Repost from The Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, IL [Editor: Interesting fire-fighting details: “…authorities say they did not have to allow a leaking car to explode as was initially expected….the tank car’s pressure relief valve closed, stopping the leak and allowing firefighters to extinguish that fire. Two other cars remain on fire in what authorities describe as a ‘controlled burn.'” – RS]
2 oil cars still burning at Illinois derailment site
By The Associated Press, Saturday, March 7, 2015 11:01 a.m. CST
GALENA, Ill. — Two rail cars remain on fire at the site where an oil train derailed this week in western Illinois. But authorities say they did not have to allow a leaking car to explode as was initially expected.
Authorities had warned of the likelihood of more explosions at the site of Thursday’s derailment south of Galena.
But in an update Saturday, the Federal Railroad Administration said the tank car’s pressure relief valve closed, stopping the leak and allowing firefighters to extinguish that fire.
Two other cars remain on fire in what authorities describe as a “controlled burn.”
Twenty-one of the train’s 105 cars derailed in an area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi. No one was injured.
As of Friday night, there were no signs that waterways had been contaminated.
Repost from the Delaware County Daily Times, Primos PA [Editor: A variation on this AP story appeared in our local Vallejo Times Herald on 3/7/15, with this significant quote regarding the need for existing and proposed new tank car safety standards: “‘…those standards failed to prevent leakage and explosions that threaten human safety and environmental contamination,’ said Steve Barg, director of the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, which owns a nature preserve several hundred yards from the derailment site.” – RS]
Oil train tank cars derail in Illinois; involved safer models
Staff, 3/6/15 1:10PM EST
GALENA, Ill. (AP) — The rail cars that split open and burst into flames during a western Illinois oil train derailment this week were retrofitted with protective shields to meet a higher safety standard than federal law requires, railroad officials said.
The fire continued to burn Friday, a day after 21 of the train’s 105 cars derailed in a rural area south of the city of Galena. No injuries were reported, but the accident was the latest in a series of failures for the safer tank-car model that has led some people calling for even tougher requirements.
BNSF Railway said in a news release that the train’s tank cars were a newer model known as the 1232, which was designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago in hopes of keeping cars from rupturing during derailments. But 1232 standard cars involved in three other accidents have split open in the past year.
Those other accidents included one last month in West Virginia in which a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude derailed, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a waterway and burning down a house. The home’s owner was treated for smoke inhalation, but no one else was injured.
Thursday’s accident in Illinois led local officials to announce a voluntary evacuation of an area within 1 mile because of the presence of a propane tank near the derailment. Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said Thursday.
A railway spokesman initially said six cars derailed. But in an update Friday, BNSF said it found 21 cars had derailed in an area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi. The company said a resulting fire is believed to have spread to five rail cars, and emergency personnel were trying to contain the blaze.
The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil from the Northern Plains’ Bakken region, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The cause of the derailment hasn’t been determined.
The accident occurred 3 miles south of Galena in a wooded and hilly area that is a major tourist attraction and the home of former President Ulysses S. Grant.
As of June of last year, BNSF was hauling 32 Bakken oil trains per week through the surrounding Jo Daviess County, according to information disclosed to Illinois emergency officials.
Firefighters could only access the derailment site by a bike path, said Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley. They had to pull back initially for safety reasons, but by midday Friday officials described the area as “stable.”
The Federal Railroad Administration said its investigators expected to have access to the site around noon, and it has not yet been able to determine if any crude oil spilled into nearby waterways.
BNSF said it was taking steps to prevent contamination.
Recent derailments have increased public concern about the safety of shipping crude by train. According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana, where pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by rail.
Since 2008, oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada have caused 70,000-gallon tank cars to break open and ignite on multiple occasions, resulting in huge fires.
The wrecks have intensified pressure on the administration of President Barack Obama to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars, despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries.
Oil industry officials had been opposed to further upgrading the 1232 cars because of costs. But late last year they changed their position and joined with the railway industry to support some upgrades, although they asked for time to make the improvements.
Yet Another Oil Train Derails, Catches Fire, This Time in Illinois
Third Fiery Accident in Three Weeks Shows Need for Immediate Major Safety Upgrades for Shipments of Crude by Rail
GALENA, Ill.— An oil train transporting more than 100 cars of highly volatile crude oil derailed and caught fire today in northwest Illinois near the Mississippi River — the third explosive oil train accident in three weeks. Billowing columns of dark smoke and fireballs shooting hundreds of feet into the air were visible this afternoon as at least two tank cars caught fire. Early reports are that first responders had to pull back from the fire due to the heat and ongoing danger of more tank cars catching fire and exploding. The incident follows in close succession fiery oil train derailments in Ontario and West Virginia.
“The only thing more mind-boggling than three such accidents in three weeks is the continued lack of action by the Obama administration to protect us from these dangerous oil trains,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The government has the authority to take immediate action to address this crisis — which puts homes, waters and wildlife at risk – and yet it has sat back and watched.”
The Center for Biological Diversity recently released a report on the danger of oil trains traveling tracks throughout the United States. Among the findings were that some 25 million people live within the one-mile “evacuation zone” of tracks carrying oil trains and that the trains pass through 34 wildlife refuges and critical habitat for 57 endangered species.
The Illinois accident joins a growing list of devastating oil train derailments over the past two years. 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. Oil transport has increased from virtually nothing in 2008 to more than 500,000 rail cars of oil in 2014. 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.
Today’s derailment happened where the Galena River meets the Mississippi River. There are no reports of injuries or fatalities, or of drinking water intake closures, although there are communities in the area that draw water from the Mississippi. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe train included 103 tank cars transporting volatile crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.
Loaded oil trains on this particular line first must pass through densely populated areas such as Minneapolis-St. Paul and La-Crosse. The trains also pass through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, about 50 miles upstream of the derailment site. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Mississippi River corridor “provides productive fish and wildlife habitat unmatched in the heart of America.”
“There are simply no excuses left for the Obama administration. The fact that these trains are still moving on the rails is a national travesty,” said Matteson. “The next explosive wreck — and there will be more, so long as nothing changes — may take lives, burn up a town or level a city business district, and pollute the drinking water of thousands of people. Enough is enough.”
A series of fiery oil-train derailments in the United States and Canada has resulted in life-threatening explosions and destructive oil spills. The worst was a derailment in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people, forced the evacuation of 2,000 people, and incinerated portions of a popular tourist town.
Ethanol shipments by rail have also raised safety concerns. On Feb. 4, a train transporting ethanol derailed along the Mississippi River in Iowa, catching fire and sending an unknown amount of ethanol into the river.
In February the U.S. Department of Transportation sent new rules governing oil train safety to the White House for review, prior to public release. However, the proposed rules 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 industries also want more time to comply with the new rules.
Yet, without regulations that will effectively prevent derailments and rupture of tank cars, oil trains will continue to threaten people, drinking water supplies and wildlife, including endangered species.
The Center has also 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.