December 10, 2016

Bay Area cities oppose dangerous fuels by rail

On March 25th, both Berkeley and Richmond passed resolutions opposing the dangerous transport of crude by rail through their city limits.

Oil companies are switching over to more unconventional–and dangerous–types of crude, yet using the same infrastructure to transport, store, and process the crudes as before. According to the Association of American Railroads, the United States rail system transported 407,642 carloads of crude oil in 2013, up from 9,500 carloads in 2008. Yet not much has been done to upgrade the tracks or railcars that are carrying the crude. And that has Bay Area cities worried.

Rail is a federally regulated transport system, which means that local cities and counties don’t actually have the power to stop these dangerous fossil-fuel-filled trains from running through them. They do, however, have jurisdiction over the local emergency-response systems, and can weigh in on whether the end infrastructure, such as a refinery expansion, should be built. The resolution Richmond passed calls on the federal government to fast-track updated rail regulations to properly address the huge amounts of crude transported by rail. The Berkeley resolution calls on a slew of state, regional, and local officials and agencies to take actions such as a moratorium on new crude-by-rail projects until we’ve studied the impacts, and to weigh in on refinery-project environmental reviews to oppose the new projects.

Cities and counties passing resolutions opposing crude, as well as dirty coal and petroleum coke (see page H), rolling through their cities by rail will raise the public awareness of these issues and help ensure that we have all the facts about how new fossil-fuel infrastructure projects would impact the Bay Area and the whole state. In the coming weeks and months, the Sierra Club will be working to get resolutions like this passed through many cities and counties along the rail lines up and down California. The Bay Chapter will focus on cities along the rail routes in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, and is working with officials in Oakland and Richmond to pass these resolutions this spring.


Help pass a resolution against dirty oil, coal, and petroleum coke in your city! For materials and help getting started, contact Chapter conservation organizer Jess Dervin-Ackerman at or (510)848-0800, ext. 304.

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