Two Railway Crude Oil Spills Within a Week
As North American railway companies try to convince the public that shipping crude oil by rail is safe, two recent spills reveal the hazards.
On April 3, 22 cars in a 128-car Canadian Pacific Railway mixed-freight train derailed near White River, Ontario (CBC News). Some of the tank cars were loaded with crude oil, and at first CP spokespeople said only 4 barrels (168 gallons) of oil spilled as a result of the derailment but later, CP revealed that 400 barrels (16,800 gallons) of oil had actually spilled (cnews). A Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada spokesman said some of the cars went down a rock-cut embankment that was nearly 30 metres high, making it difficult to inspect the cars that were stacked on top of one another. The extent of environmental damage caused by the spill is undisclosed at this point.
On March 27, 14 cars in a 94-car CP train derailed near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota. 3 tank cars ruptured and spilled 360 to 714 barrels (15,120 to 30,000 gallons) of Canadian oil bound for U.S. refiners (Reuters). The extent of environmental damage caused by the spill is undisclosed at this time. The Reuters article continued, “As crude by rail has increased in the United States, so have spill incidents. Of the 132 incidents that occurred while trains were in transit in the United States between 2002 and 2012, 112 occurred in the last three years, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.” There were many additional railway-related spills when stationary trains are included in the statistic.
The independent Manhattan Institute has found that the rate of spills is 34 times higher for railways than for pipelines. Even the Association of American Railroads acknowledges the likelihood of a railway-related spill is far greater than the chance of a pipeline spill. “The evidence is so overwhelming that railroads are far less safe than pipelines…”, said Charles Ebinger, Director of the non-profit Brooking’s Institution (Edmonton Journal).
For more information on the hazards of shipping oil by rail, see this link.