Residents to Rally Against Oil Trains, Route through San Jose

A group of South Bay residents plan to rally against a proposed Phillips 66 refinery expansion that would turn the Union Pacific railroad, which cuts through the heart of San Jose, into a route for oil trains.

The proposal would extend the railroad to an 1,800-acre refinery in San Luis Obispo County and allow Phillips 66 to deliver crude oil from Canada on the same line that cuts through Diridon Station.

Concerned residents, who comprise a group called 350 Silicon Valley, worry that the oil trains would imperil the safety of anyone who lives near the tracks. Saturday's protest is part of a nationwide movement and will take place on the two-year anniversary of an oil train explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec.

"We are calling for county planning officials in San Luis Obispo and nationwide to reject planning permission for projects that aim to transport tar sands crude oil by rail or pipeline," Palo Alto resident Steve Eittreim said. "Tar sands need to stay in the ground: there is no safe way to transport them."

The rally will include a number of short speeches, skits and songs to illustrate the dangers of living in what the Department of Transportation calls a "blast zone," a mandatory evacuation area when a trail derails and catches fire. San Francisco-based environmental nonprofit ForestEthics estimated that 195,000 people in San Jose live in a blast zone.

“The Phillips 66 rail project is a disaster waiting to happen,” Valerie Love, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “It’s heartening to see so many speaking out against this facility, including the San Jose City Council. It’s clear that people recognize the danger of this plan and want it stopped in its tracks.”

Eittreim encourages people to RSVP for the rally on the 350 Silicon Valley website. The event will run from 3 to 4pm Saturday outside the SAP Center, which is across the street from Diridon Station.

21 Comments

  1. While everyone was horrified by Lac-Megantic, the people behind this rally want to throw away the baby with the bathwater. When you hear people say that “Tar sands need to stay in the ground: there is no safe way to transport them” you know you are dealing with Luddites who won’t be satisfied by any new safety procedures. Rather than mindlessly complain, we should be supporting safety efforts by the USDOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). New, safer DOT-117 tank cars and operating regulations should improve the situation. Unfortunately, the “back to the stone age” people want to take advantage of tragedy to push an agenda.

    • I bet the rally attendees will arrive in their anthracite powered steamers carrying “Stop Keystone” signs?

    • There is empirical evidence that the transport of tar sands is dangerous. Name calling represents a logical fallacy that in no way supports the argument. I live a few blocks from the train tracks in San Jose. I do not want to see my propert value decrease with the transport of obviously dangerous material through my backyard! Nor do I want to expose my family to potential ongoing and unnecessary health risks not to mention the real possibility of incineration of me and my family!

      The danger is real, obvious, and unnecessary.

      Oppose the transportation of highly toxic and highly flammable tar sands through San Jose!

      Phillips 66 May know the way through San Jose but we must oppose this way at all costs! When the people rise up, the leaders will follow. It is time for the people of San Jose to rise up!!!

  2. I am proud of the people who are organizing this event. We keep hearing of all the accidents involving oil carrying trains. There is no safe way to transport this material and the oil companies and politicians know this. If there is a safe way of doing this please post your ideas and please no name calling.

    • > We keep hearing of all the accidents involving oil carrying trains.

      How do you know that what you “keep hearing” is reality?

      Maybe someone is just putting cherry picked sound bytes into your ear trumpet.

      Try pointing your ear trumpet in a different direction.

  3. I am skeptical, Mr. Ly. Do you believe that the FRA and PHMSA are not in the hip pocket of those they regulate? Think CA PUC and PG&E. I’d rather the tar sands oil be transported to refineries via pipelines that do not pass through inhabited areas. Accidents are inevitable, so let’s try to minimize the damage.

    • Fine. Build pipelines and forget the trains. That’s a valid and constructive idea. But I’m opposed to the Bananas whose motto is “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody” and who say things like “Tar sands need to stay in the ground: there is no safe way to transport them.”

  4. Mr. Ly,

    IMHO the Earth is at a point now, high noon, ground zero, where more of ANYTHING (perhaps excepting education) has hidden costs greater than any claimed benefits: people, improved health, energy consumption, guns, reservoirs, moral high ground — you name it. Way past time to learn how to get along with what we have, not try to get MORE!

    • Hi Rich Persoff,

      Your comment is an ‘assertion’. It is simply your belief, to which you are entitled (although it’s not easy to see what it has to do with the benefits of a proposed rail facility).

      So if I may, I’d like to point out that your kind of baseless assertion has been made throughout the industrial revolution, and well before then, too. But it is no more than a Luddite/Malthusian belief. And it is flat wrong.

      For example, what are those “hidden costs” to antibiotics? Or to the agricultural revolution? Or to electronics? Or to modern medical technology? How about indoor plumbing? Or the eradication of smallpox? Most folks see that the benefits far outweigh any costs. A

      I am willing to bet that you personally take full advantage of all those improvements which are adding to your quality of life, and that you’re taking advantage of everything else that modern technology has provided.

      Next, you mentioned “reservoirs”. Don’t you think we could all use the Auburn dam right now — which was derailed by activists just prior to completion, in favor of a minnow? And why would you advocate stopping at this point with another of your items: “improved health”? That makes no sense either. Don’t you want improved health?

      The political forces at work promoting the “green” agenda have been bad for our country. As Dr. Michael Crichton pointed out, environmentalism is nothing more than a religion, and therefore it requires no more rational thought than any other religion. Because religions are based on blind faith, not on reason. The enviro crowd is nothing if not unreasonable. Just try to argue rationally with one of them.

      However, I would be happy to accept that your beliefs are sincere, if you will assure me that you are doing without the things you criticized and that you will refuse any related improvements. Fair enough?

      • Smokey:

        An excellent assessment of Mr. Persoff.

        Your characterization of him as a Luddite?Malthusian is spot on.

        Even though he has been trained by modernity to look like a modern and speak like a modern, his core ethos is one hundred percent tribalist hunter-gatherer.

        He is the way all humans were 10,000 years ago.

        They lived in tribes. They made their living by hunting in the forest. They followed their shaman and believed he was the voice of god, was responsible for a successful hunt, and guaranteed fairness.

        Everything they needed came from the forest and was “free”.

        They don’t need antibiotics, or indoor plumbing, or improved health because the shaman’s magic provides whatever they need, and if the shaman doesn’t provide it, they don’t need it.

        They especially don’t need agriculture because agriculture takes part of the forest for private use, and they just can’t take whatever they find in someone else’s field or pasture.

        Persoff’s complaint in his posting is that OTHER people are taking things from the forest where HE believes he is entitled to forage and consume.

        And, the bottom line is, his ethos is one hundred percent about HIS consumption, and everyone else in HIS forest is an enemy tribe.

        • how did a discussion about explosive oil trains, routinely traversing densely-populated areas, when more-remote routes already exist, somehow translate to ancient tribes blindly following a shaman? How is it that you know this? Are you older than you appear to be?

          • > how did a discussion about explosive oil trains, routinely traversing densely-populated areas, when more-remote routes already exist, somehow translate to ancient tribes blindly following a shaman?

            It probably does seem a little disconnected to someone who has just joined the conversation.

            Unfortunately, it’s rare that we have the chance to have all things explained to us “from the beginning”.

            Life is like watching a dozen movies at the same time, all “joined in progress”.

  5. I agree with everyone above, except for Aurelia Sanchez. She symbolizes the mush-headed thinking of many of those who nod in unison along with the talking heads on TV, and agenda-driven promoters like Steve Eittreim who are telling people like Aurelia what to think. As someone highly educated in the hard sciences, I just roll my eyes when I read such ignorant statements. They might as well come from a talking parrot.

    Trains are extremely safe. Compare the news reports of train accidents with autos or aircraft. The only safer form of transport is a pipeline. Furthermore, locating this facility nearby would add lots of good paying jobs, and it would add more money to the local tax base.

    The advocacy group ‘350 Silicon Valley’ is named for their stated goal of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to 350 parts per million (ppm), from the current 400 ppm. That would be insane. The biosphere is literally starved of CO2, which has been up to twenty times (20X) higher in the past — without ever causing runaway global warming (and without causing any global warming at all, for that matter).

    CO2 is completely harmless at both current and projected levels, and it is very beneficial to the biosphere; plants simply cannot live without adequate CO2. Below 180 ppm, plants begin to die. And people cannot live without plants. Geologically, CO2 has never been as low as it has been during the current Holocene. The biosphere needs significantly more CO2, not less.

    The rise in harmless, beneficial CO2 over the past century has caused a measured increase in agricultural productivity. The one-third of people on the planet who subsist on less than $2 a day would be facing serious starvation issues if CO2 was reduced, as the 350 Silicon Valley fanatics propose. The world’s poorest simply do not have the extra money to pay for higher food costs. They are living on the edge as it is.

    But that is exactly what the current eco-Narrative demonizing “carbon” is designed to do. If a carbon tax is ever enacted, it will give government bureaucrats their ultimate wet dream: taxing the air we breathe. But it would not alter the planet’s temperature by 0.000001ºC.

    All enviro groups are opposed to the Keystone pipeline. Stopping it is one of their primary objectives, and they do not care that trains are the only practical alternative, or that lowering CO2 to 350 ppm will kill many millions of the world’s poorest through mass starvation. Because the result of lowering CO2 through a carbon tax would be much higher costs for all goods and services, and it would result in global starvation (which would of course be blamed on the same people who are sounding the alarm over their global warming hoax).

    Finally, there has been NO global warming for almost twenty years now. None. And every scary prediction made by the eco-alarmists has failed to happen; they were ALL wrong. In any other field of science, anyone still promoting such a thoroughly falsified and discredited conjecture as ‘man-made global warming’ would be laughed out of academia.

    But the global warming scare still survives, due to the immense number of $billions of taxpayer-funded grants handed out every year to prop it up — and because of millions of mouth-breathing science illiterates, who never question (or even understand) the pseudo-scientific nonsense they’re being fed by self-serving TV personalities and eco-activists.

    • An excellent analysis, Mr. DB. Home run.

      I have likewise spent many hours explaining to the scientifically illiterate many of the points that you have addressed.

      What is truly scary is that the ignoranti have no concept of:

      A. treating the wrong problem, and
      B. overtreating any problem.

      In the medical world, these would be instances of malpractice.

      The level of CO2 in the atmosphere is NOT a problem, and if it were a problem, there is not much that humans can do about it because anything humans do can be erased by one Krakatoa. And, in any case, the atmospheric balance of gases is what it is and is self-corrected by gas exchange with the vast oceans covering the earth’s surface.

      There have been a steady stream of “geo-engineering” schemes to “do something” about global warming, and the public has no idea how dangerous and half-baked these schemes are.

      The notion that the U.N. is going to do something to lower the earth’s temperature overlooks the fact that no one knows what the correct temperature for planet earth is or ought to be. If the people of planet earth allow some politician or bureaucrat to decide the temperature for the planet, chances are it’s going to be someone like Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Is he the right person to set earth’s thermostat? Who is going to tell him he can’t?

      Another huge issue is what the medical industry calls “dose response”. It’s one thing to know that a medicine has an effect on a disease; it’s quite another thing to know how much medicine to give to a patient.

      The medical profession figures out how much medicine to give by means of years and years of careful, expensive clinical trials.

      If the patient is not given enough medicine, the treatment is ineffective; if the patient is given too much medicine, the patient may die.

      This is the problem with mammoth geo-engineering project. It the U.N launches particles into orbit to shield the earth from the sun, and it puts too many particles in orbit, the result could be a life destroying ice age. And the same problems exist with every other potential climate altering geo-engineering scheme.

      The bureaucrats DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING, and they are just guessing.

      In this case, any bad guess could damage of destroy humanity.

      I put a lot of blame on the scientific community for allowing things to get to this precarious state of affairs.

      Every real scientist knows that there is no “ninety-seven percent consensus” among scientists that “we have to do something about global warming”. This is a big lie.

      All scientists need to learn how to be less circumspect when their colleagues support and promote junk science, and to call out the frauds and the grant sluts who have sold their integrity..

  6. your claims about the environment being “starved of CO2″ are completely baseless. How ironic that you and your friends who claim to have technical backgrounds, ignore MOUNTAINS of evidence that excessive CO2 is in fact destroying ecosystems, and combustion of wood and fossil fuels creates plumes that the regional plant live cannot possibly respire back to O2. If these explosive trains ‘create so many jobs” then why aren’t there more people working for the railroads in the areas where the tank trains already run? Really simple: it’s a reverse NIMBY issue; the trains simply go through the populated areas where people do not have the political power to stop them. This is STILL tar sand which creates oil whose quality is not sufficient for consumption in the USA. It is going to China. That is why there were so many objections to “building a pipeline across the USA” to send tar sand to China. If the Canadian oil interests are so reliable, why did the REST of Canada not allow a pipeline to be constructed across Quebec or across three
    provinces to go WEST rather than the same distance across the USA?

    • also especially amusing, the part about “bureaucrats do not know what they are doing”. 1) bureaucrats do not uniquely exist within government; large corporations are every bit as bureaucratic as government, especially those corporations who seek business with government entities, since there tends to be quite a lot of “revolving door” between customer and supplier.
      2) governments routinely engage private consultants and scholastic institutions to do appropriate background research and information gathering. I grant that SMALL government agencies may not have the resources to do very much of this, but I can tell you for a fact, that we do, where we can afford to, and there is a clear benefit to our decision making processes.
      3) if you regard government as so fundamentally foolish, and yourself as so inherently wise, why don’t you run for a government position and bless humankind with your great gifts, rather than simply claim to have them?

  7. > 1) bureaucrats do not uniquely exist within government; large corporations are every bit as bureaucratic as government, especially those corporations who seek business with government entities, since there tends to be quite a lot of “revolving door” between customer and supplier.

    There is an important difference between bureaucrats in government and bureaucrats in the private sector.

    Two words,

    :”You’re fired”.

    These words don’t exist in government.

  8. In a small residential area, Northridge, in the San Fernando they have been planning since 2011 to put another track in behind homes. There was never any warning. A neighbor just happened to go to a council meeting one evening and there was a person representing the Metro line and informed everyone at this meeting, maybe 20 or 30 people that it was coming. There are more than 300 people living in the homes that will be directing impacted by this move.
    If this the reason it was kept secret because the Phillips 66 Company is planning on very long trains for transport. The representatives at Metro say that it is because trains have to stay idle at Chatsworth and Van Nuys waiting for other trains to clear the way in this single track area. What is the truth. I agree there is just too much deception going on with all our bureaucrats any politician involved with allowing this Company to over run our Country should be ousted. November is another time to vote them out of office.

  9. Only 300 people? You forget the rest of the track between those homes ad the rest of Northridge, let alone Winnettka, and Chatsworth..I reside at the Northridge Mobile Home Park, (a Senior Park), which faces Nordhoff Street on the North, the single train track on the South, Vanalden Avenue on the East and Tampa Avenue on the West. This rectangle is a high density area.

    On the South side of Nordhoff Street, which parallels the track, are a bank, a condo apartment building (Artisan Square) with 140 apartments, a RV park with 114 unit spaces, filled with vacationers , our Senior mobile home park, with 168 unit spaces. and Northbrooke Town Houses ending at the wash, on the southeast corner of Vanalden Avenue, consisting of 106 units. Some of these homes, of course, with more than one occupant.

    On the north side of Nordhoff Street are several sets of apartment buildings that run from just East of Tampa for 2 long blocks, high density Just north of these apartment buildings are expensive single home dwellings for miles, again high density two story buildings.

    The nearby two-story Northridge Fashion Center (Shopping Mall) is full of cars and people from 9:30 am to at least 10 pm, with some of the high-end perimeter restaurants, as well as a multi-room movie theater staying open later.

    Imagine an oil tanker train explosion just a block south of the Northridge Shopping Mall on the Raymer to Berman Double Track

    Just South of Nordhoff Street on either side of Tampa Avenue are commercial retail buildings, not to omit COSTCO Warehouse Shopping Center, which also houses a multi-pump gas station with underground tanks.

    And East of us, east of Reseda Blvd and less than a mile north of the track, we have California State University Northridge along with the Valley Performing Arts Center.

    This area is one of several large areas of the San Fernando Valley, with many thousands of residents, who could be impacted by the second track with moving oil tanker cars, its added traffic, and impending catastrophic danger.

    I had previously said that “We, the Northridge-Chatsworth-Van Nuys citizens, need an extensive, well-planned, independent, environmental impact study on the proposed second track, ” Will METRO, Southern Pacific Railroad,, and/or Shell Oil willing to put up a bond payable for this amount? along with the cost of indemnifying all of these properties, loss of life, and injuries that might well occur from oil tanker explosions. . . But extensive Impact Studies have already been done, regarding the the bomb trains on the tracks and the one mile Blast Area.