Crude Oil Rail Meeting Sparks Questions in Fairfield

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FAIRFIELD --

Oil is coming out of Middle America and needs to get to refineries somehow. Lots more of it, orders of magnitude more, is moving by rail.

But that means more accidents.

"In 2013 alone, we had more crude oil spills by rail than in every year since 1975 combined -- 1.1 million gallons. But thus far in 2014 we've already surpassed that," said Antonia Juhasz, an author and investigative reporter sitting on a panel about oil transport through Solano County.

If Valero gets plans approved for a new refinery complex in Benicia, a lot more oil will be loaded on trains, coming this way.

"Our business is dealing with flammable liquids. We deal with it every day. I'm confident in our preparations," said Chris Howe, with Velaro in Benicia.

For those gathered at today meeting in Solano county who don't want the crude rolling through their backyards, it's not clear how much choice they have.

"Freight railroads in the United States are actually required to accept any commodity that is delivered to us by our customers, so long as it's packaged according to U.S. Department of Transportation regulations," said Liisa Stark, spokesperson for Union Pacific.

The federal government right now is considering stricter standards for the kinds of train cars the crude can be transported in.

But can the wheels of government keep pace with the wheels on the rail?

"It must. If it's not going to happen at the federal level, it has to happen at the state level. If it's not going to happen at the state level it has to happen at the community level. There are communities all across the country that are banning crude by rail," Juhasz said.

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