Position Statement: Crude By Rail

With more oil being produced domestically instead of overseas, the type of oil we’re producing and the way we transport that oil is changing rapidly. There has been a 4,000% increase in domestic crude-by-rail transport since 2008[1].  

Save The Bay is deeply concerned that potentially millions of barrels of highly volatile crude oil is being transported through local communities and along the Bay shoreline to refineries in Richmond, Benicia, Martinez, and elsewhere, leaving our communities and environment vulnerable to devastating spills and explosions caused by derailments and inadequate tanker car safety standards.

The shift from ocean-going tankers to rail cars has happened so quickly that federal regulators have not kept up, and the strict regulations and emergency response procedures established following tanker crashes like the 1971 Standard Oil collision and the 2007 Cosco Busan spill don’t apply.

"Right now, there is so much uncertainty that people aren't going to make investments in safer cars and they're going to keep running these crummy cars and killing people," Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

Crude by Rail represents a fundamental shift in how we move oil in the Bay Area:

  • The Bay Area’s 7 million residents and nearly 6 million cars, trucks, and other vehicles have a massive appetite for gasoline and other refined petroleum products. 
  • Serving this ever-growing demand for crude oil and byproducts are six refineries, with a combined capacity of over 31,000,000 gallons per day of daily refining capacity.
  • Explosive increases in hydraulic fracturing and oil extraction in the Bakken shale formation in the Dakotas and southern Canada have meant over a half-million barrels per day of oil are being pulled from the ground and sent to refineries across North America. 
  • Oil extracted from these and other areas are increasingly being transported by rail car, and it’s increasing quickly. In 2013, roughly 1% of California’s total oil imports were via rail.  By the end of 2016, the California Energy Commission estimates that number could reach up to 25% of total imports.
  • Rail tanker car standards are woefully out of date, with federal investigators questioning the current “DOT-111” tanker cars safety since 1991[2].


In Sacramento and locally, elected officials are working to address the gaps caused by lagging federal regulation, to keep San Francisco Bay and other communities safe.

We support these and other efforts to increase oversight, notification, safety requirements, and funding for emergency response. These are critical first steps, without which we believe crude by rail presents an unacceptable threat to the people and wildlife of the Bay Area.

[2] National Transportation Safety Board, Hazardous Materials Accident Report NTSB/HZM-94/01