For Immediate Release, July 15, 2015
||Staci Maiers, National Education Association, (202) 270-5333 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Claudia Briggs, California Teachers Association, (916) 325-1551, email@example.com
Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 274-9713, firstname.lastname@example.org
NEA Opposes California's Phillips 66 Oil-train Project Over Risks to Students
Dangerous Bomb Trains Would Threaten Hundreds of California Schools
WASHINGTON— Out of concern for the safety and wellbeing of students and teachers, the National Education Association today opposed the proposed Phillips 66 oil-train offloading facility in San Luis Obispo County. If approved the project would bring millions of gallons of hazardous crude oil nearly every day through highly populated areas near hundreds of schools.
With nearly 3 million members in 50 states and the District of Columbia, NEA is the nation’s largest professional employee organization and union. Its Representative Assembly voted earlier this month to send a letter urging the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to reject the project permit.
The NEA letter notes that at least 29 schools in San Luis Obispo County alone are close enough to the planned crude-by-rail route to suffer catastrophic consequences from a train derailment or an oil spill. “Please put student safety first,” the letter urges.
“Our members are concerned for the safety, health and wellbeing of their students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Hundreds of schools across California are within a mile of the potential ‘blast zone’ and could suffer catastrophic consequences in the event of a train derailment or oil spill.”
The county’s planning commission is expected to vote on the project in the coming months.
Thirteen school boards and five teachers’ unions in California have publicly opposed the Phillips 66 project, including in Ventura, Martinez and Oakland. Last month both the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers sent letters to county officials urging them to deny the project, citing the high risk of train derailment and toxic diesel emissions, which are especially harmful to children.
“Our schoolchildren at these schools are in extreme risk if there is a major oil-train accident," said Kathleen Minck, 30-year elementary school teacher and member of the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association, which sent a letter of opposition to the project last month. "Also, increasing air pollution from the trains will affect all our children with asthma, even in the absence of a major accident.”
Nearly 20 local governments along the rail route affected by the Santa Maria Phillips 66 project have also submitted letters or passed resolutions against the project, including San Jose, Berkeley, Davis and Ventura County. More than 23,000 people from across California have also voiced opposition to the project.
“Teachers across America want San Luis Obispo’s dangerous oil-train project stopped in its tracks,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “County officials must understand that approving this facility would endanger hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren across California and beyond. It’s critical not to put schools and communities in the path of these explosive bomb trains.”
The nearly 3 million-member NEA is the largest professional employee organization and labor union in the country — representing public school teachers and other support personnel, faculty and staffers, retired educators, and college students preparing to become teachers — with affiliate organizations representing 14,000 school communities in every state and the District of Columbia as well as educators working on military bases in the United States and abroad.
In 2015 there have already been five major fiery oil-train derailments, including in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario. In May the U.S. Department of Transportation released new rail tank car regulations, which will take 10 years to be phased in — and which still leave the public at severe risk from oil trains.
Shipments of crude oil by rail have increased by 4,000 percent since 2008. More oil was spilled in train accidents in 2013 than in the previous 38 years combined, and in 2014 there were more oil train accidents than in any other year on record.