Sunday, March 1, 2009

Feds Put Denver Neighborhood at Risk

At risk
Full petroleum tanker cars illegally parked near his house, Tom Anthony, President of the Elyria Neighborhood Association, has been raising a stink. Oh wait, that stink is coming from the transloading of these cars, not from Tom. Mixed with the ever-present stench from the Purina dog food plant nearby, it becomes unbearable some evenings. Tom writes
“Smothering fumes of gasoline over our neighborhood tonight. It may not be news but it is hard to be with. Of course since nobody required off site monitoring of Suncor and then you let DRIR (Denver Rock Island Railroad – read history here) start up its fuel loading operation and park its fuel tanker fleet here in Elyria along the Greenway, nobody knows exactly where it's coming from. Gregg, I've asked twice whether DRIR has a letter from the fire department allowing them to violate the 1,000 foot hazardous tanker limit in the zoning code and received no answer. I've currently got about 40 of them within that radius of me. Again, nobody knows if it's Suncor or DRIR or who has the leaking gasoline; of course due to budget restrictions there's no enforcement up here anyway.”
Anthony has been writing to Judy Montero, his city councilperson, but to no avail. She doesn’t answer. I (your blogger) have attempted to force an answer with a CORA (Colorado Open Records Act) request to Montero. At first the request was ignored, but now they are springing into action ... more later. But an answer of sorts has been forthcoming. In a letter dated February 27, 2009, Gregg Thomas, Denver’s Environmental Assessment and Policy Supervisor of Denver’s Environmental Health Department, writes
“Finally, with regards to the railroad tanker proximity issues that Mr. Anthony refers to in D.R.M.C. 59-298, the City Attorney’s Office informed us that, despite our zoning prohibition in 59-298(7)c, Federal Transportation Administration regulations supersede all such local ordinances and we cannot successfully enforce this code section. With any luck, the daily crude condensate transloading operations in Denver will cease in the next 4-6 weeks. ….the White Cliffs Pipeline project is scheduled to open in April 2009. Until now, there has been no way to get the condensate to OK via pipeline. It is expected that this new pipeline will obviate the need for the transloading operation near downtown Denver as unrefined crude from the D-J Basin will be shipped directly from Weld County to Oklahoma, bypassing the need for truck and rail transport. This will also result in about 100 fewer truck trips per day into North Denver."
So to Mr. Anthony, continue sucking down the fumes that are polluting your neighborhood because the City can’t do anything about it because the Federal regulations supersede our local ordinances. With “luck” the new pipeline may make the problem go away. Don’t strike any matches in the meantime. Update: This just in (3-1-09 1:08 pm) from Tom Anthony to Gregg Thomas:
"While I appreciate your inquiries and Councilwoman Montero's behest, and the published results thereof, somehow the information about the White Cliffs Pipeline doesn't leave me as sanguine as one might think. I believe Mr. Mars is thrilled at his discovery that pointing loaded fuel tankers at the general populace is legal. I have a couple propane tanks (1-3 gallon) I use for the barbecue while supporting the local cattle industry and since my family lives in a semi-commercial building the fire department inspects me once a year for $140. They made me move my propane tanks from the basement out to the back shed. The notion the city can force a homeowner to move a one gallon propane tank while at the same time the city cannot enforce where dozens of 30,000 gallon fuel tankers are parked and stored for periods of weeks or months along a major "Platte River Camper Trek Route" is astonishing. To imagine the federal government can offer no protection to its citizens and property owners against this type of land use when the railroad pays next to zero taxes inspires the entrepreneurial modeling node of my brain. Couldn't they simply take over the country by commencing large-scale tanker storage all over the urban areas and then buying the vacant properties out of foreclosure? Can't a municipality implement "day taxes" for this type of damaging use to discourage it? As you know the metro area voters in 2004 approved a multi-billion dollar bond issue with the notion of using underutilized railroad rights of way for new passenger rail applications which would become nodes of "Transportation Oriented Development." In fact, 300 feet from my front door such a TOD location (actually supported by the majority of the study team experts.) Who's going to provide financing for homes and businesses near railroad tracks where such uses can be implemented at the whim of the railroad? Or, are the taxpayers just dupes of our own failed due diligence? Mr. Mars' yard manager, Matt Landers, did drop by last week to tell me they cared about me, just about at the exact moment they moved another line of full petroleum cars front and center to my house. I casually asked what Mr. Mars wanted for his railroad and Mr. Landers said they'd talked about $100 million. Is that a value or a ransom payment? You decide. Tom Anthony"


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