Tag Archives: Alma WI

Three derailments are three too many

Repost from the Winona Post

Three derailments are three too many

By Kat Eng, Honor the Earth volunteer, 11/23/2015
Train derailment, Alma, Wisconsin << CBS Minnesota

It’s hard to believe Andy Cummings, spokesperson for Canadian Pacific Railway, when he says CP Rail feels it is “absolutely” safe to resume the transportation of oil in the wake of the three derailments last week in Wisconsin.

The first derailed (BNSF) train hurled 32 cars off the tracks outside of Alma, Wis., pouring more than 18,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River upstream of Winona. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report notes that ethanol (denatured alcohol) is flammable and toxic to aquatic organisms and human life — and it’s water soluble. Though the EPA and Wisconsin DNR admitted they could not remove the toxic product from the water; site coordinator Andy Maguire claims that since they cannot detect concentrated areas of ethanol, it is not negatively impacting the surrounding aquatic life. This was the third derailment on the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge in the last nine months, according to the community advocacy group Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS).

The next day, 13 DOT-111 tankers with upgraded safety features derailed in Watertown, Wis., spilling crude oil and forcing residents to evacuate from properties along the CP tracks. Four days later, another train derailed a mere 400 feet from that spill site.

Train derailment, Watertown, Wisconsin << fox6now.com

How can we possibly feel safe with ever-greater amounts of toxic products hurtling down inadequately maintained infrastructure every single day? A report released last week by the Waterkeeper Alliance found that “[s]ince 2008, oil train traffic has increased over 5,000 percent along rail routes … There has also been a surge in the number of oil train derailments, spills, fires, and explosions. More oil was spilled from trains in 2013 than in the previous 40 years combined.”

Emergency management has become routine rather than remedial. Teams show up, “contain” the spills, replace some track, and the trains roll on. With forecasts that Canadian oil production will expand by 60,000 barrels per day this year, and an additional 90,000 barrels per day in 2016, toxic rail traffic shows no signs of decreasing.

Energy giant Enbridge has taken this as its cue to size up northern Minnesota and plot pipeline (through Ojibwe tribal lands and the largest wild rice bed in the world) between the North Dakota Bakken oil fields and refineries in Wisconsin and Illinois. Its momentum depends on us puzzling over the false dichotomy of choosing to move oil by pipeline or by rail. At the June 3 Public Utilities Commission hearing, it admitted the proposed Sandpiper/Line 3 pipeline corridor will not alleviate railway congestion but rather potentially reduce “future traffic.” It uses this assumption of unregulated growth to make people today think they have no choice but to sell out the generations of tomorrow.

Proponents of the line want us to choose our poison: will it be more explosive trains or more explosive trains and leaky pipelines? What if an oil tanker derailed on Huff Street in the middle of rush-hour traffic and we became the next Lac-Mégantic (where an oil train exploded downtown killing 47 people)? What if a hard-to-access pipeline spewed fracked crude oil into the headwaters of the Mississippi River?

The real harm is in the delusion that we should accept and live with these risks. It is delusional that despite repeated derailments and toxic spills, business should continue as usual. It is delusional to think the oil and rail industry have our communities’ best interests at heart.

We have the vision, the intelligence, and the technology to choose a way forward that does not compromise our resources for the generations to come. As Winona Laduke says, “I want an elegant transition. I want to walk out of my tepee, an elegant indigenous design, into a Tesla, into an electric car, an elegant western design.” Fossil fuels are history. We need to keep them in the ground and pursue sustainable energy alternatives or risk destroying the water and habitat on which all our lives depend.

 

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    Speed rules didn’t apply to train in ethanol spill

    Repost from McClatchyDC
    [Editor:  Reporter Curtis Tate of McClatchy DC was honored this week with a National Press Foundation award for his reporting on crude by rail.  The Benicia Independent has reposted many of Tate’s reports, and joins the NPF in honoring him for his many excellent contributions.  – RS]

    Speed rules didn’t apply to train in ethanol spill

    HIGHLIGHTS
    • BNSF train didn’t meet 20-car threshold for lower speeds set by feds
    • Minneapolis-Kansas City, Kan., train derailed on Nov. 7 near Alma, Wis.
    • 10 notable derailments in North America this year

    By Curtis Tate, November 17, 2015
    Workers inspect railroad tank cars damaged in a derailment near Alma, Wis., on Nov. 8, 2015.
    Workers inspect railroad tank cars damaged in a derailment near Alma, Wis., on Nov. 8, 2015. EPA

    WASHINGTON  –  The train that derailed earlier this month in Wisconsin and spilled 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River didn’t have a sufficient number of cars carrying flammable liquids to meet lower federal speed requirements.

    The government set the new requirements this year in response to safety concerns about transporting crude oil by rail.

    According to railroad shipping documents, the train had 15 tank cars loaded with ethanol, five fewer than would trigger speed restrictions set by federal regulators. Because it didn’t meet that threshold, the train was permitted to operate at 55 mph.

    Some lawmakers, environmentalists and community groups have criticized the speed limits in U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules, announced in May, because they only apply to trains that meet the department’s definition of high-hazard flammable trains. The train that derailed on Nov. 7 near Alma, Wis., did not.

    Under the new rules, trains with 20 or more tank cars carrying flammable liquids in a continuous block or 35 cars dispersed throughout the train are held to 50 mph. They’re restricted to 40 mph within a 10-mile radius of 46 high-threat urban areas designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    The Wisconsin train originated in Minneapolis and was bound for Kansas City, Kan., according to shipping documents. Both cities are high-threat urban areas, and BNSF voluntarily set a lower speed limit of 35 mph, compared with the federal government’s 40 mph, in those cities.

    Though the train was going 26 mph when it derailed, it met none of the criteria for those lower limits and could have traveled the same speed as a car on most state highways.

    Amy McBeth, a BNSF spokeswoman, said the railroad was working with federal officials on the investigation.

    There have been 10 notable derailments in North America this year with spills or fires, seven with crude oil and three with ethanol.

    Key train speeds

    50 mph: Trains carrying 20 or more cars of flammable liquids in a continuous block or 35 dispersed throughout a train.

    40 mph: Trains meeting above criteria in 46 high-threat urban areas designated by the Department of Homeland Security.

    35 mph: Voluntary speed restriction imposed in those cities by BNSF Railway.

    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article45226446.html#storylink=cpy

     

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      Wisconsin train derailment: All but 1 auto rack back on tracks

      Repost from The Indian Republic

      Wisconsin train derailment: All but 1 auto rack back on tracks

      Divit Nehru | Wednesday, November 18, 2015
      BNSF freight train
      Wisconsin train derailment spilled thousands of gallons of ethanol

      Twenty five cars derailed, including empty auto racks and tanker cars of denatured alcohol, more commonly known as ethanol. The company said four tank cars each released up to 500 gallons of ethanol, and a fifth vehicle released about 18,000 gallons.

      The derailment resulted in 13 tanker cars being knocked off the tracks and spilling oil.

      A 13-car Canadian Pacific train crashed on Sunday, resulting in one tank vehicle spilling Bakken crude oil near the Wisconsin town, according to the agency.

      Three of the cars have been placed onto a temporary track, with nine more to go.

      With the number of trains now traveling through Minnesota and Wisconsin, there are plenty of disaster officials who think it’s a major accident waiting to happen.

      Fire Chief Paul Stephans said his department regularly trains to handle the side effects of derailments.

      The Federal Railroad Administration is focusing on mechanical and track cause as the reason for derailment.

      However, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration did agree with the tribes on one issue: the rule’s effective abandonment of a requirement that railroads hauling large quantities of crude oil notify state emergency officials.

      Canadian Pacific tells WKOW that there was a train derailment in Wisconsin Wednesday around 1 p.m. Five freight cars went off of the track at a rail yard near Watertown. On Monday afternoon, new track was installed to replace the damaged track. Six BNSF Railway cars loaded with crude oil derailed in March near Galena, Ill., with two of the cars bursting into flames.

      CP said in its statement that it had reserved hotel rooms for all affected families. The spill was contained and the oil did not reach any waterways, he said.

      With the Wisconsin accidents, at least 26 oil trains and 11 ethanol trains have been involved in major fires, derailments or spills during the past decade in the USA and Canada, according to an Associated Press tally from data kept by transportation agencies and safety investigators. BNSF expects the tracks to return to service Monday morning.

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        3 Wisconsin derailments: reminder of need to improve rail safety

        Repost from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

        Wisconsin derailments are a reminder of need to improve rail safety

        Editorial | Railroad safety | November 12, 2015
        Train cars lie overturned outside of Alma after derailing on Saturday.
        Train cars lie overturned outside of Alma after derailing on Saturday. Associated Press

        The three train derailments in the last week in Wisconsin are another reminder that the industry, Congress and states have to move faster in making safety upgrades to rail cars and the tracks on which they move. Part of those improvements also should include better training for local responders to train accidents, better government oversight and more public access to industry records related to safety issues.

        A rail accident near Alma on Saturday resulted in a spill of 18,000 gallons of ethanol, much of which escaped into the Mississippi River. That accident involved a class of tankers that are being phased out and replaced with tankers that have more safety features. On Sunday in Watertown, a derailment resulted in the spill of crude oil and prompted the evacuation of 35 homes. That accident involved tankers that had been retrofitted with some upgrades. A minor derailment also occurred Wednesday in Watertown, but there was no spill and the cars stayed upright.

        As the Journal Sentinel noted in a Monday story, the accidents were the latest in a series of rail tanker mishaps across the United States and Canada in recent years that have moved safety issues and preparedness into the spotlight. That includes in Milwaukee, where oil-laden trains move through the heart of the city.

        Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Monday that “There has to be a stronger emphasis on safety — not just in urban areas but smaller communities as well. Watertown is not a large community.”

        And in a news release Thursday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said. “I have been sounding the alarm for two years on the need to put in place strong rail safety reforms. These two train derailments in Wisconsin are more evidence why Congress needs to take action on the reforms I have proposed.”

        Baldwin went on to call on the House and Senate conference committee “to include the reforms I have proposed in the final transportation bill. We need to put in place rail reforms that provide safety, transparency, and better communication between the railroads and local first responders and communities.”

        She’s right, as is Barrett. While the Senate adopted Baldwin’s reforms on rail safety in its version of the transportation bill, the House did not include those measures in its version. The conference committee should make sure the final bill includes the reforms.

        The fact is that railroad infrastructure is wearing down across the nation at the same time that there is a rising tide of railroad traffic, shipping oil from North Dakota to markets. Yes, railroad shipping is generally safe. The Association of American Railroads reports that the train accident rate is down 79% from 1980 and 42% from 2000, and that “99.995% of tanks carrying crude arrive safely.”

        And yet there is a serious risk to citizens. More crude oil was spilled in U.S. rail incidents in 2013 than was spilled in the previous 37 years. In 2013 in Quebec, 47 people were killed and 1.5 million gallons of crude oil were spilled in a rail accident involving crude being moved from North Dakota. That train had passed through downtown Milwaukee.

        The Wisconsin derailments are part of that pattern. Congress and the industry need to pick up the pace on safety.

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