Tag Archives: Citizens Acting for Rail Safety

LATEST DERAILMENT: Watertown derailment – Bakken oil train crash is 2nd in Wisconsin in 2 days

Repost from RT News
[Editor: See also WKOW ABC27, updates and photos.  Also WKOW ABC27, 100-car unit train, same tracks used by Amtrak.  Also Associated Press, for latest updates.  Also WISN TV: “Watertown residents allowed to return home after derailment.  Train was carrying Bakken crude oil.”  – RS]

Evacuation, leak reported as 25-car train with crude oil derails in Watertown, Wisconsin

9 Nov, 2015 00:29
A Canadian Pacific train loaded with oil tank cars. © Ernest Scheyder
A Canadian Pacific train loaded with oil tank cars. Ernest Scheyder

A potentially large oil leak is reported at the scene of a Canadian Pacific train crash in Watertown, Wisconsin. At least 10 carriages derailed at the spot where track repairs had recently been made. The situation alarmed people living in the “blast zone.”

Canadian Pacific confirmed to local media that the train had derailed. A spokesperson for the railroad, Andy Cummings, told 27 News that at least 10 cars carrying crude had derailed around 2 pm local time, adding that some of the oil was leaking.

UPDATE: 35 homes evacuated in Watertown as crews investigate train derailment #news3 http://bit.ly/1GRCazh

“Canadian Pacific is taking this incident extremely seriously,” Cummings said. “We have officials enroute to respond to the incident scene to coordinate with local officials.”

At least thirty-five Watertown residents have been evacuated from the area, Watertown officials said.

Embedded image permalink
Another view from News Chopper 12 – #Watertown train derailment.

Nearby Dodge County and Jefferson County emergency crews are helping out the Watertown Police Department at the scene.

Canadian Pacific officials were conducting repairs in the same area the derailment occurred just several days ago, according to activist Sarah Zarling from the Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS) group in Watertown.

“Just had the alarming recall that this derailment happened right where Canadian Pacific crews had been working just days ago. These were pictures I took of them working in the No Trespassing Canadian Pacific property area,” the activist posted on the group’s page.

“I live less than a block from the tracks in a blast zone, and let me tell you it’s not too comforting knowing you’re living in a blast zone. You never know when or where a derailment will happen. I don’t want to be one of those 47 people who blow up and die,” Zarling told FOX6 News.

There are currently no fires or injuries being reported. Canadian Pacific said it has dispatched teams to the site.

This is the second freight train derailment in two days in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin.

Less than 24 hours ago, a freight train derailed near Alma, Wisconsin, spilling thousands of gallons of ethanol.

Asked for info on bridge conditions, railroad carrying Bakken crude tells cities no

Repost from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Asked for info on bridge conditions, railroad carrying Bakken crude tells cities no

By Lee Bergquist, Sept. 13, 2015
A flotilla of kayaks and boats and a small crowd onshore hold banners and beat drums Sunday to raise concerns about the transport by rail of oil through Milwaukee and across an aging railroad bridge at the confluence of the Menomonee and Milwaukee rivers near S. 1st Place.
A flotilla of kayaks and boats and a small crowd onshore hold banners and beat drums Sunday to raise concerns about the transport by rail of oil through Milwaukee and across an aging railroad bridge at the confluence of the Menomonee and Milwaukee rivers near S. 1st Place. | Michael Sears

Despite urging from a federal agency that railroads hand over more information on safety conditions of bridges, a carrier moving Bakken crude oil through Milwaukee says it doesn’t plan to provide such details.

Trains carrying Bakken crude go through downtown Milwaukee, leaving some residents afraid of what will happen if there is a spill. This train passes by the apartment of Brian Chiu on W. Oregon St. | Brian Chiu

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) distributed a letter from Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, in which the regulator urged railroad carriers to provide more information to municipalities on the safety status of bridges. Milwaukee officials have complained about the lack of information on the structural integrity of railroad bridges used by Canadian Pacific in the city.

“When a local leader or elected official asks a railroad about the safety status of a railroad bridge, they deserve a timely and transparent response,” Feinberg wrote.

“I urge you to engage more directly with local leaders and provide more timely information to assure the community that the bridges in their communities are safe and structurally sound.”

“CP’s position has not changed,” said Andy Cummings, a manager of media relations for the company.

“It is our policy to work directly with the Federal Railroad Administration, which is our regulator, on any concerns they have with our infrastructure.”

The exchange comes in the wake of growing concerns from communities along rail corridors used by railroads shipping a growing tide of oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota.

Those worries have been exacerbated by tanker accidents. The most notable is the July 2013 derailment of tankers that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The tankers had been routed through Milwaukee before the accident.

There have been no accidents involving crude in Wisconsin, but on March 5 a BNSF Railway train derailed and caught fire near Galena, Ill., after leaving Wisconsin. Twenty-one tankers derailed. Galena is about 10 miles south of the border.

In Milwaukee, one bridge in question is a 300-foot-long structure, known as a steel stringer bridge, at W. Oregon St. and S. 1st St. The bridge was constructed in 1919, according to Bridgehunter.com, which keeps a database of historic bridges.

Canadian Pacific said on Sept. 1 that it would encase 13 of the bridge’s steel columns with concrete to prevent further corrosion and to extend the life of the columns. The carrier said last week that a protective layer of concrete will be applied late this month.

Since last spring, neighbors have expressed worries about the integrity of the bridge, and since July city officials have sought details on the condition of the bridge.

In addition to the threat to human safety, environmental groups such as Milwaukee Riverkeeper say about three dozen bridges cross rivers and streams in the Milwaukee River basin.

On Sunday, a flotilla of kayaks and canoes paddled at the confluence of the Milwaukee and Menomonee rivers to underscore the connection between trains and the city’s waterways.

Bridges must be inspected annually by railroads. But railroads are not required to submit the information to the federal agency. Railroads also are not required to make the information available to the public.

Cummings said the bridge on S. 1st St. has been inspected by a railroad bridge inspector. “We are confident in its ability to safely handle freight and passenger train traffic,” Cummings said.

In her letter, Feinberg said the agency is “re-evaluating” its programs to determine whether it needs to take additional steps.

Common Council President Michael Murphy said he isn’t satisfied by Feinberg’s comments.

“I would liked to have seen a little more teeth in it,” he said.

Murphy said Canadian Pacific should be more transparent, adding that he expects the company to brief the council’s public safety panel soon on the bridge’s condition.

Baldwin and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, also a Democrat, said in an editorial in the La Crosse Tribune last week that oil trains have put “hundreds of communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin at risk for the explosive crashes that come when an oil train derails.”

Nationally, trains carrying crude oil in the United States have jumped from 10,840 carloads in 2009 to 233,698 in 2012 to 493,127 in 2014, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Canadian Pacific is shipping seven to 11 Bakken crude trains a week through Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, according to the latest data sent to the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management. BNSF is shipping 20 to 30 trainloads along the Mississippi River.

In a federal transportation bill that has passed the Senate but not yet the House, Baldwin and Franken said they added language that would make oil train information available for first responders. It would also give state and local officials access to inspection records of bridges.

Sunday’s paddle protest in Milwaukee was meant to highlight concerns by Milwaukee Riverkeeper and Citizens Acting for Rail Safety that the area’s aging bridges were not built to accommodate so much oil.

Cheryl Nenn of Riverkeeper said a rail accident that spilled crude could have long-lasting effects on the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers, and Lake Michigan, the city’s source of drinking water.

Complicating a potential oil spill in downtown Milwaukee is wave action from Lake Michigan, known as a seiche effect, where surging water from the lake can push water upstream, she said.

“The Milwaukee River is cleaner today than it has been in decades, and now we face a threat from crude oil,” Nenn said.

Groups Question Industry Influence on Oil Train Safety Rules, submit FOI request

Press Release from ForestEthics

Groups Question Industry Influence on Oil Train Safety Rules

Freedom of Information Requests Target Five Federal Agencies, Nearly 100 Lobbyists

By Eddie Scher, Jan 15, 2015

Today four public interest groups requested records exchanged between five US government agencies and nearly 100 oil and rail industry representatives on new oil train safety standards. The Department of Transportation announced yesterday that the agency would miss the January 15 deadline set by Congress and issue final rules by May 12, 2015.

“New oil train safety standards are decades late: the National Transportation Safety Board first called antiquated DOT-111 tank cars unsafe for hauling crude oil in 1991,” says Ross Hammond, ForestEthics US campaigns director. “But the administration seems to have trouble asking the oil and rail industry for common sense safety standards like speed limits, sharing information with firefighters, and a ban of the most dangerous cars.”

The Freedom of Information Act requests filed by ForestEthicsCommunities for a Better Environment, Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association (Albany, NY), and Citizens Acting or Rail Safety (La Crosse, WI) name 97 individual lobbyists from the American Petroleum Institute, Association of American Railroads and specific oil and rail companies, including Chevron, Tesoro, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). Among the lobbyists named are six former members of Congress: Trent Lott, Vin Weber, John Breaux, Steve LaTourette, Max Sandlin and Bill Lipinski.

“The public has the right to know how an army of lobbyists is influencing the Department of Transportation,” says Ross Hammond, ForestEthics US campaigns director. “Oil trains carrying millions of gallons of toxic, explosive crude oil threaten the 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone. DOT should listen their own safety experts and quickly finalize strong new standards that take DOT-111s off the tracks, slow these trains down, prepare first responders and protect families.”

Government agencies and officials covered by this FOIA request are US Department of Transportation, National Transportation Safety Board, Surface Transportation Board, Federal Railroad Administration, and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).


ForestEthics demands that corporations and government protect community health, the climate, and our wild places. We’ve secured the protection of 65 million acres of wilderness by pushing major companies to shift hundreds of millions of dollars to responsible purchasing. www.ForestEthics.org