A Houston-based company has withdrawn its application to ship as many as 385 million gallons of crude oil by rail through Baltimore and by barge in the Chesapeake Bay.
Targa Resources told the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) that it will no longer seek a state permit to handle Bakken Shale oil at its terminal in Fairfield.
Shipments of the highly volatile oil from North Dakota have been involved in several large explosions following train derailments, including an explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people in 2013. Activists have been campaigning for better public oversight and regulation of oil train shipments through Baltimore and across the state.
Last year, the MDE requested more information from Targa about air-quality issues involved in the off-loading the oil from rail cars into barges that would transfer the oil to East Coast refineries.
Several groups today applauded the permit withdrawal, saying the proposed shipments would have added to pollution and posed the threat of the daily passage of a 35-car CSX oil train through residential areas.
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“In a neighborhood where the No. 1 cause of health problems is asthma and pulmonary-related diseases, I am thrilled to learn that our air will remain a little cleaner and not be further polluted with crude oil,” Keisha Allen, president of the Westport Neighborhood Association, told The Brew.
More Information Requested
Jon Kenney, an organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said, “Thanks to citizen and legal pressure, Targa has terminated its plan to ship more dangerous crude oil out of Baltimore and bring a new surge of oil trains through our communities.”
MDE put a review of the permit application on hold last year in response to legal comments filed by the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club and Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The agency said it would not move forward with a permit “until the department receives additional information from the company.”
At the same time, MDE did grant Targa a permit to offload fuel oils, non-crude oil and distillates from rail cars onto tanker trucks at its Fairfield terminal.
Today’s withdraw leaves one major shipper of Bakken crude in Baltimore.
Axeon Specialty Products ships tens of millions of crude oil transported from the Midwest to its terminal in Fairfield. Kenney and others have called on the City Council to require the Health Department, Fire Department and other agencies to examine the health and safety risks of oil trains and prepare a response plan in the event of a spill or explosion.
Last month’s derailment of a CSX freight train in the Howard Street tunnel sparked demands that Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young schedule a hearing on the issue.
Young’s office said Bill 16-0621, introduced last January, will get a public airing, but has not been placed on the legislation docket because of the Council’s busy hearing schedule.