Back in August, DeSmog reported on California environmentalists stopping “stealth carbon bombs” in their communities. Now they’re celebrating another victory as a dangerous—and illegal—crude oil transport project in Sacramento has been halted as well.
According to a report by the Sacramento Bee last March, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District first caught InterState Oil Company, a fuel distributor, offloading ethanol without a permit in the fall of 2012. Inspectors with the AQMD then caught InterState transloading crude oil from trains to trucks bound for Bay Area refineries in September of last year, again without a permit.
InterState was not fined for these violations and was even allowed by the AQMD to continue importing ethanol and crude oil into California by train while it sought the necessary permits.
InterState received the permit to transload crude from trains to trucks in March of this year. On September 23, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court on behalf of the Sierra Club challenging what it called the AQMD‘s “furtive approval” of the permit.
The larger issue was that the AQMD had not followed the necessary review process laid out by the California Environmental Quality Act despite the fact that InterState’s operations would significantly increase air pollutants and the company was importing Bakken crude, which is so volatile that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration was forced to issue a safety alert earlier this year.
No opportunity was given to the public to review the permits, and no notice was given to Sacramento emergency responders and other city officials about the handling of highly flammable Bakken crude just 7 miles north of the city, California’s state capital.
In a letter to InterState dated October 21, 2014, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District notified the company that the permits were issued in error and ordered the cessation of all transloading operations.
“This is a huge victory for Sacramento residents and communities across California who are put in harm’s way by trains carrying volatile, hazardous crude that are known to derail and explode,” said Devorah Ancel, Sierra Club staff attorney. “Local, state and federal governments must take further immediate action to notify the public when hazardous crude is railed through their communities.”
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