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San Jose City Council unanimous in concern over planned Phillips 66 oil-by-rail expansion

Flickr member Drew Jacksich

The City of San Jose is the latest California municipality to express concern over an increase in crude oil shipments by rail.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to instruct the city manager to send a letter to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, asking members to take into consideration their concerns as part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Phillips 66 refinery rail spur.

Phillips 66 says in its Revised EIR, a maximum of 250 trains would arrive for unloading per year carrying upwards of a quarter million barrels of crude oil to the facility each week, should the rail connector be approved.

The Bay Area cities of Richmond and Berkeley have also expressed similar concern over the project within the past year. 

San Jose Council Member Ash Kalra was behind this most recent vote. He says San Jose may be distant from San Luis Obispo County, but that doesn't minimize the danger to his constituents.

"I think it's totally appropriate regardless of whether the city is adjacent or not," said Kalra. "Because, with the approval of the project in San Luis Obispo County, there's no doubt there'll be a dramatic increase in oil trains coming through our neighborhoods here in San Jose, right through the heart of our city."

Dennis Nuss is the spokesperson for the Phillips 66 project and says the company understands there may be opposition to the rail project. He also points out transportation of crude by rail is regulated by the federal government.

"The Union Pacific Railroad will be responsible for delivering the crude oil railcars to and from the refinery," said Nuss in an emailed statement to KCBX. "Union Pacific safely transports a variety of products, including crude oil, through SLO County every day. We have confidence in Union Pacific’s capabilities and are working closely with the railroad on this project."

The San Luis Obispo Planning Commission had scheduled a public hearing on the rail proposal for late January, but that has been delayed to a yet-to-be-determined date.