MARTINEZ -- Two bills in the state Legislature that would beef up responses to oil spills, tighten reporting requirements, mandate increased inspection of railroad track and other infrastructure, and broaden fees -- all related to the transport of crude oil by rail -- met with varying enthusiasm from Contra Costa County supervisors Tuesday.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed Assembly Bill 380, which would require railroads to report details of transports of hazardous materials, such as routes, cargo and types of rail car, to the state Office of Emergency Services on a quarterly basis.
But the board declined to add an amendment, suggested by county hazardous materials ombudsman Michael Kent, recommending the reports be made public, after Supervisor Candace Andersen cited concern for proprietary information of industry.
The board only mustered a 3-2 vote to endorse Senate Bill 1319, which generally extends state oversight and prevention measures previously limited to crude oil transport by sea to all modes of transport, including rail, pipeline and on state waterways. The bill also mandates increased training for emergency responders and beefs up planning and response measures in the event of spills.
Federal regulations are largely perceived to pre-empt state control over railroads.
Under the bill, the current fee on crude oil that enters the state by ship would extend to crude brought in by any mode of transportation, including rail and pipeline. The fee would remain the same, at 6.5 cents per barrel of oil. The fee is supposed to cover costs of spill prevention and response.
Supervisors Mary Piepho and Andersen voted no. Piepho said she opposes giving "an open-ended, blank check to the state" and warned that fees would be passed along to consumers.
The board votes came at a time of growing public alarm over the increase of crude oil imported from the Midwest and Canada to California refineries. In one year, crude oil shipments by rail into California increased more than fivefold, from about 1.1 million barrels in 2012 to about 6.3 million barrels in 2013, according to figures compiled by the California Energy Commission.
SB1319 was supported by a long list of environmental groups and the California Fire Chiefs Association. Petroleum and other industry groups as well as the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.