March 31, 2015

Crude Oil Trains

Western New York Drilling Defense in Buffalo NY has been very active studying the issue of  Bakken ND crude oil trains that pass through our western NY region weekly.  Commonly called the "bomb trains" these long tanker car trains are exactly that - potential bombs!

From a recent email of WNY Drilling Defense:
Every week trains loaded with volatile crude oil “fracked” in North Dakota's Bakken shale travel through Buffalo and Erie County. With very little public awareness and no study of environmental impacts, the gas & oil industry has made our region a dangerous hub for highly flammable oil using these “bomb trains.” Rail lines snake from the oil fields of North Dakota through Buffalo and to refineries on both coasts. The rail system was never built for this kind of dangerous cargo, yet these trains travel through population centers and next to schools, homes, and businesses. Rail safety standards for crude oil are weak and emergency responders are not equipped or trained for accidents.

Bakken crude oil carried by rail is more toxic and more volatile than conventional crude oil, and each car carries the explosive equivalent of 2 million sticks of dynamite. Crude oil is also more carbon intensive which further exacerbates climate disruption and extreme weather. According to the Wall Street Journal, Erie County sees about 27.5 trains weekly carrying Bakken crude oil. Oil trains are more than a mile-long with 100+ cars, which only concentrates the risk of an accident. This means that at least 2,750 cars full of crude oil travel through Buffalo and Erie County in a week, presenting an immediate danger to our public health and natural resources.

Unfortunately, this issue does not seem to be going away, as oil train traffic has increased more than 4,000% in the last five years. This increase is largely due to the gas & oil industry's efforts to evade regulations and costs associated with building new pipelines to ship crude oil. What's worse is that the dangerous DOT-111 cars, which make up the majority of U.S. oil tanker trains, are defective and prone to puncture during derailments. It seems each month another city or town is facing a terrifying oil train derailment, poisoned drinking water, or a deadly explosion. One of the most tragic incidences was the explosion of crude oil cars in Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec in 2013, which incinerated 47 people and destroyed the downtown area. The legally responsible parties declared bankruptcy and left the taxpayers to foot the bill. The same thing could happen here, to us, to our families and to our neighborhoods! Now is the time for us to get involved!
Recently I had the opportunity to pass through West Virginia and not far from the recent tragic derailment at Mount Carbon.  Even with more than 2 weeks since the accident, the air still carried a disturbing odor across the region.  I can't even begin to imagine what it is like to live in that area.  From chemical spills to drilling frack sites to mountain top removal to bomb trains - you have to wonder who exactly is running the show!

Our energy needs are solvable with safer technology.  We need to stop the craziness of the extreme extraction techniques for acquiring fossil fuels and develop sources that will supply our needs and not kill us off in the process of doing so.

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