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County Begins Work on Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Plan

December 19, 2014

In September, Placer County’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), partnering with Nevada County, was awarded a $64,000 federal grant to prepare a Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness plan. This money, along with a local funding match of $16,000, will provide $80,000 to create a plan. Developing such a plan arose from the nationwide increase in rail shipments carrying bulk oil and other hazardous materials.

With the grant funding secured, work on the plan has begun and OES, working with local partners, is heading the effort. Partners include: Cal OES, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Response, Calfire, Kinder-Morgan, Union Pacific Railroad, California Department of Toxics Substance Control, the City of Roseville, the City of Rocklin and and fire and law enforcement agencies and towns along the rail line in Placer and Nevada County.

Concern about crude oil shipments through Placer County, its environs and California has become topical because of the dramatic increases in crude oil production from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Crude oil from the Bakken now makes up more than 10 percent of the domestically produced crude oil. North Dakota is now only surpassed by the state of Texas in terms of oil production.  

Presently, there is no Bakken crude oil being shipped through California on Union Pacific Railroad (UP) lines. However, with oil reserves in the Bakken estimated to be in the billions of barrels, the potential exists for that crude to eventually be shipped on UP rail lines to refineries throughout California. UP’s J.R. Davis Roseville Yard is the largest on the West Coast and on a daily basis, handles thousands of rail cars.  

Oil production in North Dakota has outstripped the capacity of existing pipelines to carry the crude to refineries, which has led to the increased use of rail cars and trucks. There have been several high profile train derailments involving rail cars carrying Bakken crude, resulting in deaths, fires, evacuations, environmental contamination and significant cleanup costs. Several years ago, rail cars carrying propane derailed near Lincoln and one car was breached. While emergency responders were able to prevent an explosion, the incident showed a very real possibility for such an incident happening in Placer County.

With many California refineries located in, and railroad tracks passing though, populated areas, Placer County’s OES recognized the need for planning in the event of an incident with rail cars carrying crude oil. OES applied for the grant earlier this year. The County will tailor its plan to specifics of the area, including the rail traffic, terrain and availability of resources.

Placer County expects to have the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness plan finalized in the fall of 2015, ensuring that should an incident occur the County will have already taken steps to deal with it.

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