Another oil train derails, ignites fire in Canada

McClatchyDC | February 15, 2015 | Column by Curtis Tate

Another train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in Canada early Sunday, potentially putting pressure on the White House to accelerate its review of new regulations intended to improve the safety of hazardous rail shipments throughout North America.

The 100-car Canadian National train left the tracks in a remote part of Northern Ontario around midnight, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported Sunday. Of the 29 cars that derailed, at least seven were on fire, the newspaper reported.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is sending investigators to the scene, but they likely will face difficulties assessing the damage because the area is not easily accessible, and the temperatures are well below zero.

No one appears to have been injured in Sunday’s derailment. But in 2013, a different part of Canada wasn’t so lucky. On July 6 of that year, an unattended crude oil train lost its brakes and rolled down in incline, smashing into the center of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. That derailment unleashed a torrent of burning oil into the heart of the town, killing 47 people and destroying dozens of buildings.

It’s been almost 10 months since the last serious oil train derailment with a spill and fire. But that incident, in Lynchburg, Va., and others in Casselton, N.D., Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, and Aliceville, Ala., have raised concerns in communities across North America about an exponential increase in crude oil transported by rail.

Ethanol transported by rail has raised safety concerns, as well. Earlier this month, a Canadian Pacific train carrying ethanol derailed in eastern Iowa, spilling about 55,000 gallons and igniting a fire on a remote stretch of the Mississippi River. Investigators still don’t know how much of the ethanol went into the icy river.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation sent a package of new oil train safety rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. According to the department’s February report on significant rulemakings, it will be another three months before the rule is published.

The regulation is expected to call for stronger tank cars to transport the oil, as well as operational changes that could include train speeds and braking systems.

But it would be October at the earliest before railcar manufacturers would begin building tank cars to the new standard, and at least two years beyond that before the least protected cars would be phased out of transporting the most hazardous materials.

Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @tatecurtis


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Another oil train derails, ignites fire in Canada
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
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.