SANTA BARBARA, CA — Dozens of Santa Barbarans gathered Saturday morning at the Moreton Bay Fig Tree near the Amtrak station to highlight the dangers inherent in transporting oil by rail, and to oppose the proposed Phillips 66 rail spur. The protest, organized by Food & Water Watch, the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Sierra Club and Santa Barbara County Action Network, was part of the Stop Oil Trains Week of Action coordinated across North America by ForestEthics and Center for Biological Diversity.
Food & Water Watch and ForestEthics calculate that 125,000 residents of Santa Barbara County live in the “blast zone,” which is the one-mile evacuation zone recommended by safety officials in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. ForestEthics calculates that nationwide, 25 million Americans live in the blast zone.
Residents held signs and chanted in opposition to the oil industry’s proposal to move millions of gallons of highly toxic, potentially explosive crude oil through Santa Barbara Country in unsafe rail cars over tracks that were never designed for this dangerous cargo.
“We can’t put the profits of Phillips 66 above the health and safety of residents,” said Becca Claassen, Santa Barbara County Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Train routes were designed to connect people and communities, not to expose us to explosive oil trains carrying the dirtiest fracked oil, and Bakken and tar sands crude.“
Phillips 66 is attempting to build a rail spur that will result in millions of gallons of this crude coming through Santa Barbara County communities. Dozens of communities along the tracks have written letters to the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission requesting that they deny this dangerous proposal.
“As a County Supervisor representing coastal communities located within a potential blast zone of an oil train, I have strong concerns regarding the increased public safety risks and environmental impacts of this project,” said Supervisor Salud Carbajal. “Accidents happen when transporting oil, as demonstrated by the 2013 Lac-Magentic, Quebec derailment and the recent Plains Refugio Oil Spill which took place in an area within the travel corridor of the oil trains. “
On July 6, citizens of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, gathered for the solemn anniversary of the tragic 2013 oil train derailment that decimated their community. If the Phillips 66 spur were approved, Santa Barbarans would face the threat of a similar accident. The ForestEthics Blast-Zone.org map shows that allowing oil trains to travel through Santa Barbara County threatens homes, schools and hospitals.
“Unless you’ve been stranded on a remote island for the past six months, the number of oil train derailments in the news is positively eye-opening,” said Fran Farina with the local Sierra Club’s Los Padres Chapter. “Even at very low speeds like 23 mph and outfitted with newer tank cars, the explosions have been devastating. The only way we can protect ourselves from similar accidents is to say ‘no’ to the proposed Phillips 66 project in San Luis Obispo County because the railroad tracks they would use run right through Santa Barbara County.”
Participants in the protest emphasized the May 19 Plains All American Pipeline oil spill as a reminder that oil spills of all sizes cause devastating and lasting negative impacts and threats to human health, wildlife and the environment.
“We’ve seen the disastrous result of the recent Plains oil spill, which Plains reported as about 100,000 gallons,” said Ken Hough with Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN). “Imagine the catastrophe that would ensue if one of the current trains from the San Ardo oil field traveling to Los Angeles carrying up to three million gallons of crude was to derail on a trestle along our coast. Now imagine the same accident, but with the far more volatile Canadian tar sands that would likely be coming through Santa Barbara County if the Phillips 66 Rail Spur is approved.”
SBCAN has published a paper detailing the risks and impacts of oil train traffic in Santa Barbara County. It can be viewed at: http://www.sbcan.org/issue_papers.
“Consider the impacts on the people and their property,” said Hough, “if an oil train disaster ever happens in one of our communities.”
Are you in the Blast Zone? The ForestEthics oil train blast zone mapping tool is available at www.Blast-Zone.org.
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food and water we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control. www.foodandwaterwatch.org