Gas-filled railroad cars pose constant danger

Posted on November 2, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun
The cause of the recent explosion and fire at the NuStar Energy refinery in Crockett (Contra Costa County) has not been revealed. What is known, however, is that the refinery reported, “…nothing out of the ordinary was taking place before two storage tanks suddenly burst into flames!” Also, “there was no preliminary warning or prediction that a problem existed.”

The Northern Pacific Railroad in November usually starts warehousing tankers in Schellville fully loaded with Liquid Petroleum Gas on SMART owned tracks. Presently there are approximately 100 cars parked on the SMART tracks. When loaded with volatile LPG for the winter, the number rises to nearly 200.

These dangerous products have been at the heart of over 75 rail accidents in the U.S. and Canada since 2012. The many businesses and tourist destinations in the Arnold/Fremont/Eighth Street East quadrangle are in constant danger. For example, Sonoma Creek presently breeches a Millerick Road extension and has formed a lake near the tankers where none existed last year. The rainy season has yet to begin.

Recall the tankers were moved near the raceway last winter due to subsidence and fear of derailment. Whether the cause is negligence, earthquake, fire, flood, or mischief, Sonoma County must take steps to have SMART, NPRR, and the State either close this facility or construct costly protective systems.

TV viewers of the NuStar fire in Crockett saw the blown roofs of holding tanks drenched in a continuous flow of chemical foam. This dangerous by-product of an accident would inundate waters of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the detriment of animals, birds, and aquatic life.

We must act today. Write SMART and Sonoma County authorities today asking for immediate removal of the LPG tankers in the Schellville slough. An explosion and fire from one or 190 LPG tankers needs prevention. (5401 Old Redwood Highway, Ste. 200, Petaluma, CA. 94954, [email protected][email protected])

–Tom Martin, Sonoma

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