Multiple train disasters: Public awareness increasing exponentially

By Roger Straw, Editor, 2/26/15
Oil train.
Oil train. Credit flickr user: Roy Luck (CC-BY-2.0)

A series of horrific train accidents over the past two weeks has opened a floodgate of media news stories, investigative reports, editorials and calls for action.  Local, state and federal first responders and emergency planners, as well as elected and appointed officials have produced an incredible amount of headlines.  As an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch put it, “Public awareness of these issues is increasing exponentially.”

That is good news for those of us who have been calling for a moratorium on dangerous crude by rail and a cutback and eventual ceasing of production of Bakken crude and Canadian tar-sands dilbit.

Here is a rough sampling of a few of the postings by media nationwide:

MONTANA PUBLIC RADIO: Rail Safety Analysis Sparks Concern Over Oil Trains
By Edward O’Brien, 2/26/15

A new analysis of train safety and recent accidents involving spilled crude oil has caught the attention of many Montanans, especially as more trains carrying oil are moving through the state.  ¶ That’s because a lot crude moves on our rail lines.  ¶ Joe Hanson is well aware of the risk presented by these crude shipments.  ¶ “I went to the door and opened it up and it was just this gray, greenish cloud floating in the street. It was really eerie because of the street lights.”  ¶ That was April 11 of 1996 when 19 Montana Rail Link freight cars derailed near Hanson’s Alberton home. Six of those cars contained hazardous chemicals including chlorine gas.  ¶ The spill killed one person and forced the evacuation of over 1,000 Alberton residents for over two weeks.  [MORE]  [AUDIO]

RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH: Op-Ed: Missed opportunities could prove toxic for Virginia
By Greta Bagwell and Emily Russell, February 25, 2015 10:30 pm

The headlines should be familiar to Virginians by now: “River on fire after train derailment”; “Drinking water supplies shut down to thousands after spill”; “Polluters fined for violating environmental laws.” Last week, another CSX train carrying volatile Bakken crude oil from North Dakota derailed in West Virginia. At least 15 rail cars caught fire, sending a neighborhood into evacuation mode….The train cars were state-of-the-art, designed to address safety concerns arising from the transport of a highly flammable fuel. ¶ The intended destination of this fuel? Yorktown, Va. With this train derailment, we have now had two railway accidents on the same railroad that cuts across the commonwealth…. [MORE]

by Michael I. Niman, 2/26/15

They span over a mile long containing up to 140 tank cars and as much as 4.5 million gallons of some of the nastiest forms of crude oil on earth, pumped from “extreme” extraction operations in North America’s new oil boomtowns. They cross rivers and transverse open plains, wilderness forest and some of the most densely populated urban areas in the country. Occasionally, with alarmingly increasing frequency, they careen off into rivers, catch fire and explode, or both. When spilled in water, their heavy oil exterminates river ecosystems. When they blow up, they release the fires of hell, with one oil train accident in 2013 wiping out most of the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and gutting its downtown. That’s when folks started referring to these explosive steel snakes as “Bomb Trains.”  [MORE]