California ill-prepared to face soaring oil imports risks: Safety Group

California ill-prepared to face soaring oil imports risks: Safety Group

California should take additional safety measures to address the potential risks of increased oil transportation by rail as the state is currently ill-prepared for any such risk, the California Interagency Rail Safety Group said.

During a joint hearing of the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee and the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, the safety group warned that oil transportation by rail could cause explosions or environmental damage in the Golden State. It acknowledged that steps have been taken to address potential risks, but they are inadequate.

The group stressed that the federal government as well as the railroad industry should be pressed to take more safety measures.

The safety group’s report concluded, “In sum, while the federal actions taken to date are significant, they do not go far enough to address the risks. The state should press both the federal government and the railroad industry to take additional safety measures.”

The group recommended the state government should strengthen its inspection and enforcement staff, and provide more funding for local emergency responders.

As per figures released by the California Energy Commission, rail oil imports to California increased from 70 tank cars in 2009 to more than 9,500 tank cars in 2013. A fresh estimate suggests that the shipments could increase to up to 230,000 carloads by the year of 2016.

Trains carrying crude oil travel via the Feather River Canyon or Donner Pass to the San Francisco Bay Area, while trains bound for Los Angeles pass through the Tehachapi Pass. Any leakage or explosion can create a massive environmental hazard in these areas.

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