The City Council of Oakland, California has passed a resolution opposing the transport of coal, oil, petcoke (a byproduct of the oil refining process) and other hazardous materials by railways and waterways within the city.
The resolution is a response to “a new push by the fossil fuel industry to transport, export, and/or refine coal, crude oil and petroleum coke (“petcoke”)… on the West Coast and in California,” as well as efforts by California refineries to build new rail terminals that would allow them to import more crude oil from the tar sands in Canada and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.
Crude-by-rail shipments are expected to travel through some of California's most ecologically sensitive areas, as well as some of its most populated cities.
Oakland's resolution is the first of its kind for California, as it goes further than similar resolutions passed by Berkeley and Richmond opposing crude-by-rail.
“Oakland is leading the way for Californians who want to tell Big Coal and Big Oil that we cannot bear the risk they impose upon on our town,” said Lynette Gibson McElhaney, one of three council members who sponsored the resolution.
State legislators are also taking steps to minimize the threat to California's ecosystems and human health posed by shipping fossil fuels via rail. The state will soon begin charging a 6.5-cent fee on every barrel of oil shipped by rail into the state or piped within the state, which is expected to raise some $11 million in its first year. The funds will be used to better train and equip first responders in spill response, with a special focus on spills in waterways, and to hire more rail inspectors.
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