Tag Archives: Blast zone

New investigative report on neglect of rail bridges

Repost from Forest Ethics

New Investigative Report Documents Threat from Oil Trains on Nation’s Neglected Rail Infrastructure

Investigative Report: DEADLY CROSSING: Neglected Bridges & Exploding Oil Trains

With a 5,000% increase in oil train traffic, Waterkeepers across the U.S. identify significant areas of concern with 114 railway bridges along known and potential routes of explosive oil trains

Tina Posterli, and Eddie Scher, Tuesday Nov 10, 2015

Waterkeeper Alliance, ForestEthics, Riverkeeper and a national network of Waterkeeper organizations released a new investigative report today called DEADLY CROSSING: Neglected Bridges & Exploding Oil Trains exploring the condition of our nation’s rail infrastructure and how it is being stressed by oil train traffic. From July to September 2015, Waterkeepers from across the country documented potential deficiencies of 250 railway bridges in 15 states along known and potential routes of explosive oil trains, capturing the state of this often neglected infrastructure in their communities.

The Waterkeepers identified areas of serious concern on 114 bridges, nearly half of those observed. Photos and video footage of the bridges inspected show signs of significant stress and decay, such as rotted, cracked, or crumbling foundations, and loose or broken beams. Waterkeepers were also present when crude oil trains passed and observed flexing, slumping and vibrations that crumbled concrete.

“Waterkeepers boarded their patrol boats to uncover what is happening to the structural integrity of our nation’s railway bridges, a responsibility our federal government has shirked,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “People deserve to know the state of this infrastructure and the risks oil trains pose as they rumble through our communities.”

This effort was initiated out of concern for the threat posed by the 5,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008. Oil train traffic increases both the strain in rail infrastructure, as well as the likelihood of a rail bridge defect leading to an oil train derailment, spill, explosion and fire.

“Half the bridges we looked at have potentially serious safety problems,” says Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme oil campaign director. “There are 100,000 rail bridges in the U.S. – any one of them could be the next deadly crossing. Oil trains are rolling over crumbling bridges and we can’t wait for the next derailment, spill, and explosion to act.”

A review of rail bridge safety standards revealed that the federal government cedes authority and oversight of inspections and repairs to railway bridge owners. Overly broad federal law, lax regulations, and dangerously inadequate inspections and oversight compound the threat from oil trains. The 2008 federal law and subsequent Department of Transportation standards regulating rail bridge safety leaves responsibility for determining load limits, safety inspections, and maintenance with rail bridge owners.

“Do truckers get to inspect their own trucks? Do you get to inspect your own car? Of course not. So it’s insane, and completely unacceptable, that the rail industry gets to inspect its own infrastructure while moving cargo that is of such enormous risk to American citizens and the environment,” said Riverkeeper Boat Captain John Lipscomb.

Oil trains directly threaten the life and safety of 25 million Americans living inside the 1 mile evacuation blast zone in the case of an oil train fire, and the drinking water supplies for tens of millions more, says the report. The groups are calling for the federal government and rail industry to immediately inspect all rail bridges, share safety information with emergency responders and the public, and stop oil train traffic on any bridge with known safety problems.

Read Deadly Crossing.

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    U.S. Rep. Lois Capps: Oil-by-rail is too risky

    Repost from the San Luis Obispo Tribune
    [Editor:  See also the follow-up story covering the Cal Poly forum on Oct. 16: “Capps touts clean energy alternatives to Phillips 66 project at Cal Poly forum.”  – RS]

    Phillip 66’s oil-by-rail plan is too risky

    By Rep. Lois Capps, October 13, 2015
    Lois Capps in her office in Washington, D.C.
    Lois Capps in her office in Washington, D.C.

    The Central Coast was thrust into the national spotlight in May as news broke of an oil pipeline rupture that allowed tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil to spill into the Pacific Ocean.

    The ensuing damage devastated wildlife and our sensitive coastline, cost our local economy millions of dollars and put the health of Central Coast residents at risk. Sadly, this is just the most recent reminder of the hazards of drilling for and transporting fossil fuels.

    In the months since the spill, I’ve redoubled my efforts to ensure federal agencies update and strengthen pipeline safety standards, prevent new offshore drilling and guarantee that our communities are properly compensated for their losses. And yet, just as the final traces of tar are cleaned from the rocks at Refugio Beach, another serious oil hazard looms on the Central Coast.

    As many know, Phillips 66 has applied for a permit through San Luis Obispo County to construct a 1.3-mile rail spur to the Nipomo Mesa refinery. Construction of the new spur would allow the refinery to receive up to five deliveries of crude oil per week, with 2 million gallons aboard each mile-long freight train.

    This rail spur proposal comes amidst booming North American oil production and a dramatic expansion across the country in the use of railroads to transport crude oil. Not surprisingly, the increased use of rail to transport oil over the last five years has correlated with a sharp increase in the number of derailments by oil-hauling trains. The increase in oil rail derailments is even more troubling considering the large investments made in recent years to improve rail safety.

    The most devastating of these recent accidents occurred in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, when a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed in a downtown area and several cars exploded, killing 47 people and leveling half of the downtown area with a blast zone radius of more than half a mile.

    Approving the Phillips 66 rail spur project would put communities throughout California at risk for a similar tragedy. If approved, communities within 1 mile of the rails would be within the potential blast radius of these crude oil freight trains as they make their way to their final destination in San Luis Obispo County. This is one of the many reasons why I am joining other community leaders, cities and counties throughout the state in opposing this project.

    The Plains oil spill near Santa Barbara in May and the Phillips 66 rail spur project debate are both stark reminders of the dangers posed by our continued reliance upon oil and other fossil fuels to meet our energy needs.

    We know that this dependence puts our environment, public health and economy at risk due to spills, derailments and the growing impacts of climate change.

    With each extreme storm, severe wildfire and persistent drought, we’re reminded of the very real consequences of our continued dependence on fossil fuels.

    The truth is that an economy that continues to rely upon fossil fuels is not prepared to succeed in the 21st century.

    That is why I have spent my career in Congress advocating for efforts to transition to clean, renewable energy sources that produce the energy we need while also minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.

    I am proud to say that the Central Coast is leading this transition. With our cuttingedge research universities, two of the largest solar fields in the world and some of the most innovative entrepreneurs and energy companies in the country, I am excited to see what the future holds.

    Now, more than ever, we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to pivot away from our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable energy future.

    That is why I am convening a panel of industry leaders and academic experts for a public forum at Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center on Friday to discuss how we can continue to expand our clean-energy economy on the Central Coast and across the country.

    During the forum, I look forward to discussing the multitude of threats posed by our continued fossil fuel dependence, the progress made toward developing renewable energy sources, and how we can overcome the remaining barriers to fully transition to a cleanenergy future. Please join us this Friday at 1 p.m. as we come together to build a safer, cleaner energy economy suitable to meet the demands of the 21st century.

     

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      5.7 Million children attend U.S. schools in an oil train blast zone – sign the petition

      Repost from ForestEthics

      Here’s a number you need to see: 57 MILLION CHILDREN

      Join ForestEthics in telling U.S. safety officials and railroad execs: No More Oil Train Secrets. The first step in making our schools safe from oil trains is to release critical documents that the rail companies are hiding from the public. (Click on the image and SIGN on the right side of the page.)

      Join ForestEthics in telling U.S. safety officials and railroad execs: No More Oil Train Secrets. The first step in making our schools safe from oil trains is to release critical documents that the rail companies are hiding from the public.

      5.7 Million K-12 age children attend U.S. schools in the oil train blast zone–the area that must be evacuated in case of a derailment or fire from an oil train.

      Massive growth of oil train traffic–over 5,000% since 2008 in the U.S.–means more derailments, oil spills into waterways, and massive explosions. 2015 alone has seen five explosive derailments in the U.S. and Canada. We now know that oil trains threaten 5,728,044 million children in 15,848 schools every day in the U.S. Our children deserve better.

      But we don’t even know the details on the dangers of these trains–and neither do our first responders or our elected leaders. We don’t know because oil train companies like BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National are keeping four critical types of information hidden:

      1. The routing choices they make through cities, towns and sensitive areas;
      2. The worst case scenario models they create for your town;
      3. The insurance amount they have to cover themselves; and
      4. Their emergency response plans when the unthinkable happens.

      We are calling these documents The Oil Train Secrets. The Federal Railroad Administration, the agency in the U.S. that is responsible for making the companies release these documents, isn’t doing its job–and neither is its boss, the U.S. Department of Transportation. But our future and our children are too important to let these critical documents stay secret.

      Join ForestEthics in telling U.S. transportation officials (and the Railroad Execs themselves): the next step in making our schools safe from oil trains is to release The Oil Train Secrets.


      To: US Safety Officials and Railroad Executives
      From: [Your Name]

      To: Anthony Foxx of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Sarah Feinberg, Director of the Federal Railroad Administration
      Re: Request for Release of Documents

      Secretary Foxx and Director Feinberg:

      On Tuesday, September 8th, 2015, ForestEthics released its estimate of the number of K-12 age students in schools in the evacuation zone for oil trains: 5.7 million. 5.7 million K-12 age students are among the 25 million Americans living in this blast zone.

      Many local emergency planning and response agencies have testified in Congress and state and local legislatures that, in the absence of railroad risk analyses, they have been struggling to develop their own ability to respond to potential crude oil derailments. Local safety officials need information to protect our communities, especially schools. In the interests of public safety, we are formally asking your assistance in releasing the following documents:

      1. Rail Companies own calculated Worst Case Scenarios for a potential oil train emergency in urban and sensitive environmental locales. Local and state officials have stated that they have never seen this essential crude oil release scenario information.

      2. We also need to see rail company documentation on the levels of catastrophic insurance coverage each railroad company has been able to buy for potential serious releases in each jurisdiction. The insurers apparently have seen the railroads’ Worst Case Scenarios and have demonstrated a healthy and cautious concern about the scale of costly disasters that their companies might be responsible for covering. If the insurers can see it, so can the public.

      3. We require the rail companies’ internal Comprehensive Emergency Response Plans for high hazard flammable trains (oil trains), both generic and for specific typical locations, urban and rural.

      4. We also need rail companies’ up-to-now secret route analysis documentation and route selection results in each jurisdiction, pursuant to Congress’s 2007 Public Law 110-53, for urban hazmat safety and security routing for the currently covered cargoes of chlorine and ammonia, as well as for the newly-recognized “key trains” of crude oil and ethanol.

      We are publicly demanding that you promptly assist the rail companies, who will be receiving a copy of this letter, to provide these key risk documents, up to now withheld from public view. Not only because our first responders and governments need them, but because our communities have a right to know to what chemical disaster risks various hazardous operations are exposing them. It is our assessment that the publication of these documents would aid your agencies in protecting the public and assisting first responders. Our children deserve nothing less than the safest learning environment and the best-informed first responders.

      Sincerely,

      ForestEthics and the undersigned,

      ++++++++++

      Cc: Matt Rose
      Executive Chairman, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad

      Cc: John Koraleski
      CEO, Union Pacific

      Cc: Michael Ward
      CEO, CSX

      Cc: James Squires
      CEO, Norfolk Southern

      Cc: E. Hunter Harrison
      CEO, Canadian Pacific

      Cc: Claude Mongeau
      CEO, Canadian National

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