For generations of Americans, the rhythmic sound of a distant freight train has inspired dreams of freedom and possibility. But the trains rolling through Northern California communities may soon carry massive charges of highly toxic tar sands crude. Rather than hopeful dreams, these trains could bring nightmarish catastrophes to the heart of San Jose's downtown neighborhoods.
Oil giant Phillips 66 is agitating to upgrade its Santa Maria refinery near San Luis Obispo to build a rail spur that will enable it to begin receiving oil trains carrying massive loads of noxious tar sands crude. If approved, these oil trains will roll through thousands of California communities, including downtown San Jose, threatening our safety, air, water and climate. Even Phillips 66 admits transporting this oil will result in "significant and unavoidable" levels of toxic air pollution to the towns along the route.
The mile-long trains transport millions of gallons of volatile oil in unsafe tank cars that are prone to derailing and exploding. California's railways weren't built to transport this noxious oil. If you think oil spills can't happen in San Jose, consider that more rail-transported oil spilled in 2013 than in the four prior decades. Or ask relatives of the 47 people who were incinerated when an oil train exploded in Quebec in July 2013.