Now things are making more sense.  A Bloomberg article, via the STrib, written by a Greiling, puts it all together.  When the rail cars blew up and took out the heart of Lac-Megantic, I couldn’t understand how crude oil had exploded so horrifically.  It turns out that the contents of the cars being shipped out of Bakken had been under investigation for at least three months prior to that explosion, and as the article below notes, “Most grades of crude would not be that volatile.”  DOH!

The investigation began in March, and the explosion was July 6, 2013.  Thus far, the railroad crew has been blamed for not properly setting the brakes, but it seems there’s more to the story.  There have been murmurs of whether the brakes that had been repaired previously had been repaired properly or if they were overheated and triggered the explosion.  But if what was inside the car wasn’t crude, and was more volatile, it’s an entirely different animal.

Let’s see the FOIA responses to questions about what triggered the investigation!

This is an issue for us both here and there, Red Wing and Port Penn, Delaware.  These Bakken cars go through Red Wing, the heart of Red Wing, as they did in Lac-Megantic — that’s the rail station right smack dab in the middle.  If things went BOOM! in the night, there goes Red Wing Shoe, the St. James Hotel, the ADM oil plant, downtown Red Wing good bye!

Rail in Red Wing MN

And on to Delaware… in Delaware City, just up the road from Port Penn, it’s same thing.  The refinery there was reopened, thanks to Gov. Jack Markell, the brown governor, and Bakken rail cars are sitting around and going through to the Delaware City refinery.  They built a big spur near Hwy. 1 for staging the cars (so new it’s on the map but not on google earth!) and are taking in Bakken oil, even adding a new unloading facility.

PBF Energy Completes Delaware City Rail Terminal for Bakken Oil


The oil going to Delaware City is loaded at the same “New Town” Bakken oil loading facility that’s under investigation and where inspections are being conducted, the same one where the Lac-Megantic cars were loaded. They stage the cars off to the west of the refinery, it looks like a horse track, and then they run the cars through the middle of the refinery, in the middle of this map, and way to the eastern end:

Delaware City, DE - Map

Delaware City, DE - Google Maps.pdf

It seems to me that Delaware City has more security/terrorist issues that just the three nuclear reactors across the river in Salem.  And it seems that the risks of pollution and harm to the people nearby is heightened beyond the already horribly polluted air and water due to this hornets’ nest of industry.  They’re already having to bring water in for people.  What are they thinking to reopen this refinery?

U.S. rail safety regulators began a “Bakken blitz” of inspections of crude oil tank cars this week as they seek to prevent a railroad disaster in the United States similar to July’s fatal inferno in Quebec.

Inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are examining rail cars moving crude from North Dakota’s Bakken region, Cynthia Quarterman, PHMSA administrator, told reporters Thursday during a break in a Washington meeting to discuss U.S. rail safety risks.

Crude produced by hydraulic fracturing in the Bakken was being hauled across Canada by a train that rolled away while parked overnight and crashed into the city of Lac-Megantic, triggering an explosion that killed 47 people July 6. U.S. regulators are carrying out the inspections to make sure shippers are properly identifying the cargo in the rail tank cars from the region.

Hazardous materials regulations require tank cars to carry placards telling railroads and emergency responders what’s inside.

“We believe there’s risk,” Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo said. “Most grades of crude would not be that volatile.”

The crude oil train that crashed in Quebec originated at a New Town, N.D., loading terminal that is a joint venture of Dakota Plains Holdings Inc. of Wayzata. A Dakota Plains official did not return a call and e-mail to comment.

Known internally as “Operation Classification,” regulators began planning the surprise inspections in March, before the Quebec accident, after employees in the field noticed “inconsistencies with crude oil classification,” PHMSA said in an e-mailed statement.

Volume doubled

The volume of crude oil moved by U.S. railroads more than doubled in the second quarter from the same period a year earlier, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. U.S. railroads originated 108,605 carloads of crude in the quarter ended June 30. That’s a U.S. record for rail shipments in a quarter as oil production increases and pipeline capacity can’t keep up.

The association, based in Washington, estimates railroads carry 11 percent of U.S. crude oil production. The group’s members include Burlington Northern Santa Fe, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and Union Pacific Corp., the largest U.S. railroad by track miles.

The inspection blitz will continue as long as regulators deem it necessary, Quarterman said. Examinations are occurring where crude is loaded and at its destinations, she said.

“Our big concern is that what is in the tank car is what they say is in the tank car,” she said.


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