Target: Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator, US Federal Railroad Administration
Goal: Stop explosive crude oil trains from traveling through US communities
Residents around the country are worried about explosive trains heading through their neighborhoods. And for good reason: nearly 75% of Bakken Formation crude oil from North Dakota is loaded onto 50 or 100 tanker car trains, and roll through communities around the United States to get to oil refineries, where the oil is then processed. This Bakken crude oil has been tested by federal authorities, and results showed that samples contained several times more combustible gases than other crude oil samples. This is deeply concerning to neighborhoods like Berkeley, California where the trains carrying Bakken crude oil will pass through downtown along the same route that passenger trains take.
In a shift toward energy independence, the United States crude oil production is projected to hit 8.5 million barrels per day by the end of this year, and the oil industry is leaning heavily on US raillines to transport crude oil from fields to oil refineries around the country. However, recent tragedy highlights the danger transportation of Bakken oil presents. In July 2013 one of these freight trains derailed and exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying the town’s center. When several of the tank cars exploded after a train derailed in Casselton, North Dakota, hundreds of residents were evacuated. These are the same trains that currently run through the middle of port city Albany, New York, and the same trains that will begin following Amtrak trains along the tracks that run through downtown Berkeley.
These harms could be prevented, however, by strict regulations by the US Federal Railway Administration (FRA). While the FRA has heighted standards since the recent accidents, these do not go far enough. The FRA must ensure that transported oil does not contain harmful gases that are supposed to be removed before transportation, such as propane. If contained in the crude oil during transportation, this can greatly heighten the risk of explosion in the event of a derailment. Most importantly, the FRA must also ensure that these dangerous trains do not pass through the heart of local communities, next to highways and banks and bars, risking immense and irreparable harm. Tell the US Federal Railroad Administration that they must stop the harmful transportation of dangerous crude oil and engage in railline relocation projects in order to prevent foreseeable and immense harm to US communities.
Mr. Joseph C. Szabo,
Explosive trains travel through city and town centers daily in the United States, putting citizens in grave danger. As the 47 deaths in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, and the thick back smoke and evacuation of hundreds in Casselton, North Dakota both demonstrate, the risks are too high to merely employ hightened safety measures. It is only a matter of time before another explosion occurs. While the heightened safety is to be commended, these measures do not go far enough. Anything short of rerouting the raillines so that they do not pass through densely populated areas is inadequate.
As federal testing confirms, Bakken crude oil carried by rail contains several times the amount of combustible gases than other crude oil. As the oil jostles during transportation, the risk of explosion during a derailment becomes even greater. While imposing greater Track Safety Standards is a positive step, you merely lower the risk, not eliminate it. The standards are certainly not adequate for citizens who bear this risk.
Stop the trains transporting crude oil that pass through populated areas and reroute them so that they do not pose a risk to United States citizens who happen to live near a traintrack.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Sûreté du Québec via Wikimedia Commons.