LOSSAN (Pacific Surfliner)

Fred Strong serves on the Board of Directors of this Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor


Fred was elected in March of 2013 as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the LOSSAN Passenger Rail Corridor which serves city-to-city passengers on the Pacific Surfliner between San Luis Obispo and San Diego. The board re-elected him in January 2014. It is the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the United States behind the multi-state Northeast Coridor from Boston to Washington D.C. It is the largest state supported passenger rail corridor in the United States.

Strong took this corridor from a status of being a recommending body to CalTrans to its status of becoming an independent Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between all of the major transportation agencies and regional transportation planning authorities in the six southern coastal counties of California. This was the step necessary to the current status of managing and operating, through a contract with AmTrak,  all intercity passenger rail between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

In January 2015, Strong's vice-chairman was elected to the position of chairman and Strong took a seat on the Executive Board of the corridor. On June 29, 2015, the process of transferring complete authority over the corridor was completed with the signing of a new operating agreement and contract between LOSSAN and the State of California.

Strong was the first chairman of that board to be elected from outside of the San Diego, Orange or Los Angeles county areas.

The board meets once a month within the region and, in August 2013, chose the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to become its new managing agency effective January 2014. The bulk of this transition took place in the period from September through December, 2013. The transfer was completed in January 2014.

Strong, as Chairman of the Board, interacted with the staff negotiating team dealing with CalTrans to take the LOSSAN Coridor Board from advisory status to CalTrans to a fully functioning management and operating passenger rail agency by July 1, 2015.

When a conflict arose over the copyrighted name and logo of the passenger trains that operate within the LOSSAN corridor, Strong directly contacted the CEO of AmTrak America and, with his assistance, negotiated a solution to this problem in 12 days.

Strong spends time in Washington D.C. annually, or more often if necessary, interacting with appropriate agencies, the Administration and Congress to advance the well being and future performance of the transportation system within California and throughout the nation.

Strong's leadership in 2013 and 2014 on the California Chair and Vice-Chair Leadership Forum developed a unanimously agreed upon passenegr and freight rail policy and principles paper that formed a Select Rail Committee in the California Senate under the chairmanship of Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara for 2014 and, a year later, in the Assembly as well. Strong continues to work toward the creation of an on-going California Rail Caucus in the Legislature.

Strong was a guest speaker at the 2013 Annual Conference of the Train Riders Association of California (TRAC) in Hanford in late 2013. He also spoke and participated on a panel at the annual Rail PAC and NARP (National Association of Rail Passengers) conference in Los Angeles in February 2014. He has also been a featured speaker at other transportation events in 2014 and 2015.

Previous Activities out of town

Report of Out of Town Representation 

 

Mayor Pro Tem Fred Strong

Report to City Council on activity of January 20 - February 2, 201 

LOSSAN (Pacific Surfliner Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor) 

January 20, Orange County (by phone): 

Public comment informed us that the 2016 Passenger Rail Summit would be held April 13 and 14. We were also asked to work harder to complete the SCRIP project to have six rail lines going into Union Station Los Angeles be continuous through routes rather than having to back trains out for 1.5 miles. I agreed to try to get some attention to this in Washington, D.C., in February.

Elections were held for the new board and the Chairman was re-elected and I was re-elected to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors. 

I moved and we passed the consent agenda including the conflict of interest code, annual financial audit and contracts for audit and marketing services. 

The single ticket “Rail 2 Rail” program is not being addressed for renewal by Metrolink and may cause it to be discontinued. This would be a step backwards. 

We approved application for a rail safety grant on my motion.  

Discussion of current and  future actions took place regarding marketing, policies and procedures, the 2016 work plan (which will continue efforts to extend an existing San Diego to San Luis Obispo and back train on to San Jose and back with a stops in Paso Robles), our operating agreement with Amtrak and our Board of Directors’ initiatives. 

For those wanting more detail the agenda is posted in the LOSSAN web site under OCTA with full attachments. 

League of California Cities policy committees meetings

The League’s policy committee meetings are now structured so that all committees meet together at the beginning of each day for a general briefing on what is happening in the other committees and on State and Federal legislative and funding matters. 

The general briefing covered the Governor’s budget proposal, money sources and needs including transportation, housing, homeless needs and services and issues to be discussed in my specific committee meetings.

We were told we can participate soon in a new Health Benefits Marketplace being developed by the League to reduce expense  and retain benefits. Also, we were given forms to participate in the California Road Charge volunteer study program for ongoing, stable transportation funding.

Finally, we were informed of changes to the initiative process which will add legislative hearings on proposals once the signature threshold of 25% is reached. The Governor is opposing a raise to $15/hour in minimum wage as he says it will increase State government costs by $4 billion a year for the tax payers. Former Assemblyman Sam Blakesley is sponsoring an initiative requiring all State Bills to be in print for at least three days before they can be acted upon. 

Revenue and Taxation, January 21, in Sacramento:

On Thursday we met following the general meeting and went over many “housekeeping” functions in detail with over 50% of the committee’s members being new to this, or any, policy committee. Some new members objected to the updated policies and guiding principles not knowing that they had already been adopted by the Board of Directors and we had no say. The objection was to changes that would take away unfair tax sales tax practices that their own jurisdictions were benefiting from. After an explanation the changes were accepted with a few objections.

Our adopted work program for 2016 includes seeking possible changes to the sales tax formula based upon completion of sale at its destination, including internet sales, and to possibly change and/or expand the goods and services that might be taxed at a lower rate.

In addition to that we will seek increased funding for critical transportation and water infrastructure, improve housing affordability, update the local government tax structure and monitor or address other pertinent issues that may arise during the legislative session.

Housing, Community and Economic Development committee, January 22, in Sacramento:

On Friday this committee went through the same housekeeping items on policy and procedure. However, most of the members were returning people. 

Following that we welcomed Cindy Cavanaugh, Assistant Deputy Director of the (HCD) California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Homeless and Housing Policy Division.

Ms Cavanaugh informed us that California is host to 35% of the nation’s chronically homeless population. She said that the Governor is very interested in addressing the homeless problem and is proposing major funding in this area. We were presented with the results of the 2013 California Pokicy Academy To Reduce Chronic Homeless Plan. Our discussion revolved around differentiating the needs of those who choose homelessness as a personal lifestyle and those who due to special circumstances, including mental illness, have become homeless without wanting to be.

I brought up Mayor Martin’s initiative to have a joint homeless services day  in one location with the city, county, various non-profit organizations and businesses held here recently. Many cities stated that they would see if they can do the same in their areas.

Ms Cavanaugh told us that we can be better informed about Federal initiatives in the area of homeless issues by going to the web site for USICH, the Federal agency on homelessness. 

The committee also decided to seek additional RENA reform through HCD.

We also heard a presentation by League staff member Jason Rhine on our priorities for the use of Cap & Trade auction revenues. Affordable housing is scheduled to receive $400 million with 50% going to disadvantaged communities and another $365 million going to transportation and clean air projects.

When the stumbling block of the Strategic Growth Council came up I made known the proposal from the CALCOG Board meeting to add five local government elected officials to the board to bring the money back to local control, as I reported to you at our last meeting. League staff welcomed the proposal and may try to work with CALCOG in this effort.

The committee decided to pursue transportation funding, water and housing as its highest priority items this year.

In the areas of water and transportation we decided that part of that effort must be CEQA reform to include man’s needs in the analysis. An effort is already underway to exempt all transportation projects proposed within already approved rights of way. We will look for similar actions in the area of water structures and storage areas.

We were also informed, in the area of medical marijuana that we should amend our general plan and zoning ordinances to make it clear by statement as to which zones or land uses are specifically permitted for medical marijuana delivery. Failure to due so may lead to delivery being legal to anywhere including the a Post Office, stores, hotels, libraries, etc.

On that same issue we were informed that indoor cultivation of medical marijuana is now proposed to be automatically allowed. Therefore, we cannot ban it but under the new proposal we can regulate it. However, Colorado has determined that indoor cultivation makes it nearly impossible to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors. 

We were also told that the FAA is now required to either notify local government or collaborate with us on any changes flight paths being implemented within our sphere of influence.


Mayor Pro Tem Fred Strong

Report to City Council on activity of January 6-19, 201 

SLOCOG (1-6-16):

At the annual reorganization meeting of SLOCOG I gave a brief written report (attached) on my activities in 2015 representing SLOCOG and those additional areas I was elected or appointed to . We saw Supervisor Debbie Arnold retire, with honors, as president whereupon Mayor Jan Marx of San Luis Obispo was elevated to that position for 2016. Supervisor Lynn Compton was elected Vice-President. 

The board unanimously elected all positions including returning me as their representative to LOSSAN, the Pacific Surfliner Inter-City Passenger Rail Board of Directors, and delegate to CALCOG, the statewide organization of all regional governments in California where I serve on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and to NARC, the National Association of Regional Councils, where I currently serve on the Board of Directors representing all regions in the United States and as Transportation Policy Chairman. Mayor John Shoals of Grover Beach was chosen as my alternate to LOSSAN and NARC and as our representative to the Coast Rail Coordinating Committee, working to get additional passenger train service between San Diego and San Jose. I will be his alternate on that committee and Mayor Marx will serve as my alternate to CALCOG.

We also received informational presentations on UBER in San Luis Obispo County and the world, progress on the new interactive data network for our transportation services and an appraisal of the California Transportation Commission’s Annual Report to the Legislature. I’ll have more to say on that in my CALCOG report.

Paso Robles Housing Authority (1-12-16):

The Housing Authority meeting was lightly attended and began with my report on City Council activities, including the anticipated arrival of our new City Manager Tom Frutchey. We briefly discussed the water situation and the progress on our water facilities. The Board of Directors of the Housing Authority expressed a desire to have a tour of both facilities and I gave them the contact information to do so. Phase One of the redeveloped Oak Park is fully occupied. Eight buildings in Phase Two are complete except for PG&E’s work which is being held up by the weather. Land line telephone by AT&T and a tot-lot are still to be completed.

The board accepted an audit report and established a complex investment policy. 

CALCOG (1-14-16):

The Board of Directors met at 10 a.m. In the SACOG board room in Sacramento where we addressed many transitional matters including new office space rental, converting our contract staff to employment status with benefits and our relationship with various State agencies. CALCOG has an unusual role because it contracts with the State for certain services which we provide while also have a legislative advocacy role.

We reviewed the work program results for 2015 and the proposed program for 2016. We received updates on both State and Federal transportation funding for 2016 and beyond and heard a proposal from California Forward for increased cooperation in a state-regional partnership effort.

Other than approving the minutes, there were three action items on the agenda.

First we approved the 2016 Legislative Policy Principles. I suggested four changes that were accepted. In our policy on bottoms up governance, with the primary responsibility being local government, I asked for State encouragement as well as authorization. No responsibilities without funding. I also asked that money collected for a specific purpose be spent on projects and/or activities that have a relationship to the source of the funds. Finally I asked for additional CEQA reform and an increased effort to  re-establish Redevelopment Agencies in an equitable and just manner.

We also had a personal presentation from Susan Branson, CEO of the California Transportation Commission, on the CTC’s legislative recommendations contained in its 2015 Annual Report to the Legislature.

The board endorsed those recommendations 100%. They include exemption from environmental lawsuits regarding transportation projects taking place totally within existing public right-of-way; permanently removing requirements for compliance to the National Environmental Policy Act in addition to CEQA and reexamining the issue of intercity rail and transit connectivity serving rural areas of the state, particularly those areas with limited access to air service.

Regarding our own legislative program we expressed “...general dissatisfaction with the Strategic Growth Council’s development of policies and guidelines.” We plan to seek five new seats on the Council for local government officials due to the current Governor and staff driven decisions to funnel most of the money into only low income housing with little to no consideration for the infrastructure needs of the rest of the state. WE will seek far more and better collaboration between the state, its regions and local government at the city and county level.

Finally, staff is considering a contract with the four largest regions in the state to coordinate efforts to comply with greenhouse gas reduction efforts and compliance with SB 375. This will allow us to coordinate the efforts statewide and learn from each other while using the collected information to assist each other on modeling assumptions and developing our respective integrated planning efforts. The person in this new position, paid for by a grant from the State and/or the “Big Four,” would also report to the other Metropolitan Planning Organizations, such as SLOCOG, and to CalTrans “on key transferable practices and protocols that are learned through the coordination.”

I will be coordinating tomorrow with intercity passenger rail for our region on the things in this report that are appropriate. The rest of the week I’ll be in Sacramento following up on appropriate activities in the areas of revenue, finance, housing, community development and economic development. I will report back on those activities at our next meeting. Meanwhile, we may want to consider ways and means for us to further support the efforts underway to assist us to meet our own needs and goals. 


Annual Report to the San Luis Obispo Council Of Governments (SLOCOG) Board

Fred Strong, SLOCOG Representative to:

NARC, CALCOG, LOSSAN and alternate to CRCC

1-6-16

 

This has been a busy ongoing year moving previous efforts forward and meeting new issues. I have attended meetings regularly, meeting by conference call when a conflict has arisen (such as a meeting in Raleigh, NC, and Los Angeles simultaneously).

NARC (National Association of Regional Councils)

I serve on the Board of Directors and as National Transportation Policy Chairman (in my fourth term). I drafted and had a staff modified version of a National Port Policy adopted in 2015. As part of our transportation system ports support 40% of the nation’s economy at over a trillion dollars a year. In California alone one port does over $200 billion a year. This impacts us locally at a minimum of 10% of local retail sales.

I was also appointed one of four local elected officials nationwide to research and propose changes to NARC’s legislative policies and procedures going forward with a bifurcated system for education and advocacy. This is in process for the up-coming conference in February.

We successfully continued our efforts to retain $350 million a year in federal funding for local streets, roads and a total transportation system. We finally succeeded in getting more than a one year Bill passed with much effort and over five dozen direct contacts with federal electeds and their staff.

Increases in funding formulae are still in process. My previous experience as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., has been helpful in moving this effort forward.

CALCOG (California Association of Councils of Governments)

As an elected member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee I have been very active with C.E.O. Bill Higgins, who I have worked directly with in two organizations over the past decade.

We have been working on getting all mandates funded before implementation … with only limited success. CALCOG has been able to have an extensive impact on many of the environmental regulations coming down from Sacramento, especially in coordinating with CSAC and The League of California Cities, regarding retention of as much local control as we are able to negotiate.

Transportation funding has been a major area of effort as we look toward major changes in transportation technology. One of our conferences spent considerable time with experts in the area of driverless vehicles.

Our Board meets next week Thursday to look at the Governor’s new budget proposal being issued tomorrow and believed to contain additional proposals in the area of transportation.

LOSSAN (Pacific Surfliner Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor, San Diego to San Luis Obispo)

I serve on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, as immediate past Chairman of the Board. I took LOSSAN through the last two years of the effort to achieve self governance and take operational control of the Pacific Surfliner corridor from the State, up to the last five months of the successful effort. My previous experience as a registered “Legislative Advocate” in Sacramento was of significant assistance in this effort.

I chaired all meetings of the California passenger rail corridors’ Executive Council during the last 18 months of my service as LOSSAN Chairman. In that capacity I drafted the first statement of Legislative Policy and saw it through some minor amendments and adoption in its present form.

I have also been honored to represent both LOSSAN and the CRCC at statewide meetings of various rail passenger conferences in Sacramento, also representing NARC at one of these.

I have been heavily involved in getting the process in place for the addition of an extension of passenger service from San Diego to San Jose giving us much better service for our citizens in the future. This is an on-going effort that has some minor resistance from some Southern California members. However, this effort is still alive, well and being nurtured.

Coast Rail Coordinating Committee (CRCC)

I am your present alternate to this Board of Directors and have participated on an irregular basis as needed for the past four years. In that capacity, and due to serving with its chairman on the combined leadership group, I’ve been asked on occasion to represent this group in other venues.

CRCC represents the completion of connectivity along the coast routes between Northern and Southern California. This link is essential as even High Speed Rail will is not being designed to adequately serve our needs.

This effort is very complex and is lead by its CEO Pete Rogers, who has done an exceptional job in moving this effort forward against major resistance from freight rail interests.

Crude Oil by Rail

At issue: Crude Oil Shipment by Rail

Despite the fact that crude oil has been shipped by rail for many years it recently has come into the news due to explosions of older tank cars. These explosions are nearly all from Bakken Crude or Tar Sand Crude shipped by rail in tank cars.

Bakken crude is volatile in its natural state. Tar sand crude is not. However, to ship tar sand crude by tank car the ore is diluted with a highly volatile liquid. In its diluted state it poses a specific danger along its path of delivery to refineries, whether by rail or truck. My suggestion, among others, presented to the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Government is to ship tar sand crude as ore in open cars and have the dilution process take place in a protected area of the refinery property. This is currently being considered by three separate federal departments.

Concerning the current local controversy, I was asked to do the research and recommend an action for our City Council. I did extensive research and delivered the following analysis:

Report by Mayor Pro Tem Fred Strong,

City of El Paso de Robles,

On the Santa Maria Refinery Rail Project and considerations for

The City of El Paso de Robles

3-3-15 

Background:

We have been asked to consider the impacts of a proposed commercial enterprise upon the people and property within our jurisdiction and to take any action that is appropriate to protect everyone’s rights, including the health and safety of all.

The project is being proposed by Phillips 66, a publicly traded stock corporation listed on the NY Stock Exchange as PSX. Phillips 66 is a company that has grown out of various mergers and buy outs that include CONOCO, Du Pont, Chevron Chemical, Duke Energy and Tosco Corp. It is the sixth largest publicly traded oil company in the world and the third largest in the United States.

The official name of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project is “Phillips 66 Company Rail Spur Extension and Crude Unloading Project Revised Public Draft Environmental Impact Report and Vertical Coastal Access Project Assessment.” It is dated October 2014.

 The leading opponent of the project’s EIR is The Mesa Refinery Watch Group. The above mentioned EIR is over 800 pages long in great detail. The Mesa Refinery Watch Group’s Response is 70 pages long and is very critical of many of the statements made in the EIR.

Data for local consideration:

A report by CAL Fire/ San Luis Obispo County Fire Department correctly states  that “Regulations on crude traveling by rail is preempted by the Federal Government. Local government may not institute local regulations on railroads.”

On page 2 of that report #4 states, “SLO County is identified as a “high risk” of derailment in the OES document.” That is a statewide document. Further, #5 states, “Voluntary compliance measures for the railroad are not required in our county - SLO is not a ‘high threat urban area’.”

Past requests by CAL Fire for advance notification of hazardous material transportations through our area have been ignored by both shippers and common carriers.

These regulations, both mandatory and voluntary, make it very difficult for us to protect the health and safety of our citizens and property, both public and private.

We may be reduced to having to notify, in writing, the State of California D.O.T., division of Rail, and the Federal Rail Administration (the FRA division of the United States Department of Transportation) of our concerns and making a strongly worded request that they protect our people and property.

I am in process of communicating with the State and Federal DOTs regarding these concerns and what we are allowed to legally do to meet our obligations to our constituents.

It appears that the private entities concerned with this project have no compelling motivation, mandatory or voluntary, to protect our people or property.

Phillips 66’s 2012 Summary Annual Report mentions a deep commitment to personal safety, process safety, environmental excellence, reliability and cost management.” However, the projects mentioned are only those in Louisiana, Illinois and Texas. No projects in California are given the light of day.

The other most involved entity in this scenario is Union Pacific Railroad. It’s December 31, 2014 report to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission has a number of pertinent statements regarding this issue.

On page three it mentioned recent history with an expenditure of “… $2.3 billion in replacement capital to harden our infrastructure, and to improve the safety and resiliency of our network.” It goes on to say, “We also continued to make progress toward completing the federally mandated Positive Train Control project.” (p.3)

Page 6 states, “Transporting chemicals generated 16% of our freight revenue in 2014.” Those included “crude oil”. On page 7 the report notes that barges and trucks are significant competition that require U.P. To “… build or acquire and maintain our rail system…”

On page 9 it states the necessity of cooperating with, “...the American Chemistry Council” and “the American Petroleum Institute.” It goes on to say, “In cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and other interested groups, we are also working to develop additional improvements to tank car design that will further limit the risk of releases of hazardous materials.”

Despite these efforts the report notes on page 10 that U.S. Law requires them to transport hazardous materials, “… regardless of risk or potential exposure to loss.” 

On page 11 the report states that the railroad is, “… subject to various claims and lawsuits “ that expose it to “… accidents involving any or all of property damage, personal injury, and environmental liability that exceed our insurance coverage.”

To protect itself, “The Company has consolidated, wholly-owned captive insurance  subsidiary (the captive),” that, “… entered into annual insurance treaty agreements that insure general liability.”

These arrangements tend to isolate the companies from liability.

The April 12, 2011, comments of U.P. before the Surface Transportation Board speak to lost earnings that cited 2008 as its peak year for investment in capital infrastructure, at $3.1 billion but it stated that they planned to expend $3.2 billion in 2011. The statement made is that capital expenditures are governed by liquidity and preservation of profits. 

Page 1 states, “If the Board were to adopt broad forced access and forced interchange measures of the sort some shippers want, though, Union Pacific would reduce investment and would have much less incentive to invest in the future.” That statement is followed by a statement that “Expanded Regulation” reduces revenues and leave U.P. with less to invest in rail infrastructure. However, on February 5th Union Pacific announced that it will invest $4.3 billion on equipment and infrastructure in 2015. That includes $450 million for positive train control as compared to $385 million in 2014 for those improvements.

Both Jim Young, past CEO, and Lance Fritz, current CEO, have emphasized that one of the foundation principles of U.P. Is safety. Both personal injury and number of incidents were reduced dramatically from 1999 through 2010 (the last year for which I have data).

The entire section of the report on planned Capital Investment and Improvement shows no projects anywhere in San Luis Obispo County. All major investment has occurred and is proposed for four basic corridors: the I-5, Central (West to East coasts from Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles to Chicago), North-South (Chicago to Texas), and Sunset (Southern California to New Orleans). The Coast route is considered to be a secondary/relief alternative rather than a primary route for freight. Therefore, we can expect nothing more than the necessary minimum maintenance investment in the tracks through Paso Robles.

In September 2014 U.P. sent out a notice to customers on proposed rules for flammable liquid transportation issued by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. These include a definition of what liquids are covered, braking system changes and reduced speed requirements.

The speed requirement of 40 m.p.h. or less apply to any train with over 20 cars carrying flammable liquids.

While Union Pacific complained earlier that increased regulation would reduce income and reduce spending, the announcement for capital expenditures in 2015 contradicts that earlier statement.

What are our realistic options?

I have contacted the leadership of the FRA regarding our options. First I’ve found out that the rules regarding crude oil shipments have not been finalized. We are a “stakeholder” and have the right to comment and have an impact upon what the final regulations will be. Those comments, to be effective, must recognize that our role is that of a supplicant not someone in control.

This area of responsibility falls to the Federal Government under its Interstate Commerce jurisdiction.

Indications at this point are that the rules that might affect us the most involve speed limits for trains containing more than 20 units of flammable liquids. That is suggested to be a 40 mile per hour speed limit to reduce the possibility of derailment. Special braking systems are also being strongly considered.

Our task could be to ask for a maximum limit on the number of cars with flammable liquids that can be transported in a single train. Also, we could ask to be redefined as a  high threat urban area due to our high risk of derailment according to the California Office of Emergency Services.

We could also consider writing letters of constructive notice that a failure to implement appropriate safety measures and enforcement procedures will create a high risk to the health and safety of our citizens and an increased potential for severe property damage within our jurisdiction.

If we decide to authorize letters of that nature, I believe they should include specific requests for action by the State in its next Statewide Rail Plan as well as appropriate recognition and requirements in the FRA’s rule making. 

Union Pacific’s “Crude-by-Rail Voluntary Safety Operating Practices” has a number of significant commitments that they are applying to “… the 46 designated high-threat-urban areas (HTUA) established by DHS regulations.” We should request that we be added to that list voluntarily by Union Pacific and should also request our addition to that list by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

 Additionally, U.P. states in that paper, “The railroad reaches out to fire departments as well as other responders along our line to offer comprehensive training to hazmat first-responders in communities where we operate.” We should request that training for our personnel and also ask that Union Pacific add a voluntary commitment to notify us when a shipment is scheduled through our community so that we can be on alert.

 Other jurisdictions have chosen to pass resolutions or regulations forbidding shipments of this type to come through their jurisdictions. That is a useless public relations ploy that gets a lot of publicity but achieves nothing as we do not have the right to regulate Interstate Commerce.

Following the report 

I made my recommendations:

1. The Phillips 66 proposal does not affect the train traffic through Paso Robles. Demand for petroleum determines that … not which refinery it is going to along the coast.

2. Our responsibility is to protect the safety of the people and property within our jurisdiction the best we can within existing law. Or, to enact legally permissible laws within our jurisdiction to do so.

3. We cannot interfere with interstate commerce nor occupy legal areas already occupied by the State or Federal government in that regard.

4. We can testify and make requests to the appropriate authorities for changes in State and/or Federal laws and/or regulations that we deem appropriate based upon research, reporting and public testimony.

5. We can authorize appropriate actions, including training, for our administrative staff to deal with potential situations.

6. We can utilize those mechanisms already in place by the oil industry, rail industry and government to assist us in maximizing our protective efforts.

7. I, therefore, urge that we write letters to those agencies and entities we have found to be able to effect our requests.

8. Authorize our staff to proceed with necessary efforts to train our personnel independently or in concert with nearby jurisdictions in this regard.

9. That we invest in whatever software we need to have immediate communication with the State for necessary information on train cars, loads and cargo in the event of an incident.

Available resources:

For regulations we can ask for lowered speeds for all incorporated communities, not just those over 100,000 in population, for a limit on how many tank cars containing crude oil can be strung together in any single train.

We can also ask for better braking, sidings, double tracking and tank car structural safety improvements. We could support tank car safety legislation currently being co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

We can also independently negotiate with Union Pacific Railroad for a reduced speed, suggest 30 m.p.h., for trains carrying crude oil through the city limits of Paso Robles.

We should utilize training available from Union Pacific for dealing with incidents.

The Council Action

The City Council accepted all of my recommendations and decided to add consideration for the people and property within the city and to copy all letters to the County of San Luis Obispo as well as the indicated agencies.

The letters were sent. I personally followed up on them with the Federal Railroad Authority (FRA).

I spoke directly with Bob Lauby who heads the FRA's safety department and he referred me to the Office of Management and Budget in the White House. I communicated with them and asked for a swift release of new, meaningful regulations.

They were released within a week. This is the beginning of nearly 400 pages of new regulations:

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
49 CFR Parts 171, 172, 173, 174, and 179
[Docket No. PHMSA-2012-0082 (HM-251)]
RIN 2137-AE91
Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High- Hazard Flammable Trains
AGENCY:
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Department of Transportation (DOT).
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: In this final rule, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), is adopting requirements designed to reduce the consequences and, in some instances, reduce the probability of accidents involving trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids. The final rule defines certain trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids as “high-hazard flammable trains” (HHFT) and regulates their operation in terms of speed restrictions, braking systems, and routing. The final rule also adopts safety improvements in tank car design standards, a sampling and classification program for unrefined petroleum-based products, and notification requirements. These operational and safety improvements are necessary to address the unique risks associated with the growing reliance on trains to transport large quantities of flammable liquids. They incorporate recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and from the public comments, and are supported by a robust economic impact analysis. DATES: Effective date: This final rule is effective [INSERT DATE 60 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER].

Those interested in seeing more can go to the Federal Government's web site for the DOT and its FRA department.

Since that time many of these requirements have been written into the current proposal for Federal transportation re-authorization legislation. Passage of some type of Bill is expected before the end of July, 2015. I am staying actively involved in this for the health, safety and general welfare of our citizens.

Understanding Water During Crisis

The city owns and operates the water department under the laws of the State. When the people, directly or through their elected representatives, decided to have a central water delivery system they surrendered their right to drill their own well and acquire water in a manner contrary or detrimental to the qualified rights of the jurisdiction created. All people to whom we deliver water are, thereby, subject to the rules and regulations that we impose on that use in conformity with the State laws, including regulations, we are required to follow. 
 
Those we cannot serve due to infrastructure deficiencies or distance have the right to drill their own well or have another provider sell water to them. However, due to the boundaries of the jurisdiction, a permit must be secured from the City prior to doing so.  
 
Those who have us deliver water to their private leased, rented or owned property agreed at the time of hook-up to abide by any rules of use imposed. That agreement runs with the land and cannot be abrogated unilaterally.
 
The California Constitution:
 
Article 1, Declaration of Rights, only mentions "water" regarding the use of eminent domain to acquire property. Water comes into it in regards to removing the exemption to take a private residence if it is necessary for "public health", "flood protection", "water-related and wastewater-related facilities or infrastructure … for recovery from natural disasters". The State has defined lack of sufficient rain to be such a disaster.
 
Specifically, Article 10, Water, has this to say:
Sec. 2. It is hereby declared that because of the conditions prevailing in this State the general welfare requires that the water resources of the State be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable, and that the waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use of water be prevented, and that the conservation of such waters is to be exercised  with a view to the reasonable and beneficial use thereof in the interest of the people and for the public welfare.
 
We as the governing board of the water purveyor are required to obey the laws of the State. 
 
See California Constitution, Article 10, Water, Section 5 and 6:
Sec. 5. The use of all water now appropriated, or that may hereafter be appropriated, for sale, rental, or distribution, is hereby declared to be a public use, and subject to the regulation and control of the State, in the manner to be prescribed by law.
 
Sec. 6. The right to collect rates or compensation for the use of water supplied to any county, city and county, or town, or the inhabitants thereof, is a franchise, and cannot be exercised except by authority of and in the manner prescribed by law.
 
Tiered rates are in legal dispute. Therefore, the Governor and Water Board have instructed us to use penalties for violation of State policy handed down to us for implementation.
 
On another note, the State has specifically excluded agriculture, manufacturing and commerce from the reduction requirements. However, every home in the state is required to meet the schedule of reductions passed by the State Board. For Paso Robles that is a 28% reduction from use in 2013. For our rural neighbors, I believe, it is a 25% reduction. That includes all non-agricultural, manufacturing and commercial uses even if they are present on a property primarily dedicated to an excluded use.
 
The reduction requirement is for the entire utility, not each individual.
 
We, as a city, thanks to everyone's cooperation met our reduction goal for 2015 and 2016.
 
As your representative I have stood for a "level playing field" for all people in each general category: residential, commercial, manufacturing, recreational. I have also recognized that no law or regulation can ever be drawn that is 100% fair to all circumstances. We continue to monitor an listen to our citizens and various experts in the water field as we adjust an amend our regulations and fee structure. The new fees provide for safe an continuos supplies of water from three sources with a fourth to be added soon. The newest fee structure, when fully implemented, will still keep the cost of water to your tap at less than one cent a gallon.