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The Baltimore City Council approved on Monday a bill to ban new or expanded crude oil terminals throughout Baltimore City, and if the mayor signs the bill into law, Baltimore would become the first East Coast city to ban this specific kind of infrastructure for fossil fuels.
While the U.S. is increasing its crude production that is already beating the 1970 record, U.S. cities like Portland, Oregon, have used their zoning codes to ban new and expanded crude oil terminals, because federal law prohibits local jurisdictions from regulating commercial rail traffic.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has not yet indicated if she will sign the City Council bill into law, but environmental activists are already calling on the mayor to “protect Balmoreans from dangerous crude oil shipments and climate change,” the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) said after the bill was passed.
“This bill is a common sense step to protect the communities of Baltimore most at risk from transport of crude oil and to limit the expansion of climate-polluting fossil fuels” said Leah Kelly, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “We don’t need more of these potentially hazardous crude oil shipment facilities in the city.”
According to the CCAN Fund, a total of 165,000 Baltimoreans live in the crude oil train “blast zone” – the area that could be directly affected if a train were to derail and explode in the city, and there were some close calls in recent years, including derailments in 2001 and 2016.
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The fund quoted estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that say crude-by-rail exports from Canada to the United States could more than double over the next two years, increasing to 390,000 bpd in 2019, up from 150,000 bpd in late 2017.
“Portland, OR, Vancouver, WA, and South Portland, ME have used their zoning codes to guard against crude oil facilities. This bill is an opportunity for Baltimore to be a leader on the East Coast and join the ranks of cities taking serious climate action,” CCAN said.
While Baltimore is not the first East Coast city to use zoning code rules to ban crude oil shipments, because South Portland, Maine, banned the action of loading of crude oil onto marine tankers, Baltimore could be the first East Coast city to ban a specific kind of infrastructure—crude oil terminals.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.