All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

UPDATE: Tar-sands oil spill in Vandergriff, PA

Repost from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Train derails in Vandergrift; leaking crude oil

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch – Crews from Norfolk Southern inspect derailed tanker cars near the MSI Corporation building along First Avenue in Vandergrift on Thursday, February 13, 2014.

February 13, 2014
By Chuck Biedka
Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 8:30 a.m. 


At least 21 train tanker cars carrying crude oil and propane derailed shortly before 8 a.m. in Vandergrift near a specialty metals plant.


At least one of the cars leaked about 1,000 gallons of what Norfolk Southern Rail spokesman David Pigeon described as “heavy” crude oil. That car is resting near the East Vandergrift border. The spill did not make it to the Kiski River.


One car crashed into a building at MSI Corp, a specialty metals manufacturer, forcing officials to evacuated the building so it could be checked for structural integrity. Company employees in that building were sent home for the day.


No injuries have been reported.


Early in the afternoon, two Norfolk Southern contractors were on the scene to begin clearing the cars. Officials from Westmoreland County Emergency Management, the federal Transportation Safety Administration and local firefighters and police are at the scene.


Officials had considered evacuating homes from the nearby Sherman Avenue neighborhood but determined that wouldn’t be necessary. The closest homes appear to be about 250 yards from the derailment scene.


Norfolk Southern’s Pigeon said the train was en route from Conway, Beaver County, to Morrisville, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia. Neither he nor emergency officials had any information about what may have caused the derailment.


Although no streets are closed because of the derailment, the normally busy rail line is closed.



    Another derailed crude oil train

    Repost from CNBC/Reuters  (See also more details in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    Reuters Updates: Derailed crude oil train was carrying heavy Canadian bitumen, and Derailed cars spilled oil; some leaks stopped

    Another train carrying crude oil derails

    Published: Thursday, 13 Feb 2014

    A Norfolk Southern train carrying crude oil derailed in western Pennsylvania on Thursday, adding to a string of recent accidents that have prompted calls to increase safety standards.

    There were no reports of injuries or fire at the scene, after 21 tank cars came off the track near an industrial park at a bend by the Kiskiminetas River in the town of Vandergrift, according to town and company officials.

    The train, that was heading from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, was mainly carrying crude oil but included one car containing propane gas, one local official said.

    An investigator from the Federal Railroad Administration was on route to the scene, the railroad regulator said.

    Source: Valley News Dispatch – Derailed Norfolk Southern train in western Pennsylvania, Thursday morning, February 13, 2014

    The train crashed into one building owned by MSI Corporation in the industrial complex. All employees had been accounted for, said Sandy Smythe, a public information officer with Westmoreland County’s public safety department, which includes Vandergrift borough.

    There has been no evidence of any leaking from the tankers that came off the tracks, Smythe said.

    MSI declined to comment.

    The area is being hit by a winter storm that is blanketing much of the U.S. Northeast with snow, though the conditions at the time of the train crash were “not bad,” Smythe said.

    This is the latest in a string of crude oil train derailments that has prompted calls for more stringent rules regulating the shipment of crude by rail that has soared in recent years as pipelines fail to keep up with growing supply.

    It comes ahead of a Senate hearing about improving the safety of transporting crude by rail, which has become a major political issue as the incidents pile up. The hearing was scheduled for Thursday but was delayed by the snow.

    Thursday’s accident was the second in less than a month in Pennsylvania. A train hauling crude on a CSX Corp railroad jumped the tracks and nearly toppled over a bridge in Philadelphia on January 20. There were no injuries or fire in that incident.

    A train carrying Bakken oil from North Dakota last July derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and decimating much of the small town.

    Reacting to the incidents, U.S. and Canadian railroad companies, tank car owners and regulators are looking for ways to transport crude on the rails more safely. Much of the focus is on phasing out older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, that do not meet the latest safety standards.

    DOT-111s built before 2011 are prone to puncture and fire during accidents, regulators say.

    It is as yet unclear what type of cars were involved in Thursday’s accident.

    —By Reuters

      Casselton, ND: spill was 475,000 gallons of oil

      Repost from McClatchyDC

      December train derailment spilled 475,000 gallons of oil, data show

      By Curtis Tate, McClatchy_Newspapers
      McClatchy Interactive
      February 12, 2014

      New numbers in a federal database show that a Dec. 30 train derailment near Casselton, N.D., spilled nearly 475,000 gallons of crude oil, more than officials originally estimated.

      The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration maintains a database on such spills going back to 1975. A McClatchy analysis of the data last month showed that more crude oil was spilled from trains in 2013 than in the previous four decades combined.

      The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, in which a derailed grain train caused the derailment of a crude oil train traveling the opposite direction on an adjacent track. The spilled oil ignited a massive fire, causing hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate.

      No one was injured or killed, but he accident added to the anxiety of state and local officials about the safety of shipping large volumes of crude oil in minimally protected tank cars.

      In July, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a similar train broke loose and rolled unattended down a steep grade and derailed. The explosions that followed leveled the center of the lakeside community.

      Initially, the NTSB estimated that 400,000 gallons of crude had spilled in Casselton.

      The new total means that more than 1.2 million gallons of crude oil spilled from railcars last year, not including the Quebec disaster. Only 800,000 gallons were spilled from 1975 to 2012.

      Federal regulators are in the process of developing new standards for shipping crude oil by rail amid concerns about its flammability. Crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region has drawn special scrutiny because of its involvement in multiple fiery derailments.

      The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a Thursday hearing on the matter, and the House Transportation Committee will hold its own hearing later this month.