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Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Calif. Oil Transfers

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Friday, January 30, 2015   

Environmental groups are suing over the expansion of one of the state's largest crude-oil operations.

The lawsuit contends that the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District illegally approved permits without environmental review of the risks of importing millions of gallons of toxic and potentially explosive oil.

Matt Krough, campaign director for ForestEthics, said 5 million Californians live in the evacuation zone for an oil train derailment or explosion. He said it's too dangerous to allow the Bakersfield Crude Terminal to increase traffic without investigating the threat to air quality and public safety.

"You see the potential for these oil trains passing through every major population center of California," he said, "crossing critical waterways and aquifer recharge zones, crossing through valuable farmland."

The lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice, maintains that Air District officials approved the permits in a piecemeal fashion to keep the project from getting public scrutiny.

The Kern County terminal opened last year and is allowed to accept up to 100 crude-oil trains a day, including those carrying volatile crude from the Bakken shale formation as well as heavier and highly toxic tar sands.

According to the California Energy Commission, oil shipments by railroad into California have hit an all-time record, which Krough said also increases the risk of a disastrous spill.

"That's rare, but it's a real risk," he said. "The other side, though, is that there is a chronic exposure for people all along the rail route to emissions from the trains in transit, and from this terminal itself."

Krough said California's weather also is a hazard for trains carrying volatile crude oil.

"These tank cars, black ones, coming through California in the summer - and you actually have boiling contents, with the constant popping of these pressure-released valves," he said. "This is the sort of thing that needs to be studied and understood."

The lawsuit contends that the expansion of the Bakersfield Crude Terminal could lead to a 1,000 percent increase in the amount of crude imported by rail into California each year.

The petition is online at earthjustice.org.


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