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California May Not Be Prepared For Disasters Involving Fracked Oil Trains

RICHMOND (KPIX 5) -- After KPIX 5 uncovered trains carrying fracked oil are rolling into the Bay Area, state officials are worried that they are not prepared enough if something goes wrong.

A hearing of state lawmakers was convened Wednesday, just days after we revealed that 100-car trains carrying highly explosive Bakken crude oil are already rolling through the Bay Area.

Now emergency responders are scrambling to prepare for the possibility of disasters such as last year's explosion that ripped through a small town in Quebec, Canada. The very same type of train that is now transporting Bakken through Richmond derailed, leveling a town and killing 47 people.

Across the U.S., more than a million gallons of crude oil spilled last year. After Wednesday's hearing, State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) came to an alarming conclusion. "Today, we are not prepared," he said.

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Disaster preparedness officials agreed.

"In some areas we may not have all that we need," said Kim Zagaris, State Fire and Rescue Chief at the Office of Emergency Services.

The problem: money. A staff report showed the state currently has a measly $13,000 set aside in a fund to clean up an inland crude oil spill that would likely cost millions.

"I'm very concerned by the charts that you gave us on preparedness, virtually none. Response, virtually none," said State Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley).

The fix could come through a 6.5 cent per barrel fee that Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing on all crude oil in his current budget.

If that budget doesn't pass, Hill said, "There is a potential for a very serious problem and a very disastrous problem."

A railroad spokesman addressed the committee briefly at Wednesday's hearing and touted a 99 percent safety record. But many of these spills have come down to human error and the amount of crude coming in on trains is expected to only skyrocket.

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