Dangerous Crude Oil Trains  

RochesterEnvironment.com

Consider how dangerous and ill-conceived the massive buildup of crude oil trains (or Bomb Train) is for our Rochester community.    

"I am convinced that ecology cannot be kept secret. Environmental openness is an inalienable human right. Any attempt to conceal any information about harmful impact on people and the environment is a crime against humanity." --Alexandr Nikitin, Russian environmentalist.

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Page Contents: taking ACTION on Bomb Trains | News on exploding crude oil trains | Resources for Dangerous Crude oil transports 

 

Preventing a crude oil train disaster in Rochester, NY too

You don’t need to understand French to understand this short video taken during the “Catastrophe à Lac-Mégantic.”

 

Some background. The opening speaker at the “Oil-by-Rail: What’s Next” meeting in Albany on October 24th was a citizen from the small village of Lac Mégantic, Canada. Marilaine Savard, community leader from Lac-Mégantic--Quebec’s Citizens Committee--shared that community’s journey since the July 6, 2013 rail disaster. Marilaine showed the above video taken by a friend to a group of concerned groups from around New York State. Her friend Adrien Aubert, risking life and limb, started taping this video from his cell phone immediately after the explosion—but it has only been recently released online. It’s raw and brutal, which can be felt regardless of what language you speak and seen when Adrien turns the camera on himself near the end of this powerful video. more...

  Get full coverage of the Lac-Megantic disaster from the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) Lac-Mégantic derailment anniversary a solemn occasion for town

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Resources for taking action on preventing Bomb Trains

  • Stop Explosive Oil Trains! Find out if you are in the blast zone and sign the petition. There is a fiftyfold increase in local transport of volatile crude oil trains (which are not and cannot be properly designed to carry this dangerous oil) through our region. Check to see if you are in the blast zone, and Take action and put a stop to this! From our friends over at Mothers Out Front! Really take a moment to find out about this clean and present danger in our community and take action here.

  • People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.  Our work reaches out to people and groups around the globe who strive for an end to the ruinous fossil fuel economy and to replace it with a just, sustainable, and distributed system of work that meets people’s real needs and does not destroy the Earth’s climate. Mission Statement: PAUSE works to promote safe, sustainable energy and environmental justice.   We aim to engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry's assault on the people of Albany and our environment.

  • INFRASTRUCTURE: TRANSPORTING FOSSIL FUELS BY RAIL resouces, actions and news on crude oil trains from R-Cause.net

  • Crude Oil Transport "With very little public awareness and no study of environmental impacts, the oil industry has made the Hudson Valley into one arm of a dangerous “virtual pipeline” for crude oil that snakes thousands of miles by rail, barge and ship from oil fields in North Dakota, Canada and elsewhere, to refineries on both coasts. " Riverkeepers

Study Highlight:

DEADLY CROSSING Neglected Bridges and Exploding Oil Trains


Photo: The People's Climate March September 21, 2014 .


Oil trains, crumbling infrastructure, and inadequate federal oversight of rail bridges threaten the safety of millions of Americans, our waterways, and the environment. Since 2008, oil train traffic has increased over 5,000 percent along rail routes leading from production fields in central Canada, the Great Plains, and the Rockies to refineries and crude oil hubs along our nation’s coasts. There has also been a surge in the number of oil train derailments, spills, fires, and explosions. More oil was spilled from trains in 2013 than in the previous 40 years combined.1   

On July 6, 2013, an oil train derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that there would be up to 10 oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada per year over the next two decades.2 Any of these derailments could result in a serious disaster, with oil spilled, fires, explosions, and even loss of life. In 2015 alone, six major oil train derailments and explosions have occurred as of November.3  (November 2015) Prepared by RiverkeeperForestEthics , Waterkeeper Alliance

 

Global Environmental NewsMothers talk about oil train dangers At least 24 oil trains have been involved in major fires or derailments over the past decade in the U.S. and Canada. It’s a topic of concern for the group Mothers Out Front. They met on Sunday in Brighton to discuss the issue of how oil is transported. In Monroe County, dozens of trains carrying crude oil pass through our communities. Recently, federal regulators set new guidelines for the railroad industry, but some environmental groups say the new rules don’t go far enough. (May 18, 2015) WHAM [more on Energy in our area]

 

News on exploding crude oil trains

2016

  • Judge rejects riot charges for journalist Amy Goodman after oil pipeline protest Authorities had issued a warrant for her arrest after Democracy Now! host filmed guards for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters A North Dakota judge rejected prosecutors’ “riot” charges against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman for her reporting on the oil pipeline protests, a decision that advocates hailed as a major victory for freedom of the press. After the award-winning broadcast journalist filmed security guards working for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters, authorities issued a warrant for Goodman’s arrest and alleged that she participated in a “riot”, a serious offense that could result in months in jail. (October 17, 2016) The Guardian [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • N.Y. DEC says Global Companies oil terminal must re-apply Operation at Port of Albany must submit a whole new application in order to keep operating in future years Buckeye The operator of a major crude oil rail-to-barge terminal at the Port of Albany will have to submit an entirely new application for an air emission permit rather than renewing the current one, state Environmental Commissioner Basil Seggos said Friday. "Global Companies must restart its environmental review process, given the significant new information about the benzene levels in Albany's South End community and the hazards of crude oil transport," Seggos said Friday in a prepared statement. Additionally, Global Companies' new application will have to include data about a proposal by the firm to add up to seven boilers which would facilitate loading thicker tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, from trains to barges. The application process could also include a public comment period and possibly, hearings. (September 16, 2016) Albany Times Union [more on Air Quality and Bomb Trains in our area]
  • DEC Letter: Global Companies Must Submit New Port of Albany Air Permit Application The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today sent a letter to Global Companies (Global) informing the company that its Port of Albany air permit renewal application will be considered as an entirely new application, requiring additional information to address issues identified by DEC and restarting the State's environmental review process. DEC intends to provide a public comment period, and possibly a public hearing, as part of the new permit application and require Global to develop an enhanced outreach plan that fully explores the impacts of its existing and proposed crude oil operations on the environmental justice community pursuant to DEC's policy on Environmental Justice and permitting. "Global Companies must restart its environmental review process, given the significant new information about the benzene levels in Albany's South End community and the hazards of crude oil transport," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "DEC will ensure that this process includes a meaningful and thorough opportunity for public engagement." (September 16, 2016) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [more on Bomb Trains and Air Quality in our area]
  • CSX: 20-35 oil trains per week cross upstate NY Twenty to 35 trains, each carrying at least 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil, pass through Monroe, Genesee and Wayne counties each week, according to information provided to the state by CSX Transportation. State officials released the information this week to organizations that filed requests under the Freedom of Information Law after announcing last week they have denied a request by freight railroads to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The railroads began providing the information to the State Emergency Response Commission on June 7 under an emergency order signed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. (July 16, 2016) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Use of old oil tankers falling off The use of older, more dangerous freight-rail tank cars to transport crude oil dropped nearly 97 percent between 2014 and the end of March, an official of the Association of American Railroads said Wednesday. Robert Fronczak, the association’s assistant vice president for environment and hazardous materials, made the announcement at a rail tanker car safety forum sponsored by the National Transportation Safety Board. Rail tank car shipments of crude oil also have declined — from a peak of 498,271 in 2014 to 424,996 last year, according to AAR. (July 14, 2016) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Ban the Bomb Trains Week of Action ends with a bang! Don’t panic, It wasn’t that kind of bang: After an amazing week of action all over the country, we won a big victory in Baltimore MD (your author’s home town) when Houston Big Oil pusher Targa Resources withdrew plans to ship volatile crude oil on so-called “Bomb Trains” through to the port. It was a great way to wrap up the #StopOilTrains week of action so many Environmental Action members have shown up or chipped in to support. Our goal for the week was to raise awareness about the bomb trains — shipments of crude oil and other fossil fuels by rail through United States and Canada. While some events were overshadowed by the bloody violence in Texas, Louisiana and Minnesota — many more went forward as planned and delivered real results. (July 13, 2016) Environmental Action [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Mothers Out Front protests oil trains on local tracks The protest marked three years since a deadly oil train wreck killed 47 Mothers Out Front was outside of the Federal Building in Rochester on Wednesday protesting the oil trains that travel on local railroad tracks.  The group was marking three years since an oil train derailed in Quebec. The explosion and fire caused by the wreck killed 47 people.  Suzanne Brown with Mothers Out Front is concerned that local communities may face the same risk. (July 6, 2016) RochesterFirst.com [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • The scary truth about "bomb trains" moving through your town Mosier Fire Chief Jim Appleton vividly remembers the moment he first laid eyes on the blaze from 16 derailed train cars running right through the middle of his small Oregon town early last month. His first thought was “surreal,” and his second thought was the disaster at Lac-Mégantic, Que. in July 2013, which killed nearly 50 people. Less than a kilometre east, the fire could have burned beneath Mosier’s modular homes, and in another 1.5 kilometres, it could have sent leaking oil tank cars to the bank of the Columbia River during the peak of the spring chinook salmon migration. About 100 people were evacuated as the accident came within 230 metres of the Mosier Community School, and spilled tens of thousands of litres of crude into the ground and city sewer system. It burned out of control for at least 18 hours. (July 4, 2016) National Observer [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Protesters Arrested for Blocking Railroad in Call for Oil-by-Rail Moratorium Arrests come as Oregon's governor and others urge the Obama administration to ban oil trains in that state after a fiery crash in the Columbia River gorge. Twenty-one activists were arrested in Vancouver, Wash. on Saturday in a protest calling for a permanent moratorium on shipping oil by rail in Oregon and Washington, to protect people and the environment. Approximately 100 protesters took part in the event, blocking trains along the Columbia River gorge. The protest followed the derailment of an oil train in the gorge on June 3 that erupted in flames, spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. The crash came three years after a derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that killed 47 people in July 2013. (June 21, 2016) Inside Climate News [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Oil train opponents rally in Albany Oil train opponents rallied in the region Tuesday, calling on the Department of Environmental Conservation to reject a proposal to bring Canadian tar sand oil on rail lines that run through upstate towns and cities and along the Hudson River. “It would be almost impossible to clean up if it leaked into the Hudson,” said Mark Schaeffer, with 350.org and Citizen Action. “It’s ‘dilbit,’ diluted bitumen which is not even a liquid at ordinary temperatures. That’s why they need to heat it, so it can flow enough to load it on barges. Tar sands is a very, very low grade fossil fuel.” In the event of an accident involving trains or barges, the oil would sink to the bottom of the river, making cleanup very difficult, he said. (June 7, 2016) The Record [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Days after oil train derailment, normal seems far away in scenic Mosier Updated at 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. with further details from a community meeting.  On most June weekends, Mosier is filled with pleasure seekers -- drivers, cyclists and other outdoors enthusiasts who come to appreciate the majestic beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. But two days after a 96-car oil train partially derailed while passing through this city of 400, the traffic on Sunday was mostly industrial. Trucks hauled water, gravel and mobile toilets in big batches. A Portland Fire & Rescue engine circled near the police checkpoint in front of Mosier Fruit Growers, which is preparing for an early cherry harvest, brought on by the warm weather. (June 6, 2016) Oregon Live [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Cleanup underway after Oregon train carrying oil derailed Most of the cars from a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil that derailed and burst into flames in Oregon on Friday have been removed and the remaining oil will be hauled away on flatbed trucks, a spokesman for the company said on Sunday. A total of 16 cars of the 96-car train derailed, up from the company's previous report of 11 derailed cars, Union Pacific spokesman Justin Jacobs said. Thirteen train cars remained on site. Investigators were unsure how much oil spilled in the accident, the first major oil-by-rail incident in the United States in a year. Much of the oil was either contained or burned up, Jacobs said. (June 5, 2016) Reuters [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Oil train derails near Mosier in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge An oil train derailment Friday in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier sent up a massive plume of black smoke and stoked long-standing fears about the risks of hauling crude oil through one of the Pacific Northwest's most renowned landscapes. Eleven cars from a 96-car Union Pacific train jumped the tracks west of the small city about 12:20 p.m., next to Rock Creek that feeds the Columbia River. Several rail cars caught on fire and at least one released oil, but it's not known how much, railroad officials said. (June 3, 2016) Oregon Live [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • NYS To Help Pay For Training For Oil Fires New York State is making a new investment in helping first responders train for oil fires. The state will use $500,000 in federal funds to purchase a "live fire" training prop to help fire fighters and other emergency personnel learn how to respond to crude oil fires. It is part of a broader effort to prepare for possible accidents involving oil shipping by rail or boat. The money will go to the New York State Academy of Fire Science, which trains more than 6,000 first responders each year. (May 22, 2016) WXXI News [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • PHMSA, FRA Lay Tracks for Proactive Rail Incident Preparedness Over the last six years the amount of crude oil being transported by rail has increased approximately 5,000 percent—more than ever before in our nation’s history. This significant increase has affected communities along rail lines in many ways: from increased traffic at grade crossings to concerns about leaks, spills, potential derailments or other incidents.  The Department is doing all we can to ensure that all involved – community members, included- are prepared in the event of an accident. We work especially closely with local law enforcement, emergency responders and hazardous materials professionals to share information and support their efforts to prepare for and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials.  Most recently, we released the Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response (TRIPR) training resource. Developed in conjunction with other public safety agencies, TRIPR leverages the expertise of rail carriers and industry subject matter experts to better prepare first responders to safely manage large-scale incidents involving unit trains transporting flammable liquids. This off-the-shelf training is available online and can be used anywhere throughout the country. (April 4, 2016) Transportation.gov [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Progress on Oil Trains and Rail Bridges Chugging Along Five months after we released Deadly Crossing, a report highlighting the troubling state of rail bridge safety written with Riverkeeper and ForestEthics, there have been some important developments. While much of the progress made on this issue is small compared to the enormous, immediate threat posed by oil trains traveling over potentially unstable bridges, these developments vindicate many of the concerns we raised in our report. One of our concerns in Deadly Crossing focused on the lack of transparency surrounding rail bridge safety, as it was largely impossible for stakeholders – including local and state representatives – to get meaningful inspection information about a bridge in their community. Passed in December 2015, the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act includes a provision pushed by Senator Tammy Baldwin that provides a means for local and state officials to request a “public rail bridge inspection report” on bridges in their jurisdiction. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which has previously implored railroads to be more transparent on rail bridge safety, acted quickly to implement this program, launching a website last week with a form for public officials to use. (March 4, 2016) WaterKeepter Alliance [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Press Release: Jury in Delta 5 Climate Case Splits Decision, Shares Sympathy With Protesters Lynnwood, WA - The historic case of the 'Delta 5' train blockaders has ended with a conviction on one of the two charges. After four days of testimony from the defendants and their expert witness a Jury found the defendants not guilty of impeding the movement of a train, but guilty of trespass in the second degree. Immediately following the verdict three of the jurors gathered in the halls of the courthouse to talk with the defendants, their legal team, and supporters. In a heartfelt conversation the jurors expressed their support for the defendants, told their lawyers they would have acquitted on all charges were necessity instructions given, agreed to work with the Climate Disobedience Center to improve further cases and signed up to attend a lobbying day on oil-trains with defendant Abby Brockway. {January 15, 2016) Climate Disobedience Center [more on Climate Change and Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • This Is What the Fossil Fuel Industry Spilled Into Our Rivers, Towns, and Fields in Just a Year An explosion in North American fossil fuel extraction has led to a dangerous rise in pipeline spills and oil train derailments. Shipping oil and gas across our country and Canada is a dangerous business, whether it’s by rail, ship, or pipeline. Major accidents might make headlines for a few days or weeks, but after our media attention moves on, the environmental clean-up and community costs remain. So in 2015, we decided to give readers a sense of just how often transporting fossil fuel goes wrong. We didn’t have to wait long. Not one week into 2015, on January 6, a ruptured pipeline leaked three million gallons of brine into two creeks near Williston, North Dakota. It was the largest such spill since the state’s oil boom began 10 years ago, which is saying something: A New York Times report found that more than 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals spilled, leaked, or misted into the state’s air, land, and waterways between 2006 and 2014. Less than two weeks later, on January 17 another ruptured pipeline sent 31,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana. (January 21, 2016) Pacific Standard [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]

2015

  • Millions of Students Attend Schools in 'Potential Impact Zones' for Oil Train Disasters Every week, barrels upon barrels of volatile crude oil crisscross Chicago by rail, endangering tens of thousands of kids. On any given school day, some 350 children wave goodbye to their parents and pile into the Jungman Elementary School in southwest Chicago. While the students are supposed to be learning their multiplication tables, they may gaze out their classroom windows, staring at the trains chugging down the tracks just a block or so away. This scenario wouldn’t be too worrying except for the fact that many of those trains are carrying upwards of a million gallons of highly flammable crude. And of late, oil trains haven’t had the best safety record. A national record of 1.4 million gallons of oil spilled in 2013 in mishaps that included major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 2014 saw the number of “unintentional releases”—due, in part, to trains jumping the track—hit an all-time high of 144. In the Midwest, two trains derailed in Wisconsin last month, and, last March, another derailed and caught fire near Galena, Illinois, spilling 200,000 gallons of oil. (December 15, 2015) Pacific Standard [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]

  • Transportation law accelerates safety mandates A just-signed transportation law includes new safety requirements for freight rail trains carrying crude oil. Congress approved the tougher mandates in response to tank car derailments and explosions dating to a July 2013 accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that claimed 47 lives. Under the new law, signed Friday by President Obama, older DOT-111 tank cars will be barred from transporting unrefined petroleum products beginning March 1, 2018. Tank cars not containing heat-resistant thermal jackets will be phased out two months earlier. Notably, the law eliminates a loophole in a recent Transportation Department rule that would have allowed DOT-111 tank cars to continue carrying crude oil if they weren't part of a train with at least 35 tankers or a segment with 20 consecutive tank cars. (December 8, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]

  • Inspectors find track defects near Rochester Inspections prompted by concern about crude-oil train safety identified four critical track defects, at least two of which were in the Rochester area, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. State inspectors found one problem with the connection of a rail to a wooden tie and another with a switch component that helps prevent derailments. Both defects, which required immediate repair, were located on the CSX Transportation tracks between North Chili and Macedon, Wayne County, just east of the Monroe County line. The inspections also found four non-critical defects that could be repaired at a more relaxed pace, Cuomo said in a statement. (December 7, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]

  • A.G. Schneiderman Petitions Federal Government to Reduce Dangers of Crude Oil Shipped by Rail, Calls for Closing Loophole Proposal Calls On Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration To Reduce Risk Of Explosions And Uncontrollable Fires By Setting Nationwide Limit On Vapor Pressure Of Crude Oil Carried By Rail Millions Of Gallons Of Crude Oil Routinely Travel By Rail Through NY Communities Without Any Limit On Its Explosiveness And Flammability Schneiderman: New Yorkers In Harm’s Way Of Oil Trains Deserve The Greatest Possible Protection   NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today called on the federal agency responsible for regulating the transportation of hazardous materials to close a loophole that currently allows highly flammable crude oil to be shipped by rail through communities in New York and across the country.  Specifically, the Attorney General filed a petition for rulemaking to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) that would require all crude oil transported by rail in the U.S. to achieve a vapor pressure – a key driver of the oil’s explosiveness and flammability– of less than 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi). (December 2, 2015) NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]

  • Study: Heavy oil trains risky for aging railroad bridges Oil tanker cars travel crumbling rail bridges, including five in New York state Five aging railroad bridges in New York — including a bridge over the Normans Kill in Albany County — are part of a nationwide study of aging bridges at risk from the pounding being given by massive oil trains. A network of volunteer observers examined 250 bridges in 15 states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, finding that about half of bridges showed visible signs of rot and decay. That included "rotted, cracked, or crumbling foundations, and loose or broken beams. Waterkeepers were also present when crude oil trains passed and observed flexing, slumping and vibrations that crumbled concrete," according to a 32-page report issued Tuesday by Waterkeeper Alliance, ForestEthics, and Riverkeeper. (November 10, 2015) Albany Times Union [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]

  • Half of surveyed oil train bridges are deteriorating, report says Waterkeeper Alliance surveyed 250 bridges used by trains carrying volatile crude oil; there are more than 100K in the US A survey of 250 oil train bridges across America found that almost half showed signs of considerable deterioration, including missing or crumbling concrete, partially washed-away footings, rotted pilings and badly corroded steel beams, according to a report released Tuesday (PDF). Determining whether the problems found by three environmental groups pose a threat to public safety is almost impossible, however, because the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rarely inspects the nation’s estimated 100,000 rail bridges, including some built more than 100 years ago. Instead the agency leaves that responsibility to the railroads, which don’t make their inspection records public. (November 10, 2015) Aljazeera America  [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]

  • State providing foam to fight oil fires  New York is deploying 19 trailers equipped with a firefighting foam to local fire departments and county departments to help them fight fires or contain crude oil spills. New York has faced growing concerns about the potential of explosions and spills if trains hauling volatile crude oil were to derail. In May, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said it would develop individual geographic response plans for 20 counties that have the highest risks for a derailment. (October 14, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Energy in our area]

  • Judge approves $338M for Quebec train derailment victims Tankers carrying highly flammable oil exploded in 2013, killing 47 people in town of Lac-Mégantic A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Friday approved a $338 million settlement fund for victims of the fiery 2013 oil train derailment that claimed 47 lives in Quebec, clearing the way for payments to victims by year's end. Judge Peter Cary announced his approval after Canadian Pacific dropped its objection and after a Canadian judge gave conditional approval Thursday. Barring any surprises, payments could be made to victims by the end of November or by year's end at the latest, said Robert Keach, a U.S. bankruptcy trustee. About $83 million will be used to settle wrongful death claims. "We don't pretend to suggest that we made up for everything that happened. But within the limits of the civil system, this is substantial compensation for the victims, and they deserve it," Keach said after the brief hearing. (October 9, 2015) Aljazeera America [more on Energy in our area]

  • Railroad Agency Details New Rail-Track Standards Federal authorities detailed new rail-track standards on Friday after finding that a broken rail caused an oil train to derail this year in West Virginia. The finding highlighted a main cause of oil train accidents, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, which concluded an eight-month investigation into the derailment of a CSX train near Mount Carbon. Several weeks before the February accident, rail inspectors for CSXdetected internal rail flaws on two separate occasions but did not take action in either case, according to the investigation. Federal regulators have stepped up their oversight of the railroad industry during a surge in the transportation of crude oil by train in recent years, which has also brought multiple accidents and spills. (October 9, 2015) New York Times [more on Energy in our area]

  • US sets new brake rule for oil trains, two years after Lac-Megantic Over two years after a runaway freight train derailed, exploded and destroyed much of the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47, the Obama administration has issued new rules governing breaking procedures for tanker cars carrying volatile cargo. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said Wednesday that two qualified railroad workers must set the handbrakes and check other safety equipment on cars carrying dangerous liquids, like crude oil or ethanol, when trains over 20-cars long are left unattended. (July 30, 2015) Aljazeera [more on Energy in our area]

  • Oil train insurance minimums in question A little more than two years have passed since an unattended runaway train from the now-bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Co. derailed and crashed, spilling oil that caught fire in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and killing 47 people. Within the past two years over a dozen trains transporting crude oil have derailed in North America. And while there are still no U.S. regulations regarding minimum insurance coverages for these trains, Canada's government in July approved the Safe and Accountable Rail Act, which consists of a new liability and compensation program requiring the rail industry and crude oil shippers pay for minimum levels of insurance ranging from $25 million to $1 billion. (July 28, 2015) Business Insurance [more on Energy in our area]

  • Rail cars leaking crude after oil train derails in Montana CULBERTSON, Mont. -- More than 20 cars on an oil train derailed in rural northeastern Montana, and at least three of them were leaking crude, leading some homes to be evacuated, authorities said. There were no immediate reports of injury or fire, but of the 21 cars that derailed Thursday evening, only two remained upright, Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Frederick said. Authorities had earlier reported just two cars were leaking, but Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Matt Jones updated the number to three in a statement Friday morning. The oil had been contained, and railroad employees were on the scene, Jones said. The train was pulling 106 loaded crude oil cars when it derailed close to Culbertson near the North Dakota border just after 6 p.m. MDT Thursday. The cars typically haul about 30,000 gallons of oil apiece. (July 17, 2015) CBS News [more on Energy in our area]
  • Unsafe at any speed? A fiery derailment of a CSX oil train in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, in February showed the destructive potential of these trains. Twenty-seven of the train's 109 oil cars went off the tracks — some catching fire or exploding. A nearby home was destroyed in the fire, which continued to burn for five days. The cause of the accident is still under investigation. The derailment occurred right next to the Kanawha River, and environmental crews had to work quickly to keep hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude from seeping into the water. A downstream drinking-water treatment plant was also shut down as a precaution. "This accident is another reminder of the need to improve the safety of transporting hazardous materials by rail," said Christopher Hart, acting chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, in a news release. Mount Carbon was one of five fiery oil train derailments in the US and Canada between January and May. Though the high-profile accidents have not claimed any lives, they do have a lot of people — from environmental and community activists to emergency responders —concerned about what might happen if an oil train derails in their communities. (July 15, 2015) Rochester City Newspaper [more on Energy in our area]
  • As complaints mount, feds agree to probe local rail crossings The Federal Railroad Administration will conduct "a thorough review" of all Rochester-area rail crossings in response to a request by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, the agency said Thursday morning. Schumer, New York's senior Democratic senator, cited anecdotal reports of chronic malfunctions at Rochester-area crossings when he asked for the federal probe Wednesday. In fact, more than 100 malfunctions were reported at Monroe County railroad crossings in the first five months of this year, according to an analysis by the Democrat and Chronicle. An average of five malfunctions per week have been reported so far this year, a rate that's higher than in the same period in 2014, the newspaper found. (June 4, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Transportation and Energy in our area]
  • 8 cars on freight train derail near Syracuse Authorities say eight cars on a 100-car freight train have derailed in a rural village in central New York. Authorities say eight cars on a 100-car freight train have derailed in a rural village in central New York. The Cortland County Department of Emergency Response and Communications says the derailment happened around 7 a.m. Thursday in Marathon, 40 miles south of Syracuse. Two of the cars are lying on their sides. (May 28, 2015) Daily Messenger [more on Energy in our area]

  • Environmental Groups File Challenge to Oil Transport Rules Seven environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging safety rules issued this month for trains carrying oil, arguing that the regulations are too weak to protect the public. The groups, including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, said the rules, issued on May 1, would allow the industry to continue to use “unsafe tank cars” for up to 10 years. They also said the rules failed to set adequate speed limits for oil trains. “We’re suing the administration because these rules won’t protect the 25 million Americans living in the oil train blast zone,” said Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics, one of the groups filing the lawsuit. (May 14, 2015) Reuters and New York Times [more on Energy in our area]
  • Dangerously close – Oil by rail risks (part one)  (and Part 2) Ali Velshi investigates the speeding Amtrak train, which crashed just yards from tankers used to carry explosive cargo The Amtrak derailment in North Philadelphia just highlights the real safety concerns that too many critics out there have about America's rail infrastructure. According to the Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania's bridges are ranked worst in the country in terms of structural integrity - with 23% of them considered deficient. Many of those bridges have rails that carry oil trains. US railways now transport nearly ten percent of America's crude oil output, or around 800,000 barrels per day; that's a 1700 percent increase in just the last four years. And all that extra traffic just increases the likelihood of rail accidents. (May 13, 20150 Aljazeera America [more on Energy in our area]
  • Local group calls attention to crude oil cars The 2001 train derailment in Charlotte is a reminder of just how dangerous rail cars can be. Seven of the 42 CSX cars jumped the tracks, spilling thousands of gallons of chemicals. “These trains are not safe for any community,” Neely Kelly said. Kelly is a parent of an RCSD student whose school falls in an evacuation zone. She's also a member of Mothers Out Front, Mobilizing for a Livable Climate.  It’s a group calling attention to oil trains. “Whoever maintains the rail lines, they don't maintain the tracks enough. The one in Pittsford where it just looks so rickety and we have so many of these explosive trains coming through our community and I'm concerned for my kids,” said Kelly. (May 11, 2015) WHAM [more on Energy in our area]
  • Track where oil train derailed was inspected day before fiery accident, FRA says Railroad tracks where an oil train derailed Wednesday in central North Dakota had been inspected by BNSF Railway a day earlier and by the Federal Railroad Administration about three months before the fiery derailment, an FRA spokesman said Friday. “Neither of those inspections noted any defects or violations,” Kevin Thompson said. BNSF says federal regulations require four inspections per week on that section of track, but the company typically inspects it every day. (May 8, 2015) Grand Forks Herald [more on Energy in our area]

  • North Dakota town evacuated after oil train derails A tiny central North Dakota town has been evacuated after the derailment of an oil train. The incident displaced residents of Heimdal, sheriff's officials told local media. The accident involved a BNSF Railway train with 109 cars, five of which were burning. Six to seven cars derailed and the cause of the event is unknown, according to officials. (May 6, 2015) CNBC [more on Energy in our area]
  • Faster phase-out proposed for older rail tank cars The phase-out of older rail tank cars carrying crude oil would move more quickly under legislation proposed Monday by Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. Schumer’s bill also would expand the number of areas subject to a 40 mph speed limit for freight trains carrying multiple tank cars with crude oil. U.S. and Canadian transportation officials announced coordinated plans Friday for a series of new safety initiatives involving crude-by-rail, including a new generation of rail tank cars and a retrofitting schedule for existing DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars. (May 4, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Energy in our area]
  • The tar sands invasion that can be stopped Many across the United States are aware of the tar sands threat posed by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline but what many may not know is the U.S. faces a looming threat that is bigger than just this one pipeline. We call it a tar sands invasion. The plan would be to complete a network of pipelines (both new and expanded), supertankers and barges, and a fleet of explosive railway tank cars. What is at risk? San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and other places we all call home. (April 28, 2015) NRDC Switchboard [more on Energy and Climate Change in our area] 
  • New York State Exposed: Are railroads being held to the highest safety standards? There are a number of railroad tracks and trains in our area. So is enough being done to make sure those trains and the materials inside are safe? Maybe you've noticed them -- long trains carrying those oil tankers. They roll through town several times a day. Some of the crude oil being transported has proven to be volatile if a train derails. In our New York State Exposed report we’re asking if the railroads are being held to the highest safety standards. (April 20, 2015) WHEC Rochester [more on Energy in our area]
  • No letup seen in crude-oil shipments through Rochester It appears the volume of crude-oil rail shipments that pass through the Rochester area may have increased slightly since last summer, and CSX Transportation, which owns the tracks on which they travel, expects the number of oil trains to remain stable this year. Rail shipment of crude oil, especially highly volatile crude that originates in the Bakken shale in the Northern Plains, has been a controversial topic for the last several years. There have been protests, including here, and expressions of concern from environmental groups and government officials in many locales. (April 17, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Energy in our area]
  • Train derails in Northern Ontario, heightening safety fears A second fiery derailment near a Northern Ontario community is adding to concerns that federal rail-safety regulations – brought into effect after the 2013 tragedy in Lac-Mégantic – do not go far enough in addressing the dangers of shipping crude oil by rail. The accident, which occurred early Saturday morning, marks the second time in less than a month that a Canadian National Railway train carrying crude oil has derailed and caught fire near the community of Gogama, Ont. Between 30 and 40 tank cars went off the tracks less than four kilometres from Gogama, about 100 kilometres south of Timmins, causing a massive blaze that was still burning Sunday afternoon. (March 9, 2014) Globe and Mail [more on Energy in our area]
  • Freight train carrying crude oil derails near Illinois city A freight train loaded with crude oil derailed in northern Illinois on Thursday, bursting into flames and prompting officials to suggest that everyone with 1 mile evacuate, authorities said. The BNSF Railway train derailed around 1:05 p.m. in a rural area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand. A cause for the derailment hadn't yet been determined. No injuries were reported. Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said at a news conference late Thursday, adding that the suggestion to evacuate was prompted by the presence of a propane tank near the derailment. The derailment 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. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department confirmed the train was transporting oil from the Northern Plains' Bakken region. (March 5, 2015) AP The Big Story [more on Energy in our area]
  • West Virginia Begins Investigating Massive Train Derailment The orange flames no longer burned bright in the snow-covered woods near Mount Carbon in West Virginia on Friday. But days after a massive train derailment in the small community, located about 30 miles from the state capital, smoke still smoldered from the enormous oil tank train cars lying perpendicular across the tracks. The accident forced more than 100 residents from their homes during an exceptionally cold winter and raised fears of toxic contamination in a state still reeling from a major chemical spill a year ago. The 109-car train was carrying more than three million gallons of Bakken oil from North Dakota when 27 cars derailed midday on Monday, February 16, near the Kanawha River. Residents of Mount Carbon, which has a population of some 400 people, told the media they witnessed fireballs; one house in nearby Boomer burned down and its owner, who managed to escape, was treated for possible injuries. River water tests have showed no signs of oil contamination, and the water authority has restored service after shutting water intakes from the river. On Thursday, officials told residents it was safe to drink water without boiling it, and by Friday morning, the last fires had gone out and the residents of all but five households had returned to their homes. (February 20, 2015) Newsweek [more on Energy in our area]

  • Fiery Oil Train Derailment in West Virginia Involves Newer Tank Cars Another train carrying crude oil has derailed in the United States—this one erupting in flames in West Virginia. Yet it involved newer and supposedly tougher tank cars than are typically used in the rail industry, which is now facing stricter U.S. and Canadian safety rules. More than 100 tank cars derailed Monday in a snowstorm in Mount Carbon, W.V., causing fires that continued to burn Tuesday. The accident threatened the local water supply and prompted the evacuation of hundreds of families. Officials are testing the water to determine if any of the oil, hauled from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota, seeped into a tributary of the Kanawha River. (February 17, 2015) National Geographic [more on Energy in our area]

2014

  • New regulations could make crude oil transports less dangerous The Industrial Commission of North Dakota has adopted requirements for treating volatile Bakken crude oil before it’s transported, rules that could reduce the chance of explosions on rail shipments through the Hudson Valley. New York’s departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation had written to North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple in October to support more stringent regulations. The commission also heard from more than two dozen representatives of oil companies and the petroleum industry. Tuesday's ruling gives crude producers until April 1 to comply or face fines of up to $12,500 for every day in violation, the commissioners said in a prepared statement. The regulations include removing some gases before shipment and conditioning the crude oil to a vapor pressure not exceeding 13.7 pounds per square inch. National standards, according to the commission, allow pressures up to 14.7 psi. (December 10, 2014) Record Online [more on Energy in our area]
  • Oil and schools don't mix, enviro groups say About 350 New York state schools, including at least 63 in Monroe County, lie within a mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying volatile crude oil, a coalition of environmental and other advocacy groups said Thursday. The groups urged state and federal official to bolster emergency planning at those educational facilities and to require crude-oil trains to travel more slowly near schools. "We are deeply concerned about the growing number of crude oil rail cars passing through the Hudson Valley and across New York State every day," said Claire Barnett, executive director of the Albany-based Health Schools Network. "A catastrophic event, should it happen near an occupied school, could devastate a community for a generation or more." (November 20, 2014) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Energy in our area]
  • New Report Out On Oil Train Inspections There's a new report out on the inspections of crude oil train cars that have been coming through New York State with increasing frequency. Authorities say additional inspections of crude oil tank cars and railroad tracks in New York have found 72 minor defects and one critical defect from a split rail.  The report from the Cuomo administration details federal and state inspections of 766 tank cars and 167 miles of track.  They included hub rail yards in Buffalo and Albany and the CSX Corp. mainline track between Buffalo and Syracuse, where a split rail required lowering the speed limit to 30 mph until its replacement. (September 26, 2014) WXXI News [more on Energy in our area]
  • Environmental groups sue govt for transporting oil in old train cars Old oil tank cars easily puncture when derailed, leaving small communities vulnerable to dangerous spills, groups say Environmental groups are suing the U.S. Department of Transportation over the shipment of crude oil in old railroad tank cars they say are too easily punctured or ruptured when derailed, leading to dangerous spills. The lawsuit, filed Thursday by the Sierra Club, EarthJustice and ForestEthics says the agency failed to respond to a legal petition the groups filed in July. That petition sought an emergency order to prohibit crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana and elsewhere from being carried in older tank cars, known as DOT-111s. (September 12, 2014) Aljazeera America [more on Energy in our area]
  • Albany Nears Oil-Hub Status as 100-Car Trains Jam Port | Albany, New York’s capital city, may join the ranks of U.S. energy hubs such as Houston and Cushing, Oklahoma, as oil-terminal operator Global Partners LP (GLP) pushes an expansion plan after already quadrupling its capacity. For the last two years, more oil from the Bakken shale formation has rolled 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) by rail acrossNorth Dakota and around the Great Lakes to Albany. There, companies including Global Partners and Buckeye Partners LP (BPL) load barges bound for New Jersey and New Brunswick refineries. Albany’s importance as a link in the energy-production chain is poised to grow under Global Partners’ effort to win state permission to handle oil-sands crude and biofuels for shipping over objections of neighbors and environmental groups. (July 24, 2014) Bloomberg [more on Energy in our area]
  • Friday's Albany-area derailment follows rise in crude-oil shipments Amid heightened attention, oil tankers at Selkirk yard derail without crude spill The derailment of 13 tank cars carrying crude oil at the Selkirk rail yard Friday night involved no rollovers, no spills and no injuries, according to shipper CSX and state regulators. That's no reason for residents to rest easy, said one industry observer, as the incident comes amid heightened scrutiny of crude oil shipments nationally and locally. "Given the controversy about crude oil shipments into Albany, you would think that CSX is doing its dead-level best to avoid a derailment," said Fred Millar, a Virginia-based independent consultant on hazardous material shipments whose clients include cities, trade unions and environmental groups. "Any sign of messing up like this is discomforting ... These crude-oil unit trains have been blowing up all over the country." (March 1, 2014) Albany Times Union [more on Dangerous Crude Oil Trains in our area]
  • Quebec submits $400 million claim for Lac-Mégantic train disaster The Quebec government has submitted a claim against the rail company behind last year’s deadly train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, saying the estimated cost of the cleanup and reconstruction will be more than $400 million. MONTREAL—The Quebec government has submitted a claim against the rail company behind last year’s deadly train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, saying the estimated total costs of the cleanup and reconstruction will be more than $400 million. The provincial government said it has already spent $126 million nearly one year after the July 6 derailment and explosions that killed 47 people and wiped out a large part of the city’s downtown. It expects to spend at least another $283 million to complete the work, which includes clearing the wrecked buildings and decontaminating the soil, which was soaked with millions of litres of combustible crude oil. (June 16, 2014) The Star

 

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