Mayor Pugh Signs Landmark Bill to Protect City from Dangerous Crude Oil Shipments

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Mayor Pugh signed the Crude Oil Terminal Prohibition, which the Baltimore City Council passed in a sweeping 14-1 vote to protect Baltimoreans from dangerous crude oil shipments and climate change.

BALTIMORE, MD — Today Mayor Catherine Pugh signed the Crude Oil Terminal Prohibition, protecting Baltimoreans from an increase in dangerous crude-by-rail traffic and positioning Baltimore as a national leader on climate action.

On March 12, the Baltimore City Council took a stand for healthy communities and a stable climate by passing the bill 14-1 to ban new or expanded crude oil terminals in the city. Additional or expanded terminals would bring more trains carrying crude oil through Baltimore neighborhoods, increasing the likelihood of a catastrophic explosion and enabling expanded oil drilling across North America.

“Mayor Pugh has shown that Baltimore can be a national leader in policies that protect our people and the planet from crude oil. By cutting off the demand for crude oil trains to travel to and from Baltimore, we protect both our own residents and communities along the rail route,” said Jennifer Kunze of Clean Water Action. “If other cities follow Baltimore’s lead, we can all protect each other.”

“This bill is a common sense step to protect the communities of Baltimore most at risk from transport of crude oil and to limit the expansion of climate-polluting fossil fuels” said Leah Kelly, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project.  “We don’t need more of these potentially hazardous crude oil shipment facilities in the city.”

“This bill not only limits the potential for an increase in dangerous crude-by-rail transit in Baltimore, it also protects our city from the larger impacts of climate change,” said Taylor Smith-Hams of CCAN Action Fund. “By signing this bill, Mayor Pugh has upheld her commitment to take action on climate change in the face of dangerous federal deregulation and climate denial.”

Background: Starting about a decade ago, transport of crude oil by rail skyrocketed in the midst of the fracking boom in the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota and in tar sands extraction in Canada, and a string of derailments followed. The worst incident occurred when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013, killing 47 people and leveling the town.

165,000 Baltimoreans live in the crude oil train “blast zone” – the area that could be directly impacted if a train were to derail and explode in the city. There have been many close calls with freight trains and rail infrastructure in Baltimore, including the 2001 and 2016 derailments inside the Howard Street Tunnel and the collapse of 26th Street onto the CSX tracks below in 2014.

While crude-by-rail transit has declined somewhat the last two years as the price of oil has dropped, from 2009 to 2014 rail transit of petroleum multiplied because of the hydraulic fracturing boom.  Recently, the International Energy Agency predicted that crude-by-rail shipments could see “colossal” growth over the next two years. The IEA estimates that crude-by-rail exports from Canada to the U.S. could more than double over the next two years, increasing to 390,000 barrels per day in 2019, up from 150,000 barrels a day in late 2017.

The last time there was a spike in crude-by-rail shipments, Baltimore saw a proposal for a new crude oil terminal that would have brought an additional 380 million gallons of crude oil through the city annually. That terminal was opposed by surrounding communities and failed to gain approval from the state environmental agency due to a flawed permit application.

Portland, OR, Vancouver, WA, and South Portland, ME have used their zoning codes to guard against crude oil facilities. By passing this bill, Baltimore has positioned itself as a leader on the East Coast and joined the ranks of cities taking serious climate action.

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CONTACT:

Jennifer Kunze; Clean Water Action; 240-397-4126; jkunze@cleanwater.org
Taylor Smith-Hams; CCAN Action Fund; 650-704-3208; taylor@chesapeakeclimate.org
Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project; 443-510-2574; tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org