While I continue to maintain a neutral stance on the Phillips 66 project, I know enough about both the petroleum/refining industry and the railroad industry to know misinformation when I see it. In Natalie Risner's letter in New Times' July 14 issue ("Oil trains are too much risk for our county"), she raises a couple of valid points. However, the statement about diesel particulate matter is largely inaccurate and shows a lack of understanding about the freight railroad industry in general. I suggest she and others concerned about diesel particulate matter do research on Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4 locomotives. The info is out there on the internet. I know Union Pacific has Tier 4 compliant locomotives on order for delivery this year. And she fails to mention an obvious reality: There are more cars, pickup trucks, and tractor trailers, and their emissions, on the local roads than ever before.
Let's also not forget oil trains already do go through San Luis Obispo and have for the last 15 years or so, two to three times per week. They run at night so very few people ever see them, which might be why there are those who continue to deny they even exist.
Lastly, the statement "massive damage up to a half mile" from an oil train derailment in this area is highly questionable. Seriously, that would depend on the type of oil being carried in the tank cars and where it is from, though it's probably based on oil trains carrying Bakken crude oil, an oil that wouldn't be delivered to the P66 refinery. The volatility of crude oil could be determined by its API gravity rating. For example, the current oil trains going through SLO are carrying heavy crude oil with a gravity rating of 14 or less, a far cry from most Bakken crude oil, which has a gravity rating of more than 31.
-- Sam Meyers - Orcutt