Calif. lawmaker wants oil trains banned from ‘treacherous passes’

A California state senator has asked Gov. Jerry Brown to stop oil trains from traveling through the state’s “most treacherous” mountain passes.

Sen. Jerry Hill, Democrat of San Mateo, raised alarms about trains traveling through the Feather River Canyon, in eastern California in the Sierra Nevada, after a train carrying corn derailed there last week. The corn spilled down an embankment into a river. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

The Sacramento Bee has more:

“This incident serves as a warning alarm to the state of California,” Hill wrote in a letter to the governor. “Had Tuesday’s derailment resulted in a spill of oil, the spill could have caused serious contamination” in Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir, a source of drinking water for millions in the state.

Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said the state cannot stop interstate commerce, but said the state needs to continue to work with the railroads to assure safer shipments. “These trains are going to come through,” he said. “We need to work together with the industry to put every safety precaution possible in place.”

Several environmental groups filed a petition Tuesday in San Francisco federal court seeking to force the federal government to ban older railroad cars – DOT-111s built before 2011 – from transporting crude oil. The U.S. Department of Transportation last month rejected the groups’ demand. DOT says it’s developing new guidelines that will phase out the older cars.