Latest on Pennsylvania oil train derailment

Repost from Reuters

Train carrying Canadian oil derails, leaks in Pennsylvania

By Robert Gibbons and Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK  Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:17pm EST

The wreckage of a train derailment is seen in the snow near Vandergrift, Pennsylvania February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Cohn

The wreckage of a train derailment is seen in the snow near Vandergrift, Pennsylvania February 13, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Jason Cohn
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A 120-car Norfolk Southern Corp train carrying heavy Canadian crude oil derailed and spilled in western Pennsylvania on Thursday, adding to a string of recent accidents that have prompted calls for stronger safety standards.

There were no reports of injury or fire after 21 tank cars came off the track and crashed into a nearby industrial building at a bend by the Kiskiminetas River in the town of Vandergrift.

Nineteen of the derailed cars were carrying oil, four of which spilled between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons of oil, Norfolk Southern said. The leaks have since been plugged. The two other derailed tank cars held liquefied petroleum gas.

The train, which originated in Chicago, was destined for an asphalt plant in Paulsboro, New Jersey, owned by NuStar, a NuStar spokeswoman said.

The clean-up was under way on Thursday as a heavy winter storm gathered pace, leaving about 4 inches of snow on the ground by midday Thursday. An investigator from the Federal Railroad Administration was en route to the scene, the railroad regulator said.

“I heard a strange noise, a hollow, screeching sound,” said Ray Cochran, who watched the train derail from his home on a hill above the tracks. “I looked out the window and saw three or four tankers turn over and one of them ran into the building.”

The train, which was also carrying food products, crashed into a track-side building owned by MSI Corporation that makes metal products.

All employees had been accounted for, said Sandy Smythe, a public information officer with Westmoreland County’s public safety department, which includes Vandergrift borough.

MSI declined to comment.

Thursday’s accident is the latest in a spate of crude oil train derailments that has prompted calls for more stringent rules regulating crude by rail, shipments of which have soared in recent years as pipelines fail to keep up with growing supply.

It comes ahead of a Senate hearing concerning 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.

U.S. and Canadian railroad companies, tank car owners and regulators are investigating 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.

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First-hand account, Mayor of Lac-Mégantic…

Repost from The Guardian, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

Lac-Mégantic mayor tells Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference about train explosion

Dave Stewart, February 13, 2014
In the hours and days after a train derailment and explosion that killed more than 40 people last July, Colette Roy Laroche, mayor of Ville de Lac-Mégantic, Que., said there was too much to do.Laroche was one of four panelists at a conference in Charlottetown on Thursday entitled ‘Decision-making for Resilience: Finding the Path Forward and Minimizing Risk in Our Communities’. It was part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference and trade show.Just after midnight on July 6, 2013 an unattended freight train carrying crude oil derailed, resulting in a fire and explosion of multiple-tank cars. In addition to the dead, more than 30 buildings in the town’s centre, roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed. It was the fourth deadliest rail accident in Canadian history.Suddenly, a town of 6,000 people became a major story on newscasts around the world.”I wasn’t prepared for that kind of media presence,” Laroche said through an interpreter. “We’re a town of 6,000 people. Everything is usually very quiet. We were overwhelmed by so many media. As the mayor, I didn’t have a lot of time to think.”

Even as she recounts the story today, Laroche remains calm, talking about phone service that was completely cut off and turning to the media to communicate with residents and to encourage them in the face of what had happened.

The local high school was transformed into a shelter for about 2,000 residents and for others to get information. Breakfast was served at the school at 7 a.m. following the initial explosions

More than 80 fire departments came to help fight the massive fire and the provincial government sent what help it could.

Laroche said more than 100 businesses in the downtown, that provide professional services, were relocated while 50 business, as a whole, were also moved.

Rebuilding the town is going to take a while, she said.

“We need three to five years before we can rebuild the area affected by the disaster,” Laroche said, noting that the total rebuild could take a decade.

Four condominiums in the area were turned into makeshift businesses with some opening in the next month or two.

Laroche said there is still so much to do. The town is now planning major consultations with residents.

“We need to involve our citizens. We need our people to find themselves (a part of) the reconstruction. Lac-Mégantic will never be what it was.”

Some residents want the town rebuilt as it was, others want a new image.

“Our citizens are beginning to realize it will be a very long process but we have a patient population. They are able to stand up and remain calm.”

Laroche said if there is a positive that came out of the tragedy it’s that it has brought the residents of the small Quebec town much closer together.

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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.



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