Tulsans share concern, anger over butane transload facility near BMX headquarters

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsans are concerned about a recent decision made by members of City Council.

A business is currently transloading butane next to BMX National Headquarters. Transloading is when a shipment is transferred from one method of transportation to another.

In this case, butane is being moved from trains to semi-trucks, just hundreds of yards away from the BMX facility.

A company called Second Base opened this transloading facility in 2015, and submitted a required document to the EPA detailing what could happen if a single railcar leaked butane and caught fire.

It could cause an explosion that affects people and property within a half-mile radius. That includes the nearby neighborhood, the Greenwood District, OSU Tulsa, and part of OneOk Field.

FOX23 Investigative Reporter Janna Clark spoke with chemical engineer Fred Storer about the butane stored at Second Base.

“The 26 rail cars contain 3.8 million pounds of butane,” said Storer. “That’s enough to make a Bic lighter for everybody in America.”

Second Base was built seven years before the BMX facility. Storer said he tried to warn Mayor G.T. Bynum about the location.

“This is really a concern. The city built this facility, knowing full well that this facility was here,” said Storer. “I’ve send him directly and copied him on many emails. I’ve never received a response.”

Janna asked Mayor Bynum’s office for an interview, but we were told that he wasn’t available.

In 2019, the President of Second Base, Scott Dickman, told Janna that city leaders had talked to him about possibly helping the company move.

“We want what’s best for Tulsa, if Tulsa would like us to move, we’re more than happy to do that,” said Dickman. “But I can’t afford to just move and replace this. We’ll need financial assistance to do that.”

Dickson said that his discussion with city leaders didn’t go anywhere. Then, in February 2022, Second Base moved.

Dickson said their landowner, Watco, didn’t renew their lease. However, railcars filled with butane began showing up again.

The City of Tulsa told Janna that Watco is operating the facility.

Janna then reached out to Watco in April with a list of answers. Five months later, Watco sent an email saying they would not be providing a comment.

As Watco continues to transload butane, the old Evans Fintube site next to the BMX facility is expected to be redeveloped.

Developers are waiting for the city to rezone the land.

Several Tulsans shared their concerns at September’s planning commission meeting, including feedback from geologists.

“I’m trying to scare you because it’s a very scary situation that has more or less been unexplained how we got here,” said retired geologist Robert Jackman.

“Everybody that’s invested a single dime, which are some of Tulsa’s wealthiest and most influential families are putting good money into a dangerous situation,” said petroleum geologist Shane Matson.

City councilors put off the vote until last week, and even more people turned up to share their concerns.

“If one human error happens, it can affect the entire district.”

City attorneys say transporting butane is a federal government regulation issue. “The city and any city has no jurisdiction over these decisions, so you can’t give us power we don’t have,” said city councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper. “Yes, I’m concerned about it.”

Team Alchemy is developing the land. The butane transloading facility is not mentioned in its 236 page plan.

The facility isn’t even labeled on their map.

All the city councilors voted to approve to rezone the Evans Fintube property.

Janna reached out to USA BMX about the issue. They sent us the following statement.

“We appreciate that local elected officials, civic leaders, industry experts, and citizens in the community are driving a conversation regarding this issue and whether there is any evidence of potential impact to the Greenwood District, the Arts District, and OSU Tulsa. We will continue to rely on these groups and their areas of expertise in the subject matter.”

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