Permitting of south Valley oil operation prompts lawsuit

In the Kern County community of Taft in California’s southern San Joaquin Valley stands a new crude-oil terminal and not all are happy about the site choice for this facility.

Bakersfield Crude Terminal
Bakersfield Crude Terminal

Relatedly, on Jan. 29, 2015, “[c]ommunity and environmental groups filed suit … over the expansion—orchestrated mostly in secret—of a crude oil operation in Kern County that could lead to a 1,000 percent increase in the amount of crude imported by rail into California each year,” reported Earthjustice in the “Groups Sue to Stop Daily 100-Car Train Deliveries of Toxic Crude Oil to Bakersfield Terminal: Coalition sues over illegal permitting of major crude-by-rail project in Central Valley,” press release. “The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal in Taft, Calif., has the capacity to receive two 100-car unit trains a day of volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale formation as well as heavier, highly toxic tar sands.”

The reason for the aforementioned legal challenge, in no uncertain terms, is this: “Today’s lawsuit was filed against the San Joaquin [Valley] Air Pollution Control District for the piecemeal permitting process that allowed one of the largest crude oil operations in California to expand largely in secret, without environmental review of the risks posed by importing millions of gallons a day of toxic, explosive oil from North Dakota and Canada,” declared Earthjustice in the release.

Then there is the safety aspect associated with oil-by-rail movements.

Unit train of oil tank cars
Unit train of oil tank cars

In fact, just yesterday, Feb. 16, 2015, a 109-car freight train carrying Bakken North Dakota crude oil derailed in West Virginia. Explosions ensued and fire engulfed portions of the train forcing the evacuations of two small West Virginia towns located east of Charleston, the state’s capital. The train was en route from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Yorktown, Virginia, reporter Curtis Tate, with McClatchy News Washington Bureau, reported. Also according to Tate, on the previous day, a train transporting Alberta tar-sands oil derailed and caught fire in northern Ontario, Canada, adding that similar such incidents had occurred in the recent past in Aliceville, Alabama, Casselton, North Dakota and in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada. In the Lac-Megantic derailment, meanwhile, 47 people died and wiped out was the town’s business district.

Earthjustice in the press release further observed: “In addition to dramatically increasing the risk to communities along the rail route, facilities such as the Bakersfield Crude Terminal are major sources of volatile organic compound emissions—a precursor to ozone air pollution. Breathing ozone is hazardous to respiratory health, and the San Joaquin Valley is one of two air basins in the United States designated ‘extreme nonattainment’ for federal ozone standards. The degraded state of the San Joaquin Valley’s air results in more than a thousand premature deaths each year, and one in six Valley children is diagnosed with asthma.”

Images above: Elizabeth Forsyth, Earthjustice

1 thought on “Permitting of south Valley oil operation prompts lawsuit

  1. I am surprised at how many train accidents have happened lately and the idea of more pollutants getting into the air from this stuff really bothers me.

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