FAIRFIELD — Solano County supervisors on Tuesday backed the idea of having state legislation that would provide money to communities to help them respond to train wrecks involving rail tank cars carrying crude oil.
Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is working to co-sponsor a bill that would charge companies moving crude oil by rail a fee to help pay for emergency responses. At this point, the bill has not been fleshed out, prompting supervisors to endorse the principles of such a bill.
Supervisor Linda Seifert represents the 2nd District that includes Benicia. The Valero refinery in Benicia has proposed having 100 tank cars daily travel on the Union Pacific tracks carrying crude oil to the refinery, bringing the oil through Solano County. Benicia is accepting comments on a draft environmental impact report.
“This issue of crude-by-rail has become a very important one in the district I represent,” Seifert said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Crude-by-rail shipments have become controversial, especially in the wake of a July 6, 2013, derailment in Lac-Megantic, Canada. Tank cars carrying crude oil exploded, killing 47 people.
The Benicia draft environmental report says Valero would use a new generation of stronger tank cars and describes the hazard to the public as “less than significant.”
Solano County will submit comments on the draft environmental impact report, Seifert said. There need to be safety measures in place so people feel safe, she said. Local residents shouldn’t bear the expense for such safety measures, she said.
The issue goes beyond Valero. Seifert said a refinery in San Luis Obispo County also wants to transport crude oil by rail and that these shipments might go through Solano County.
Fire chiefs in the county have been talking about the Valero crude-by-rail proposal, county Office of Emergency Services Manager Don Ryan told the board. The Solano County Hazardous Materials Response Team recently purchased a $10,000 kit that allows the turning off of valves on rail cars, he said.
Ryan noted that hazardous materials already are shipped through the county by rail, beyond the proposals for the crude-by-rail shipments.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.