Tag Archives: Ferndale WA

Officials: Oil train didn’t speed before Montana derailment

Repost from Yahoo News (AP)

Officials: Oil train didn’t speed before Montana derailment

By Matthew Brown, July 20, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A train that derailed and spilled 35,000 gallons of oil in northeastern Montana was traveling within authorized speed limits, federal officials said Monday as they continued to probe the accident’s cause.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train loaded with crude from North Dakota was traveling 44 mph before Thursday’s wreck, U.S. Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Matthew Lehner said.

Officials have said the maximum authorized speed in the area is 45 mph.

Twenty-two cars on the BNSF train derailed near the small town of Culbertson. Lehner said the tank cars were a model known as the “1232,”which is built under a 2011 industry standard intended to be more crash-resistant than earlier designs.

But several recent oil train crashes, including some that caught fire, also involved 1232s, and federal officials said in May that the older cars must be phased out. The oil industry has challenged the timeline for the phase-out in federal court.

The stretch of track where last week’s derailment occurred is inspected at least four times a week, said Matt Jones, a spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company. Jones did not immediately respond to a request for details on the latest inspection.

The accident triggered a temporary evacuation of nearby homes and a camp for oil-field workers.

No one was hurt, and no fire or explosion occurred. But oil leaked from four of the cars. Officials said the spill was quickly contained, and there was no immediate evidence that any crude reached a waterway.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Michael Cole said Monday the train was bound for the Cherry Point refinery, operated by oil company BP near Ferndale, Washington. The agency had said previously that the shipment was headed to a refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

The spill marked the latest in a series of wrecks across the U.S. and Canada that have highlighted the safety risks of moving crude by rail.

In recent years, trains hauling crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana have been involved in fiery derailments in six states. In 2013, a runaway train hauling crude from the Bakken derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, incinerating much of its downtown and killing 47 people.

North Dakota regulators in April began requiring oil producers to treat their crude before it can be loaded onto rail cars, to reduce the concentration of volatile gases that can trigger an explosion. Statoil, which was shipping the oil involved in last week’s crash, was in compliance with the new regulations, company spokesman Peter Symons said.

Cleanup work along the BNSF line near Culbertson continued Monday, said Daniel Kenney, an enforcement specialist with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

BNSF has been asked to sample underground water supplies in the vicinity of the crash as a precaution, Kenney said. For most spills, the state expects cleanup work to be completed and a final report submitted to regulators within 90 says, Kenney said. He added that might not be the case with Thursday’s derailment given the large volume of oil spilled.

Speed restrictions put in place following the derailment were lifted Monday on nearby U.S. Highway 2, the region’s main artery.

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Did a “Bomb” Train Full of Volatile Crude Oil Pass By Tuesday’s Seattle Mariners Game?

Repost from The Stranger, Seattle, WA

Did a “Bomb” Train Full of Volatile Crude Oil Pass By Tuesday’s Mariners Game?

By Sydney Brownstone, Apr 23, 2015 at 1:50 pm
This was taken at around 8:15 p.m. at Tuesday nights Mariners game.
This was taken at around 8:15 p.m. at Tuesday night’s Mariners game. Courtesy of David Perk

Maaaaaybe it wasn’t the thrill he was looking for.

A spectator at Tuesday night’s Mariners game caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a crude-oil unit train moving past Safeco Field.

The attendee took video and photos while taking a walk behind the scoreboard, but didn’t want to be credited for them. David Perk, a friend of the photographer’s who was also at the game, passed along the images on that person’s behalf. Perk, a volunteer with the Washington Environmental Council, went to the game because of the ticket special to honor local volunteering efforts.

Perk says he first spotted the train while driving to the game from Renton. “I was wondering if it was going to roll north while having our tailgate party on the side of the tracks,” Perk said. Nearly 14,000 people attended the game, according to Seattle Mariners spokesperson Rebecca Hale.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe wouldn’t confirm whether the train was carrying crude, but the Sightline Institute’s Eric de Place said that the train was “almost certainly a unit train of crude.” Unit trains often contain a hundred or more tank cars, and can measure as long as a mile. The train was also heading north, which means that it was likely full and heading for refineries near Anacortes or Ferndale.

Unit trains moving crude from the shale oil fields of North Dakota (also known as “bomb trains”) carry a unique risk of derailing and exploding. The US Department of Transportation has estimated that an average of 10 crude-oil trains will derail a year over the next two decades. The DOT has thus far failed to finalize safety rules for crude-by-rail, but did order a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit on unit trains through populated areas last week. On April 14, the Washington State House also passed an oil transportation safety bill sponsored by Representative Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle).

Much of downtown Seattle falls within the crude-oil route’s half-mile blast zone, including Safeco Field, which sits right next to the railroad. But railroads aren’t required to share crude-oil routes with the public. Earlier this month, Seattle’s new fire chief, Howard Scoggins, told reporters that a derailment in Seattle would “exhaust our resources and require assistance from communities around us.”

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