Richmond calls on Congress to halt crude-by-rail shipments

Richmond asks air district to revoke permit allowing crude by rail transport

The Richmond City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to urge Congress to halt rail transport of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota through Richmond, citing the potential for spills or explosions.

The council wants shipments of the highly flammable and volatile oil mix to cease until regulations are established.

The vote came in response to recent media reports revealing a 57 percent increase in shipments of crude oil to the Kinder Morgan rail terminal in Richmond. Bakken crude accounted for most of the increase. There are also plans to move the Bakken crude by rail down the coast to refineries farther south.

Mayor Gayle Mclaughlin, who proposed Tuesday’s resolution, noted that the crude-by-rail shipments are not transported to the Chevron Richmond refinery, which only receives crude oil by ship. The Chevron plant also does not refine Bakken crude, and its proposed modernization plan will not give it the capability to do so.

“Chevron has made it clear that it does not receive crude by rail nor does it have plans to do this at the Richmond refinery,” Mclaughlin said. “This agenda item is not about Chevron, it’s about the dangers of crude by rail passing through and being stored or unloaded in Richmond, no matter what the final destination is.”

Last year, more crude oil was spilled from train derailments (1.1 million gallons) than during the previous 36 years (792,600 gallons), according to the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

In July, a train carrying fracked Bakken oil from North Dakota derailed and exploded in a small town in Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying the downtown.

Richmond joins a number of California communities and local agencies calling for stricter rail regulations.  On Tuesday, Berkeley City Council passed a resolution opposing Bakken crude transport through the city.

Antonia Juhasz, an oil industry reporter, said a spike in oil production in North America is causing the increase in rail shipments. She says much of the oil that is refined is exported internationally.