distinguish types of crude. The oil sands crude from Alberta does not pose the public safety threat that the higher volatility Bakken crude presents.