SACRAMENTO — Three years ago Wednesday, 47 people were killed when a train carrying crude oil derailed in a small town in Quebec, Canada. On this tragic anniversary, dozens in Sacramento rallied to protest against oil trains traveling through Northern California.
A group of activists, the Sacramento Oil Trains Coalition, is concerned about the new type of oil that is now traveling the lines.
“We’re talking about bringing in this Bakken crude or the Canadian tar sands, it’s very volatile explosive crude oil, we don’t need that here in Sacramento,” said Chris Brown, the organizer of Wednesday’s event.
It’s the same type of oil that exploded during a derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people July 6, 2013. Members of the Sacramento Oil Trains Coalition read the names of the victims at Wednesday’s protest.
“I was very surprised that this was happening in my own backyard,” said protester Valerie Williams who lives in South Sacramento.
The last several years, Union Pacific said crude oil has been passing by Sacramento, heading south to a transfer station outside Bakersfield and also heading west to refineries in Richmond. And the Valero Refining company has applied to run two trains daily through Sacramento to its plant in Benicia. There the city planning commission voted down Valero’s request in February, but the refinery has appealed the decision.
“We don’t need this particular kind of crude with all of its hazards added to what we already have, we need to be figuring out how to get rid of what we have, not add more to it,” Brown said.
Despite its recent derailment in Oregon, Union Pacific said its record speaks for itself.
“Our safety and statistics specifically with crude oil has a 99.9% of the time making it from its origination to its destination without incident,” said Justin Jacobs, a spokesperson for Union Pacific.
Jacobs said his company cannot release the exact amount of crude oil it transports through Sacramento.
“As far as train schedules, and what’s on it, and those type of things, yeah, for security reasons, we don’t release specific information,” Jacobs said.
Valero has said in the past that their carbon footprint is actually larger now transporting that crude oil by tanker over sea than it would be by train over land.