Crude-oil protesters disrupt Bay Area plant

Published: Thursday, Sep. 4, 2014 - 11:40 am

A dozen activists chained themselves to a gate Thursday morning in Richmond to protest crude-oil shipments on rail to the Kinder Morgan energy company rail terminal. There were no reports of arrests, but demonstrators said they were able to disrupt operations for three hours.

The Richmond oil-transfer station receives shipments of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota several times a month on 100-car trains that travel through midtown Sacramento. Several such trains have derailed and exploded in the last two years nationally, prompting federal officials to issue warnings about crude-oil volatility and to signal they intend to require stronger tank cars for crude-oil shipments.

The Richmond protest was organized by the Forestethics environmental group and several other community organizations, and follows a similar protest and blockage of train tracks in Everett, Wash. The Richmond group said it took the action to highlight a lawsuit filed this year by several environmental organizations against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for allowing Kinder Morgan to receive crude-oil shipments without requiring an environmental impact review.

“People in Richmond are angry that the air district, which is supposed to protect us, instead has put our community at catastrophic risk along with all the up-rail communities,” said Andres Soto, organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.

The situation is similar to one in Sacramento in which a local oil company has been transferring crude oil from trains to tanker trucks at McClellan Business Park for a year. The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District granted the company a permit to make the oil transfers but did not require an environmental review. Air-district official Larry Greene said the company, InterState Oil, had an existing permit to transfer denatured alcohol and that the switch to crude oil transfers didn’t cause any emissions increases. The local air district issued a permit this year for crude-oil transfers but considers that action “ministerial,” meaning it does not trigger an environmental review, Greene said.

Opponents of crude-oil train shipments in Northern California say they are aware of the McClellan loading operation but have declined to say whether they would sue to try to stop the local operation.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Read more articles by Tony Bizjak

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