Repost from The Center for Biological Diversity
Another Oil Train Derails and Catches Fire in Ontario
Fourth Oil Train Accident in Three Weeks Shows Need for Immediate Moratorium
GOGAMA, Ont.— An oil train derailed and caught fire early this morning in Ontario near the town of Gogama, the second such incident in Ontario in three weeks, and the fourth oil train wreck in North America in the same time period. Since Feb. 14, there have also been fiery oil train derailments in West Virginia and Illinois. The Illinois wreck occurred just two days ago, and the fire from that incident is still burning.
“Before one more derailment, fire, oil spill and one more life lost, we need a moratorium on oil trains and we need it now” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The oil and railroad industries are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives and our environment, and the Obama administration needs to put a stop to it.”
In the United States, some 25 million people live within the one-mile “evacuation zone” of tracks carrying oil trains. In July 2013, a fiery oil train derailment in Quebec resulted in the loss of 47 lives and more than a million gallons of oil spilled into a nearby lake. A report recently released by the Center for Biological Diversity also found that oil trains threaten vital wildlife habitat; oil trains pass through 34 wildlife refuges and critical habitat for 57 endangered species.
Today’s Ontario accident joins an ever-growing list of devastating oil train derailments over the past two years. Oil transport has increased from virtually nothing in 2008 to more than 500,000 rail cars. Billions of gallons of oil pass through towns and cities ill-equipped to respond to the kinds of explosions and spills that have been occurring. Millions of gallons of crude oil have been spilled into waterways. In 2014, a record number of spills from oil trains occurred.
There has been a more than 40-fold increase in crude oil transport by rail since 2008, but no significant upgrade in federal safety requirements. The oil and rail industries have lobbied strongly against new safety regulations that would help lessen the danger of mile-long trains carrying highly flammable crude oils to refineries and ports around the continent. The Obama administration recently delayed for several months the approval of proposed safety rules for oil trains. The proposed rules fall short because they fail to require appropriate speed limitations, and it will be at least another two and a half years before the most dangerous tank cars are phased out of use for the most hazardous cargos. The oil and railroad industries have lobbied for weaker rules on tank car safety and brake requirements.
The administration also declined to set national regulations on the level of volatile gases in crude oil transported by rail, instead deciding to leave that regulation to the state of North Dakota, where most of the so-called “Bakken” crude originates. Bakken crude oil has been shown to have extremely high levels of volatile components such as propane and butane but the oil industry has balked at stripping out these components because the process is expensive and these “light ends” in the oil bring a greater profit. The North Dakota rules, which go into effect next month, set the level of volatile gases allowed in Bakken crude at a higher level than was found in the crude that set the town of Lac Mégantic, Quebec on fire in 2013, or that blew up in the derailment that occurred last month in West Virginia.
The crude involved in today’s accident may be another form of flammable crude, called diluted bitumen, originating in Alberta’s tar sands region. The Feb. 14 derailment and fire in Ontario on the same rail line involved an oil train hauling bitumen, otherwise known as tar sands.
“Today we have another oil train wreck in Canada, while the derailed oil train in Illinois is still smoldering. Where’s it going to happen next? Chicago? Seattle?” said Matteson. “The Obama administration has the power to put an end to this madness and it needs to act now because quite literally, people’s lives are on the line.”
In addition to its report on oil trains, the Center has sued for updated oil spill response plans, petitioned for oil trains that include far fewer tank cars and for comprehensive oil spill response plans for railroads as well as other important federal reforms, and is also pushing to stop the expansion of projects that will facilitate further increases in crude by rail.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.