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Oil Trains 

Reuters, October 9, 2014

Green groups sue over expansion of California crude by rail
By Rory Carroll

Oct 9 (Reuters) - California environmentalists on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the Kern County Board of Supervisors for its approval last month of a major oil-by-rail project in the state, saying the county failed to disclose the risks of the project to the public.

In September, the board voted unanimously in favor of Alon USA Energy Inc's plan, which would increase the terminal's offloading capacity of crude from railcars to as high as 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the current 13,000 bpd.

The $100 million project would also see the reopening of the company's shuttered Bakersfield refinery, which was closed two years ago because it was unprofitable.

The facility seeks to capitalize on booming inland U.S. and Canadian output of crude oil, which is cheaper than imports that make up more than half of all crude processed in the state.

Fiery derailments of trains carrying crude from North Dakota's Bakken shale formation have raised concerns about the safety of transporting oil in railcars.

The Board of Supervisors had conducted a lengthy environmental review of the project. But groups behind the lawsuit, including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, said the board underestimated the risks from increased pollution and the likelihood of catastrophic accidents along the rail routes.

"This dangerous plan would send huge trains full of explosive crude through California communities completely unprepared to cope with a devastating rail accident," said Kassie Siegel, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Kern County supervisors broke the law by rushing to approve a project that will pollute the Central Valley's air and put thousands of unsuspecting people in the path of these hazardous bomb trains," she said.

Theresa Goldner, an attorney for Kern County, said the board approved the project's environmental impact report (EIR) after a full and complete public process.

"The board's decision to approve the EIR was legal in all respects and we will vigorously oppose the petition," she said.

Alon Chief Executive Officer Paul Eisman told the board that the project could start up by the third quarter next year.

The case in Superior Court of the state of California, County of Kern, is Association of Irritated Residents et al., vs. Kern County Board of Supervisors, case number S-1500-CV-283166. (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by David Gregorio)


© Thomson Reuters 2014.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton