| SAN FRANCISCO, June 18
SAN FRANCISCO, June 18 The Oakland City Council
has unanimously backed a resolution opposing the use of the
city's rail lines to transport crude oil and coal, a move that
supporters hope will call attention to proposed projects that
would sharply increase the amount of such cargo rolling through
the densely populated city.
The resolution will not halt crude oil trains from entering
Oakland since U.S. railroads are federally regulated, but
backers hope it will stoke debate about plans for export
facilities that would boost demand.
Backers of the resolution are particularly concerned about a
proposed upgrade to Phillips 66's Santa Maria refinery
that would allow it to take in more crude oil from North Dakota
on trains that would pass by rail through Oakland.
They are also worried about the redevelopment of the Oakland
Army Base, which includes the building of a commodities facility
that they believe will be used to export coal. The coal would
also be moved through the city by rail.
"These proposed export facilities are a serious threat to
Oakland and the East Bay communities," said Jess Dervin-Ackerman
of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club.
"If oil and coal companies have their way, the Bay Area will
become the biggest fossil fuel export hub on the West Coast,"
The fuels will not be consumed in the Bay Area, she added,
but would just pass through the area on their way to overseas
California has in recent years seen a surge in crude oil
arriving by rail on the back of an oil boom in North Dakota's
Bakken shale formation and in Canada, prompting safety and
Crude oil-by-rail shipments into California increased from
about 70 rail tanker carloads in 2009 to nearly 9,500 carloads
in 2013, according to state regulators. They are projected to
soar in the next few years.
Last July, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec,
when a freight train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and
exploded. Since then, there have been a number of fiery
derailments in the United States that have caused environmental
damage, but no fatalities.
Separately, the Oakland City Council on Tuesday night
unanimously passed a resolution to divest money from city
employees from fossil fuel companies, although none of that
money is currently invested in those types of businesses.
The move is intended to put pressure on the California
Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), which does hold
such investments, to follow suit.
CalPERS is one of the country's largest managers of public
pensions, with $288 billion in retiree assets under management.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by G Crosse)