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Challenging Crude-by-Rail Shipments to California's Bay Area

The City of Richmond, home to a Chevron refinery and tank farm, is already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.

The City of Richmond in California's Bay Area is already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

Case Overview

Earthjustice, on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to halt the shipment of highly explosive and toxic crude oil into the City of Richmond, a community already burdened by intense pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.

The Air District issued Kinder Morgan a permit to operate its crude-by-rail project in early February, without any notice to the public or environmental and health review. The case asks the court to halt operations immediately while the project undergoes a full and transparent review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Members of the Richmond community, perhaps even members of the BAAQMD’s Board of Directors, did not know that a permit to transport crude oil had been issued for over a month. According to longtime resident of Richmond and CBE organizer Andres Soto, the community is tired of being blind-sided and ignored.

Berkeley and Richmond city councils have voted to oppose crude-by-rail plans that involved trains running through their cities. The number of trains carrying crude oil around the country has risen dramatically in the last two to three years, due to the increased drilling in both the Alberta tar sands in Canada and the Bakken shale oil area of North Dakota.

The California Public Utilities Commission, office of Rail Safety, released a report in November 2013 listing a number of alarming railway safety concerns associated with the increased movement of crude oil by rail through California. The report specifically identifies California’s railroad bridges as a significant rail safety risk.

Bakken crude is extremely explosive and toxic. In January of 2014, the U.S. federal agency that regulates hazardous materials on the rails issued an alert, stating that Bakken crude may be more flammable than other types of crude. And in July of 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a town in Quebec, Canada, killing 47 local residents and destroying most of the downtown area.

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Case Updates

April 4, 2014 | In the News: SF Gate

Oil Trains into Richmond Spark Lawsuit

A lawsuit was filed against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for approving permits which have allowed the company Kinder Morgan to unload oil trains at a Richmond facility originally built to unload ethanol, without studying how the switch could affect the environment and public safety. “These things are going in without a lot of thought to their safety, their impact on the environment and their possible health effects.

March 27, 2014 | In the News: KPIX 5

Lawsuit Filed Over Approval of Crude by Rail Project in the Bay Area

Highly explosive fracked crude oil from shale fields in North Dakota has been travelling through Richmond by train for 6 months; the Bay Area Air Quality Management District approved the project without any environmental review. Earthjustice filed a lawsuit to shut down the terminal until a full environmental impact report is completed.