Tag Archives: Lynchburg derailment

Tacoma City Councilman and County Executive form Safe Energy Leadership Alliance, call for action

Repost from The News Tribune, Tacoma WA

Pierce County gets all risks, no rewards for surging oil train traffic

By Ryan Mello and Dow Constantine, October 24, 2014
Rail Delays
An oil-tank train with crude oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota travels near Staples, Minnesota, in April. MIKE CRONIN — The Associated Press file

As this editorial page has noted, Washington has seen a stunning increase in the amount of Bakken crude oil transported on our railroads, to an estimated 2.87 billion gallons each year. Much of that highly flammable oil rolls across the central Puget Sound region, through downtown Tacoma and past Steilacoom in aging tank cars.

The surge in train traffic has created an unprecedented risk to our people, our economy, our traffic and our environment. Our communities assume all of the risks while big oil companies get all of the rewards.

There’s the immediate risk to public safety when flammable fuel passes through heavily populated areas like Tacoma and Seattle and past our neighborhoods, schools and parks. Since July 2013, there have been nine serious train derailments across North America – more than we experienced during the past four decades combined. An oil-train explosion last year in Quebec, Canada, killed 47 people and wiped out half a downtown area.

There’s also the increased risk of oil spills contaminating Puget Sound and undermining the progress we’ve made in waterfront development and cleaning up the Foss Waterway. It’s a scenario we saw earlier this year when an oil train spilled more than 20,000 gallons of crude oil into the James River just outside Lynchburg, Virginia.

We work hard to ensure that our first responders have the equipment and training they need to respond to oil-train derailments, spills and fires. But we need state and federal action to prevent these potentially life-threatening tragedies from occurring in the first place.

That is why we brought together more than 100 other elected leaders from across the Northwest and British Columbia to form the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance. It’s a broad coalition of local leaders from urban and rural areas who share a mission to better understand the potential safety and economic impacts from oil and coal trains, and call for stronger safety standards.

Having multiple mile-long trains – each carrying 3 million gallons of crude oil – roll through Pierce and King counties snarls our traffic and makes it more difficult for our emergency personnel to respond to calls. The proposed increase in oil traffic would also harm our local businesses, manufacturers and farmers who rely on our limited rail capacity to transport their goods to overseas markets.

Displacing Washington state agriculture and manufactured products that create jobs to make way for crude oil would benefit only oil companies.

Perhaps what’s most concerning is that there is the potential for all of these risks and impacts to substantially increase over the next six years if proposed facilities are built along the Pacific coast.

The Department of Ecology estimates that the amount of crude oil that comes through our state could triple – to nearly 9 billion gallons each year – by 2020. The number of fully loaded oil trains that cross our state each week could go from 19 to more than 100 within the next few years.

That’s why we applaud Gov. Jay Inslee for fast-tracking the state’s Marine and Rail Oil Transportation study and the Department of Ecology for hosting a public meeting Thursday in Olympia (see box). This study shines a light on the risks and costs to our communities, and makes recommendations to strengthen disclosure of hazards and emergency preparedness.

We urge our state lawmakers to act swiftly on these recommendations, and enact provisions that maintain public safety. The costs to protect our communities and prevent delays in rail crossings should fall to the oil industry and not local governments.

Our long-term goal is to establish the Northwest as a global exporter of clean energy. In the meantime, we will work together to ensure that oil and coal companies don’t take up our limited rail space, put our communities at risk and harm our local economy.

Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello and King County Executive Dow Constantine are members of the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance.
Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/24/3448437_pierce-county-gets-all-risks-no.html?sp=/99/447/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

 

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    Oil tank cars pose a hazard when moving and when parked

    Repost from  The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY (Letters to the Editor)

    Oil tanker rail cars pose a hazard when moving and when parked

    To the Editor:

    Every sports person knows that a moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one. When you can read graffiti on oil tanker cars parked in the train yards in Minoa, and other areas around Syracuse, you know you have a serious safety problem.

    Interstate commerce allows Bakken crude-oil rail shipments from North Dakota to “pass” through Central New York State. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the U.,S. Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads to reduce the speed limit of these oil tanker trains from 50 mph to 40 mph through Syracuse and other heavily populated areas. Between 200 to 300 tanker cars “pass” through the Syracuse area daily. Presently, the 40 mph speed limit only applies to Buffalo and the New York City area.

    These antiquated, poorly designed DOT-111 tanker cars pose a potential danger to the populace and the environment regardless of their speed! This was evidenced by the recent CSX derailment of crude oil tanker cars in Lynchburg, Va.

    It doesn’t make one iota of difference if these trains travel at speeds of 40 or 50 mph, as long as they keep “passing” through the Syracuse area. Parking, however, for indefinite periods in small populated communities, like Minoa, is not acceptable.

    Are we, Minoa residents, considered collateral damage – dispensable, if an accident, man-made or otherwise happens?

    Come on, CSX … move these hazardous oil tankers out of my village; my front yard is not a bomb depot.

    M. Claire Crull
    Minoa

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      Officials discuss rerouting oil trains around Richmond, VA

      Repost from WTVR CBS6, Richmond, Virginia
      [Editor: excellent video, including potential blast zone map – apologies for the ad that precedes the TV news report. – RS]

      Officials discuss rerouting trains around Richmond that transport volatile oil

      June 2, 2014, by Melissa Hipolit, Updated June 3, 2014


      RICHMOND, Va. — Fire officials in Central Virginia said the probability of a large train derailment in the City of Richmond involving a train carrying a volatile type of oil is very low, but if one did happen, they would not have the capability to respond alone.

      Deputy Fire Marshall and Hazmat Coordinator Captain Darl Jewell with the Richmond Fire Department and Assistant Fire Chief Rick Edinger with the Chesterfield Fire Department both said trains have derailed in the area over the years, but nothing like the recent disasters in Lynchburg and Quebec.

      “Minor derailments happen more often than you think, but they’re often never reported,” Jewell said.

      Jewell said between four and six trains a week pass through Richmond carrying a particularly combustible form of oil.

      “It literally burned the downtown area down before they could get the fire under control,” Edinger said about the derailment in Quebec.

      If some of those train cars were to fall of the tracks in Richmond, Edinger and Jewell said the results could be devastating.

      “It would be like a large plane crash,” Edinger said.

      Edinger said most localities are prepared to respond to an accident involving a truck carrying 9,000 gallons of oil.

      Compare that to the amount of oil carried in a single car on one of those oil trains, which can reach 30,000 gallons, and those trains, can have up to 100 cars.

      Edinger said that means a single train could have more than a million gallons of oil on board.

      CBS 6 asked Edinger if departments are prepared to handle a worst case scenario, something even like the Lynchburg derailement.

      “There aren’t many departments, if any, that have the capability to immediately respond to that,” Edinger said.

      Edinger said that volume is why local fire departments need more resources and training.

      “We need some more comprehensive training, and we’ve had those discussions with the railroads,” Edinger said.

      Fire officials define the “worst case scenario” for this situation would involve 33 train cars derailing in Shockoe Bottom.

      If that were to happen during peak business hours, the impact could stretch to a half mile radius encompassing hundreds of thousands of people.

      Edinger and Jewell said they are in talks with the railroad company and government officials about possibly rerouting the trains that carry the volatile oil around Richmond.

      Jewell said the railroad company inspects the tracks twice a week to prevent derailment.

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