Category Archives: Derailment

Oil Train Safety Rules Getting Rolled Back By Trump Adminstration

Repost from KUOW Public Radio, Seattle, WA

Oil Train Safety Rules Getting Rolled Back By Trump Adminstration

By Courtney Flatt, December 6, 2017
<p>Crews subdued the fire from the oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, by the morning of Saturday, June 4, 2016. Cleanup on the oil spill and charred rail cars continued into the weekend.</p>
Crews subdued the fire from the oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, by the morning of Saturday, June 4, 2016. Cleanup on the oil spill and charred rail cars continued into the weekend. Photo: EMILY SCHWING

The Trump administration is rolling back a requirement for trains carrying highly explosive liquids — like the oil trains that run through the Columbia River Gorge en route to Northwest refineries.

The 2015 rule was supposed to make these hazardous trains more safe, following a number of derailments. But that was under President Obama, Now, President Trump’s Department of Transportation says railroads with trains carrying highly flammable liquids will not have to update their braking systems.

“The costs of this mandate would exceed three-fold the benefits it would produce,” the DOT said in a statement — that’s according to studies by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Obama-era regulations required railroad companies to install electronically controlled pneumatic brakes by 2021. Those new systems were supposed to help prevent fiery crashes, like last year’s derailment in Mosier, Oregon. ECP brakes are supposed to brake faster because they signal instantaneously throughout the train.

The current industry-standard air brake technology has been in use for more than a century and had been involved in the deadly Lac Megantic derailment in 2013.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley criticized the decision.

“Oil trains are rolling explosion hazards, and as we’ve seen all too many times—and all too recently in Mosier—it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ oil train derailments will occur. Degrading oil train safety requirements is a huge step backward and one that puts our land, homes, and lives at risk,” Merkley said in a statement.

Industry groups applauded the decision. Chet Thompson, president and CEO of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, called the rollback a “rational decision.”

“While we support the use of improved safety technologies, (electronically controlled pneumatic) isn’t an improvement on other technologies currently in use, and would have imposed substantial costs to shippers,” Thompson said in a news release.

Conservation groups in the Northwest said the rollback was frustrating, but unsurprising. Dan Serres is the conservation director with Columbia Riverkeeper.

“We’re definitely frustrated that the Trump administration is weakening standards that are not strong enough to begin with,” Serres said. “We saw that with the Moiser derailment, potentially if there was a better braking system in place, we wouldn’t have seen so many cars come off the tracks.”

Serres said his group is now more committed to stopping oil terminal construction in the Northwest, if the federal government isn’t “holding the rail industry’s feet to the fire to improve the safety of these shipments.”

 

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Sturgeon County Canada: neighborhoods evacuated after train carrying crude oil derails

Repost from CBC News

Sturgeon County neighbourhoods evacuated after train carrying crude oil derails

12 cars overturned on the railway in Sturgeon County northwest of Edmonton
CBC News, Oct 22, 2017 9:32 PM MT
RCMP asked residents in River’s Edge and Noroncal to evacuate their homes as a precaution after a train derailed Sunday afternoon.
RCMP asked residents in River’s Edge and Noroncal to evacuate their homes as a precaution after a train derailed Sunday afternoon. (Teri Gosselin)

Residents of two neighbourhoods in Sturgeon County, Alta., were allowed to return home Sunday evening after their homes were evacuated in the aftermath of a train derailment Sunday afternoon, county officials say.

At about 1:45 p.m., 12 cars overturned on the railway northwest of Edmonton.

The rail cars were carrying crude oil and two of them leaked, releasing about 30 to 50 litres, said Sheila Moore, communications officer for Sturgeon County.

Those leaks have been stopped, CN spokesperson Patrick Waldron said in a statement Sunday evening.

‘Pretty unsettling’

A resident of River’s Edge Place, Teri Gosselin, heard the clatter Sunday she described as the “craziest noise” she’d ever heard.

“Just the loudest kind of metal-on-metal noise you could ever imagine,” she told CBC News.

“Pretty unsettling.”

Gosselin ​and one of her roommates went to check out what happened, when a CN crew member told them to step back because there was hazardous material on the ground.

“You couldn’t quite smell the oil but you could see the sheen of oil or some sort of fuel on the cars,” she said. “Train parts everywhere.”

No danger detected

Residents were given the green light to return home after CN personnel assessed the area and determined there was no apparent danger, Moore said.

RCMP had asked residents in the River’s Edge and Noroncal neighbourhoods to evacuate as a precaution, although police didn’t believe there was a danger to the public, Const. Kathleen Sossen told CBC News.

The evacuation affected approximately 46 homes in the Sturgeon Valley area.

Sturgeon County officials say it will take a couple of days to clean up after a CN train derailed Sunday afternoon. (Teri Gosselin)

The county had set up a reception centre at Namao Hall on Hwy 37 for evacuees.

No injuries or property damage have been reported, Moore said.

Waldron said the company has activated its emergency response plan and environmental teams are on scene to start cleaning up.

“We continue to work alongside local emergency responders,” Waldron said. The cause of the incident is under investigation, he said.

Moore said the county expected clean up efforts to continue over the next couple of days.

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Baltimore council members propose ban on new crude oil facilities

From an email by Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Program Organizer, 
Clean Water Action
[See also the Baltimore Sun story, below]

Thu, Oct 19, 2017

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to share the exciting news that the Baltimore zoning code change to prohibit new or expanded crude oil terminals has been officially introduced!  You can download the bill here, and here is some coverage of it in the Baltimore Sun and our local NPR station.  Taylor and I would be happy to answer any questions about it!

Have a great day,

Jennifer Kunze
Maryland Program Organizer
Clean Water Action
WebsiteFacebookTwitter


Repost from The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore council members propose ban on new crude oil facilities

By Ian Duncan, October 16, 2017

Two members of the Baltimore City Council want to ban new crude oil terminals from the city as part of an effort to limit the number of oil trains traveling through the area.

Council members Mary Pat Clarke and Ed Reisinger introduced a proposed change to the city’s zoning laws Monday that would add the oil terminals to a list of banned facilities, ranking them alongside nuclear power plants and incinerators.

“Crude oil shipments are potential hazards to residents and entire neighborhoods,” Reisinger said in a statement.

The council members said they were turning to the zoning code because federal law stops city authorities from directly regulating rail. They hope limiting the terminal capacity will mean there will be less interest in sending oil trains to Baltimore.

Two existing facilities in Baltimore would be allowed to stay but could not expand in any way under the proposal.

For years environmental activists have been sounding the alarm about crude oil that is transported by rail, which can lead to deadly explosions in the case of an accident. In 2013, 47 people died when a train carrying crude oil exploded in Canada.

Precise details of the shipments are scarce, but with the price of oil low, the practice is widely believed to currently be at a low ebb. Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX Transportation, said no oil trains have operated in Baltimore or anywhere else on the company’s network for months. Doolittle also said the company has never run dedicated oil trains through the city, but had moved small amounts of crude on mixed trains.

Clarke said the dip in the market meant it was the right time for the council to take up the proposed restrictions.

“It doesn’t put jobs in jeopardy,” she said. “We don’t know when the marketplace may change. If it does we want to have already capped out the capacity of Baltimore facilities.”

The operator of one of the existing terminals declined to comment; the other did not respond to questions.

Environmental groups say there’s reason to think that if the price of oil picks up again, companies would seek to expand the number of terminals in Baltimore. That’s what happened during the last boom several years ago, but the plans were blocked.

Jennifer Kunze, an organizer with Clean Water Action, said it makes sense to put limits in place now.

“This is really a preventative measure,” she said.

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