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oiltrain.JPGA California Energy Commission official Friday said the agency wasn't aware that the state had become a destination for crude oil shipments by rail, even though Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal made note of it two months ago.

The Bee reported in January that the state was already receiving the shipments and expecting more. According to the energy commission's own numbers, California received nearly 1.2 million barrels of crude oil by rail in December, up from fewer than 100,000 a year earlier.

The Bee identified at least two locations where crude oil was being unloaded from trains, including Richmond and Bakersfield, with several more terminals under development.

But Gordon Schremp, senior fuels specialist at the commission, told CBS San Francisco Friday that "we don't have any of those facilities operating in California."

When the TV station showed him video of rail cars of crude oil at the Kinder Morgan facility in Richmond, Schremp modified his statement.

"It's certainly a recent change that you know, we haven't been made aware of that," he told the TV station.

State and local officials across the country have become concerned about the safety of crude shipments by train since a derailment killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July, and leveled the center of the town with explosive force.

Many communities, from Washington state to New York state, have voted to bar the expansion of such operations until their safety is improved. But it's not clear that those measures have any legal authority, because the job of regulating rail shipments falls to the federal government.

Railroads and the Department of Transportation last month agreed to a series of voluntary safety improvements, but many state and local officials would like to see more swift, decisive actions from the federal government to protect their communities.

Lori Sinsley, a spokeswoman for the California Energy Commission, said her agency has been tracking crude by rail developments since 2009 and did know the state had become a destination for the shipments. However, she added that the agency was not aware of the Richmond operation identified in last week's CBS San Francisco report and in a Bee story in January.

Here is the CBS San Francisco report:

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3 p.m. March 17 to include comments from Sinsley.

PHOTO: In this July 6, 2013 file photo, emergency workers examine the aftermath of a train derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada. Forty-seven people were killed. U.S. federal regulators are further tightening testing requirements for companies that transport oil by rail after a spate of explosions caused by crude train derailments in the U.S. and Canada. Associated Press/Ryan Remiorz)



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