Omnitrans announced during a public meeting on July 8 that they will be removing two 30,000 gallon tanks from their vehicle maintenance facility, located at 1700 W 5th St in San Bernardino. Chief Executive Officer Scott Graham said his company will aim to complete the transition from storage tanks to a gas pipeline by June of 2016.
While the announcement is viewed as a step in a positive direction by the Center for Community Advocacy and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ)—who for more than a decade has urged the transit company to remove the tanks due to health and safety concerns—there are still lingering concerns among its members and its constituents in the west side.
CCAEJ representative Ericka Flores said her organization’s next steps are to ensure that the usage of a pipeline is safe. They have asked She explained residents in the area have expressed more comfort with having a pipeline Omnitrans to monitor the line once it is installed.
“We feel more comfortable with [the pipeline],” Flores said. “External tanks, like the ones they have now, can go off at any minute. This is going to be a long term solution. Less and less gas will be used in the near future.”
According to Flores, Increased use of natural gas across the country has resulted in higher rates of massive explosions at storage facilities. A mapping program that estimates the area of impact if an explosion occurred found that a circle of more than 0.3 miles would be wiped out if an explosion happened in San Bernardino. Centered in this “Zone of Harm” is the Ramona Alessandro School and Nunez Park.
Omnitrans construction manager Andres Ramirez said that the decision to utilize a pipeline as a source for natural gas was two fold and is a “win-win” for both CCAEJ and the transportation company.
“Going to a pipeline is another source of natural gas for us,” said Andres Ramirez. “There are two real factors as to why the decision was made. The catalyst for reviewing the new technology was due to the community protest. We were very open to listening to their concerns. Going to pipeline gas is more time efficient because we will not be waiting for the tanker trucks to refill tanks. It will save us the costs of the trucking and purchasing of the fuel.”
“We applaud Omnitrans’ action to remove the tanks”, said Teresa Flores Lopez, a longtime resident of San Bernardino and critic of the fueling operation. “We are very pleased that Omnitrans has finally listened and responded to our concerns.”
In the future Omnitrans is considering moving towards using electric busses for transportation.
“We’ve considered electric for a myriad of reasons,” said Ramirez. “Our biggest obstacle is how we build the infrastructure to support the recharging of electric busses.”