Oakland doesn’t need an oil train disaster

Come 27 June 2016, Oakland, California’s city council will vote on an ordinance to ban shipment of coal through the city’s port.

The text of the ordinance is not yet drafted, and may not ban coal at all: it may instead require mitigations that are unlikely to be achievable, enforceable, and/or effective in protecting the health of people who live near the proposed bulk terminal that developers hope to use to ship coal mined in Utah and slated for dirty combustion in Asia. The ordinance may or may not also address a ban on or mitigations for shipping crude oil, fuel oil, and gasoline.

To call the city’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, and the councilmembers’ attention to just how dangerous it would be to permit oil transport through a port surrounded by communities they were elected to protect and serve, Michael Kaufman sent to Oakland’s elected officials a partial list of tanker car spills and pipeline explosions that have occurred over the past three years.

Here’s the message (excerpted) and list sent to Mayor Schaaf, nine councilmembers, and Oakland city staffer Heather Klein:

Dear Ms Klein, Mayor and Council Members

Please consider [this] list of tanker car spills of fossil fuels and other hazardous commodities that have been endangering our citizens in the last three years.

These spills, explosions and pollution of neighborhoods and water ways will continue without end, until our elected leaders ban fossil fuels from being loaded or off loaded in our communities.Below is a very incomplete list of just some of the spills and explosions that have occurred in North America during the last three years. Oil pipeline capacity is maxed out in North American. Consequently oil rail car use has expanded forty fold from 2008.

The prior NTSB chair said that the overwhelming majority of oil train cars are not built to carry the toxic oil now being massively produced.  The rules to control this form of oil transportation must be updated quickly; more quickly than is happening on the federal level.

The current rail cars for fossil fuel, DOT 111 type rail cars, are not crash resistant.  This type of car is being banned and replaced in Canada but not in U.S.  However some of the crashes and spills are also coming from newly designed, CPC-1232 type cars, which are supposed to be more crash resistant.

Normal fire departments don’t have the capacity to deal with oil rail car spill, explosions and fires.


  1. 03/27/13 Parkers Prairie, MN; 30,000 gallons of oil spilled
  2. 03/29/13 Arkansas Exxon Pegasus Pipeline burst, 5,000-7,000 barrels of crude spilled
  3. 05/21/13 Jansen Saskatchewan; 24,000 gallons of oil spilled
  4. 06/27/13 Calgary, Alberta; oil train derailed on a bridge over Bow River, emergency crew prevented a spill
  5. 07/06/13 Lac Magantic, Quebec; Explosions from derailed oil cars killed 47 people and destroyed 30 buildings in town center
  6. 10/19/13 Gainford Alberta; 4 derailed oil tankers. evacuations were required due to explosions and fire
  7. 11/08/13 Aliceville, Pickens County, Alabama; 90-car derailment, 749,000 gallons spilled. Fire burned for 2 days.
  8. 12/30/13 Casselton, ND; 400,000 gallons of crude spilled, explosion caused evacuations of 2,000 people
  9. 01/07/14 Plaster Rock, New Brunswick; explosion and fire caused 150-person evacuation for 3 nights
  10. 01/20/14 Philadelphia PA; 6 train cars carrying Bakken crude derailed over Schuylkill River near university of PA and major hospitals, no spill
  11. 02/13/14 Vandergrift PA; 4 tankers spill nearly 3,000 gallons of oil
  12. 04/30/14 Lynchburg, VA; 17-car derailment, +29,000 gallons of oil spilled into the James River, threatening the Richmond, VA water supply
  13. 1/13/15 In Mississippi pipeline burst and put out smoke seen by satellites
  14. 1/17/15 Yellowstone River, Glendive, Montana Oil Spill, 40,000 gallons of oil
  15. 1/26/15 North Dakota Williston 3 million gallons of brine leaking since 1/6/15.  Leak has reached the Missouri River
  16. 1/27/15 Natural Gas Pipeline explosion in Brooke County, West Virginia from Pennsylvania Fracked Gas moving to Texas
  17. 2/14/15 Timmons, Ontario 100-car Canadian National train carrying crude oil derailed.  30 cars caught fire.  The tankers were the newer, CPC-1232, “safer” kind.  The fires burned for days blocking a main rail line for three days.
  18. 2/16/15 Mt Carbon, West Virginia Bakken Crude 109 car train, 27 tanker cars, the newer CPC 1232 cars, derailed and spilled crude into the Kanawha River.  Vapor pressure in tank cars was 13.9, higher than allowed by N Dakota. laws.   Tanker  cars exploded catching house on fire. 1.5 mile circle of evacuation.  Fire crews let fires burn for days.
  19. 3/4/15 North Dakota Tioga spill 19,000 gallons of brine saltwater chemical petroleum mix
  20. 3/5/15 Galena Illinois near Dubuque Iowa a unit oil train, 103 tanker cars derailed and exploded along the Galena River.  1 mile evacuation
  21. 3/7/15 Gogama, Ontario 94 car oil train had 35 CPC-1232 oil tanker cars derail, with 5 falling into the Makami River, explosion and fire.
  22. 5/6/15 Heimdal, ND another train blew up with 6 tankers carrying 180,000 gallons of Bakken Crude exploding.  Heimdal was evacuated.  Four separate fire department were dispatched and two Hazmat teams.  The EPA is monitoring air quality.  It is the fifth explosion in 2015 to date.  This one was using the updated tanker cars, CPC-1232.
  23. 7/1/16 Maryville Tennessee just south of Knoxville, one CSX car derailed, broke an axle and punctured the tanker and sparked a huge fire, which burned for over a day.  The car was carrying Acrylonitrile, used in making plastics.
  24. When it burns it releases cyanide gas, which can be fatal.  Evacuated a 2 mile radius, and 5,000 people.  Ten cops were hospitalized due to exposure.  55 were hospitalized with 25 admitted to the hospital.
  25. 11/7/15 Alma Wisconsin 25 cars derailed and fell into the river with 20,000 gallons of ethanol spilled into the Mississippi River, highways closed, residents evacuated
  26. 11/8/15 Watertown Wisconsin, near Milwaukee, 110 car oil train, 13 cars derailed, 100s of gallons of crude oil spilled, Homes Evacuated
[We’ve added links to news sources for the first ten. The rest can be looked up using your favorite search engine.]

Oakland’s state senator, Loni Hancock, found that 92% of her district’s constituents oppose the proposed Oakland coal-export terminal. Please stand up and be counted at the 27 June council vote!