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oil-train-blast-zoneBY JOHN YOUNG

The Port of Brownsville is bringing more health problems our way, along with more safety risks and more damage to local businesses and economies.

Centurion Terminals began construction on terminals in the port that will process a form of crude oil called condensate into diesel and naphtha, which will then be exported.

Centurion expects to receive two train loads of condensate a day. Each will be 120 rail tanker cars full of highly flammable condensate long. The emissions from the trains’ diesel engines will damage human health all along the line.

They carry no liability insurance, and if there is a derailment or fire they will need to clear an area ½ mile in every direction.

The condensate trains will run through neighborhoods in Raymondville, Harlingen, San Benito, Olmito, and Brownsville. None of these communities were given any prior notice. None of them have any say in any of this.

Centurion, the Port, the American Railroad Association, and Union Pacific don’t want to be bothered. They’ve provided the public with false reassurances and misleading answers.

Centurion claims that there will be only one train a week. But it is supposed to offload 160,000 barrels a day, an amount that translates to two trains a day. Centurion originally said about 120 cars per train but now says only 100. Operations were originally to start the 3rd Quarter of 2016, but now not until the summer of 2017.

They’re basically telling us that it’s not that big deal. Relax. The summer of 2017 is over a year away.

The American Railroad Association says railroad accidents have declined 45 percent since 2000. Fine. That says nothing about the health problems the diesel engines cause or the acceptability of the present rate of railroad accidents, and the lives lost, bodies broken, homes demolished, and so on, when accidents occur.

Union Pacific says it’s replacing wooden railroad ties with stronger concrete ties “in many areas” of the country. Here? Before the condensate trains start rolling through?

Union Pacific says it “regularly holds crude oil accident training for fire crews across the United States.” But here? Not yet.

And who’s supposed to pay for the training, special equipment, and public preparedness programs that should be put into place before the trains start rolling?

The Port and Centurion claim the operation will meet all federal rail safety standards. Those standards are inadequate. For example, they 1) don’t require the rail lines to carry liability insurance; 2) set no maximum length on trains (which can run a mile long); 3) don’t require regular rail line maintenance; 4) don’t speak to the increase in childhood deaths before age one from lung problems along diesel train routes or the increase in cancer rates along these routes; and 5) are to be phased in slowly over a ten year period.

Centurion says it will be using the newest, safest tanker cars. But even those experience side punctures at 12.3 mph, bulkhead breaches at 12 to 18 mph. The track speed limit is 50 mph.

Don’t we get to judge those standards ourselves to see if we want better here in the Rio Grande Valley?

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