Oil By Rail - Week of Action

Daily Kos | May 29, 2014 | Post by Justin Mikulka

On July 6th of last year, a train carrying explosive Bakken crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic Quebec and the end result was a town was destroyed and 47 people died.  On July 6th of this year, activists across North America will be commemorating that tragic event and working to raise awareness about the growing dangers to people and the environment posed by the massive expansion of moving crude oil by rail.  

What has happened since the accident is a classic case of corporations putting profit before safety and a startling example of how corporations control the regulation of their own industries in America.  Follow me below the orange cheeto-ish symbol to learn more.

Here is what we know about the current state of moving oil by rail.  Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) has stated in a congressional hearing that using the existing DOT-111 tank cars to move the explosive Bakken Crude oil is an  "unacceptable public risk". Pretty simple to understand that if you are part of the public.  This is an unacceptable risk.  Currently these rail cars make up 70% of the oil-by-rail fleet.

Now you might say to yourself, "Too bad for those people who live near the rail lines, but that ain't my problem".  You might want to take a look at this map that was put together by Oil Change International this week along with a report on the oil by rail industry.  Odds are you or someone you know lives near one of these lines.

However, this past week, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers said the following about those same rail cars and their use in transporting Bakken crude oil

“As the standards are today for flammable liquids, Bakken crude fits right in, and the DOT-111 cars should be fine”

The people getting paid decent salaries at the NTSB are telling you that these cars are unsafe.  Actually they have been saying that for decades.  The people working in the insanely profitable oil and gas industry are telling you everything "should be fine".  Who you gonna believe?

Those Bakken crude filled DOT-111 cars that exploded in Lac-Megantic should have been fine.  But accidents happen.  Did you know that all six of the companies involved in the Lac-Megantic accident have refused to pay for the clean up and rebuilding efforts?  Or that the cost to clean up and rebuild Lac-Megantic has been estimated at $2.7 billion? Or that there are still two towns downriver from Lac-Megantic that can't use the river for drinking water due to the oil spill?This past week a father in Lac-Megantic, who lost his daughter on July 6th, 2013, spoke about the need to bring back tourism to their town.

“We need it for my town, because my town is dying. If we do nothing to attract tourists here, the town will die.”

And yet the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers tell you this "should be fine".

Now you might say, "well on the upside, if we don't care about the environment and we approve the XL pipeline, we won't need to move oil on trains".  

You would be wrong.  In the report released this week (PDF) by Oil Change International they estimate that if all of the currently planned oil by rail facilities are completed, the industry will have the capacity to move 5 times as much oil by rail as they do now.  Bakken crude oil needs to be moved by rail.  And it is going to the east and west coasts.  The XL pipeline won't change this one bit.  

The reality is that Bakken crude oil is as explosive as gasoline.  And it is being moved in tank cars that are prone to rupture if they derail.  Tank cars that the NTSB has been saying are unsafe for decades.  And despite all of the warnings and accidents, the American Petroleum Institute and other industry lobbying groups are doing everything in their power to keep doing business as usual.  

People in communities across the country have had enough.  And on the week of July 6th they will be working to raise awareness and to ask our representatives in DC to do something. They could use your help.

To see what they are up against watch this exchange between NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman and Lee Johnson,  a representative of of the American Petroleum Institute.  Hersman closes with the phrase "You're not making me feel very optimistic, Mr. Johnson".  This was at the end of a two day hearing on oil-by-rail safety held earlier this year.  

Why is the head of the NTSB asking someone from the American Petroleum Institute when we will have safer cars?  Something is very wrong with our regulatory system.  

PS.  Odds are that if you see ads on Daily Kos, you will see one right now telling you that Warren Buffet can tell you how to turn a little money into a lot.  He knows what he is talking about. He owns BNSF, the railroad that handles 70% of the current oil-by-rail traffic in the U.S. It's easy to get rich when you don't care about safety!


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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.