Crude oil trains in California risk to minorities, poor, report says

ForestEthics (via Akron Beacon Journal) | June 30, 2015 | Press Release

Highest Threat from Oil Trains in California Aligned with Race and Income: New Environmental Justice Report Links Dangerous Rail Routes with Census Data

[Oakland, CA] Public interest groups today released the Crude Injustice on the Rails report evaluating the disparate threat to people of color and low-income communities from explosions and pollution from crude oil trains in California.

The groups ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment evaluated oil train routes and US Census data to determine who was at greatest risk from pollution and potential oil trains derailments and explosions, like the fatal July 2013 Lac Megantic oil train disaster.

“It’s simple, oil trains contribute to environmental racism in California," says Nile Malloy, Northern California Program Director, Communities for a Better Environment. "Environmental justice communities like Richmond and Wilmington that already live with the highest risk are hardest hit. It’s time for a just and quick transition to clean energy.”

The groups report that Californians of color are more likely to live in the oil train blast zone, the dangerous one-mile evacuation zone in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. While 60 percent of Californians live in environmental justice communities – communities with racial minorities, low income, or non-English speaking households – 80 percent of the 5.5 million Californians with homes in the blast zone live in environmental justice communities. Nine out of ten of California’s largest cities on oil train routes have an even higher rate of discriminatory impact than the state average. In these cities, 82–100 percent of people living in the blast zone are in environmental justice communities. 

“The maps paint a scary picture of who lives with threat of explosions and the health risks from pollution and disruption from dangerous 100-plus car crude oil trains,” says Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme oil campaign director and one of the authors of the report. “In California you are 33 percent more likely to live in the blast zone if you live in a nonwhite, low income, or non-English speaking household.”

The groups recommend immediate federal, state and local action to address this environmental discrimination, including a moratorium on oil imports into the state by rail, and action by the state attorney general, US EPA Office of Civil Rights, and US Department of Justice to enforce federal and state laws.

"Oil trains are a threat to our communities and to our climate -- but the threat is not evenly shared,” says Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director. “The Crude Injustice report shows that in California people of color are the most exposed to these dangers demonstrating another area where our nation’s past and current challenges on issues of race show up loud and clear."

"Our communities are working to build healthier, greener and thriving communities," says Alicia Rivera, Communities for a Better Environment Los Angeles organizer.  “Crude by rail is another deadly threat to our families.  This is why we are joining across communities to demand environmental rights along the rails, on July 11th,” Rivera said. 

July 6-11 ForestEthics, CBE, and other groups are coordinating the Stop Oil Trains Week of Action with more than 100 events across the US and Canada.

The report, Crude Injustice on the Rails: Race and the Disparate Risk from Oil Trains in California, is available in English and Spanish at:


ForestEthics demands environmental responsibility from government and the biggest companies in the world. Visit our to see if you are one of the 25 million Americans who live in the dangerous one-mile oil train evacuation zone.

CBE works to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low-income communities to achieve environmental health and justice by preventing and reducing pollution and building green, healthy and sustainable communities and environments.

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commented 2015-07-02 11:14:36 -0400 · Flag
This is an important study. Environmental justice is a reality that we’re all aware of but it’s critical that it be quantified as Forest Ethics has done.
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy posted about Crude oil trains in California risk to minorities, poor, report says on PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy's Facebook page 2015-07-02 11:08:52 -0400
Crude oil trains in California risk to minorities, poor, report says
@PAUSEnergy tweeted this page. 2015-07-02 11:08:46 -0400
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.