April 17th, 2014
There are more and more aspects of rail safety coming into question as people learn about life with the many Bakken oil trains rolling through our communities.
What about the greatly increased air emissions due to the increased rail traffic? Locomotive emissions are regulated:
The short version, from the EPA:
- Fact Sheet: Control of Emissions from Idling Locomotives (PDF) (4 pp, 143K, EPA-420-F-13-050, December 2013)
- Fact Sheet: Federal Preemption of State and Local Standards for Locomotives (PDF) (3 pp, 11K, EPA420-F-97-050, December 1997)
- Summary of emission standards
That regulates individual locomotives, but how are the cumulative impacts of so many trains addressed, particularly in the Mississippi River Valley, the “land of inversions?”
There’s continued talk about the new DOT111 rail cars, but how will that address the problem of volatility, that the Bakken crude contains a much higher level of gas than other crude, and that although regulators have said that the Bakken crude should be degasified before it is shipped, whether by rail or pipeline, this is not yet incorporated into standard practice. And it bears repeating — this is an issue for Bakken crude in pipelines! Pipelines are not a miracle cure for the Bakken crude volatility problem!
It can happen here. It has happened here. It will happen here. What do we do to protect ourselves?
This is a train incident in September, 2013 just across the river in Hager City, WI:
And in Red Wing:
A Wisconsin town’s fire chief was part of a discussion with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind recently regarding rail safety. The station is one block from the river and the railroad tracks. Congressman Kind asked the fire chief what the impact of a Bakken oil wreck would be on his community, if the fire unit could respond, and the fire chief said, “I doubt it, we’d be vaporized.”
If a Lac Megantic level explosion occurred in Red Wing, presuming that buildings two blocks from the explosion would be leveled, and maybe three blocks, it would reach to Main Street, and perhaps the block beyond:
This is how it is in all the communities along the Mississippi River, a disaster waiting to happen for us, for the River.
There’s a reason it’s called the “Bakken Boom.” BOOM!
And in the La Crosse Tribune:
Meeting set on rail expansion
The prospect of more rail cars carrying crude oil and other flammable liquids through the region has prompted a public meeting Tuesday to air concerns about BNSF Railway Co.’s plans to add a second, parallel line on La Crosse’s east side.
But Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, or CARS, contends the second track would raise the risk of a serious rail accident in a residential area or a major spill in the La Crosse River Marsh and other nearby waterways and sensitive habitat.
About 60 trains a day use the BNSF line in La Crosse, which now narrows to a single track from its yard near Gillette Street in north La Crosse to just south of Farnam Street. U.S. rail traffic has increased in recent years, primarily triggered by the surge in Bakken oil being shipped from North Dakota and Montana to refineries in the east and south. U.S. railroads were expected to haul 400,000 carloads of oil in 2013, almost 40 times the number seen in 2009.
The city, too, faces a substantial cost — perhaps six or seven figures — to adjust road and trail crossings and the Forest Hills Golf Course to accommodate the second track, said Mayor Tim Kabat, who lives less than a block from the BNSF line. He plans to be at the meeting along with other local legislators.
The potential for some type of accident was highlighted in February when a malfunctioning Canadian Pacific Railway tanker dribbled more than 12,000 gallons of crude oil along a stretch of tracks near Winona, Minn., with some falling into area waterways and trout streams.