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California to see surge in oil brought in by rail

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) _ California is preparing for an oil boom -- brought in on rail cars.

There are no pipelines that bring crude oil into California. For decades, the fuel that powers the state's 32 million vehicles has come from tanker ships or in-state production.

But government regulators predict a surge in U.S. oil production will means a steep increase in the number of trains carrying it to California refineries.

The Ventura County Star reported (http://bit.ly/1jCCGBR ) Sunday that the increase in rail traffic will happen quickly, jumping from 9,000 carloads in 2011 to more than 200,000 carloads by 2016, according to California Energy Commission estimates.

Within a few years, analysts predict 25 percent of oil consumed in California will arrive at state refineries by rail.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, five California refineries have facilities either about to come online or in the planning stages that will let them receive crude-oil deliveries by rail.

The newspaper said state and local agencies are reviewing plans for responding to possible spills and derailments, with more trains carrying oil through mountain passes, over bridges that cross nearly every major waterway and through the neighborhoods of millions of Californians.

Gov. Jerry Brown has asked lawmakers for an additional $6.7 million for oil-spill response. In its request, the administration noted the increased rail shipments will consist mostly of North Dakota Bakken shale crude oil.

“This type of oil is extremely flammable, and its transport increases the risk of serious accidents,” it says.

Because it contains more natural gas than heavier crude, Bakken oil can have a lower ignition point.

To date, the increased traffic has been mostly in Northern California, involving trains bound for refineries in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Diane Bailey, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the newspaper that statistics from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration show there were more rail accidents involving oil spills last year than over the previous 30 years combined.

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Information from: Ventura County Star, http://venturacountystar.com

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