“Seeking middle ground” (Oct. 29) tries to gloss over the increasingly obvious problems with the proposal to transport crude oil by rail to the Phillips 66 refinery. The author attempts to oversimplify and dismiss the L.A. Times investigation of the apparent role of oil trains in track failure. His anecdotal opinion that oil trains could have nothing to do with track failure is contrary to the findings of Canada’s Safety Transportation Board and the Times’ analysis of oil train accident reports that found “track problems were blamed in 59 percent of the crashes, more than double the overall rate for freight train accidents.”
The author disputes the claim that “all or even most [of] the oil would be oil sands crude from Alberta.” Readers may consult the Phillips 66 project’s administrative record at slocounty.ca.gov and the comments of Greg Karras, a scientist with 30 years of experience in industrial and environmental investigation in the energy sector, including petroleum refining. In reviewing the draft environmental impact report, he found that “the examples of ‘potential crude by rail sources’ given are bitumen-derived oils extracted from the Alberta tar sands (RDEIR at 2-33.2). These disclosures, and the tar sands’ predominance among North American sources of oils with the high density and viscosity thus disclosed, indicate that tar sands oils would likely dominate the new crude source.”
On the demonstrated volatility of tar sands diluted bitumen, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in the world, and the health issues that would arise from the off-gassing of its high sulfur, lead, and benzene content as such trains traverse California en route to the Santa Maria Refinery, the author is silent. The citizens of San Luis Obispo and surrounding counties should not be.
-- Andrew Christie - Director, Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club