Mothers Out Front and People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) hosted an informative meeting Sunday (5/16/2015) on the dangers of Bomb Trains (railroad’s term not ours) that included a litany of explosive oil train derailments (9 since July of 2013) that have already caused much damage and some loss of life. One of the things we learned about the oil trains passing through Rochester is that we are going to need evacuation plans here and elsewhere.
These trains detonate (they truly explode in a spectacular fire ball) because in order to get this thick crude oil into the trains the goo is pressurized with volatile gases. It doesn’t take much to set them off. When they do explode into massive fireballs that rise spectacularly into the sky, emergency crews’ attempts to rescue folks and decouple the cars to prevent even greater explosions is severely hampered by scorching heat and deadly fumes. And because our railroads are riddled with old rails and deteriorating bridges that are not equipped to hold these heavy loads, these Bomb Trains are more prone to derailments.
Actually, considering that travel loads of liquid fuels have increased dramatically, and that our roads, highways, rails, and bridges are getting worse, it’s only a matter of time before this transportation system breaks down altogether. No one wants to pay the cost for maintaining this old infrastructure and so it deteriorates. Exploding Bomb Trains are simply the most remarkably insane component of this continual descent into a hole of negligence caused by our addiction to a fossil fuels. We have a problem.
Report: Rural bridges in NY among worst in U.S. A new report finds rural bridges in New York State are the 15th worst in the country. This comes from TRIP, a national transportation research group. (May 20, 2015) WHEC Rochester
This is all to say that these trains carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota through Buffalo and Rochester and Syracuse to Albany (where a great big fossil fuel hub is being created) are a clear and present danger to our communities. When these trains detonate, our communities are going to have to be able to evacuate immediately. Not only can these explosions keep burning through these unit trains (bomb trains all hitched together) where more and more of them explode, the toxic air from the explosions is too lethal to breathe.
Even if the proposed regulations for more robust train cars and more safety regulations were implemented, it probably won’t do much good because some past derailments already had these retrofits:
“Tougher tankers, though, are not a cure-all either. The tankers involved in Monday’s derailment in West Virginia were not DOT-111s but the more modern CPC-1232 model. The supposedly more robust tankers still ruptured and exploded.” onEarth
What are area plans to quickly remove a lot of folks (could be in the thousands) in our communities when these explosions occur? For, they are going to occur. You can bet your bottom dollar. Federal Rail Administration official Karl Alexy has noted publicly that “[a]t train speeds of 30 to 40 mph, you cannot build a tank car robust enough to withstand puncture in unit train derailments.” (“Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration”, September 30, 2014)
Local groups are challenging the logic of putting our citizens in danger by transporting these Bomb Trains through our communities.
Mothers talk about oil train dangers At least 24 oil trains have been involved in major fires or derailments over the past decade in the U.S. and Canada. It’s a topic of concern for the group Mothers Out Front. They met on Sunday in Brighton to discuss the issue of how oil is transported. In Monroe County, dozens of trains carrying crude oil pass through our communities. Recently, federal regulators set new guidelines for the railroad industry, but some environmental groups say the new rules don’t go far enough. (May 18, 2015)WHAM
But why isn’t everyone protesting these dangerous Bomb Trains? Who in their right mind would find this situation where these potentially explosive trains run through our towns and near our public schools acceptable? And, why aren’t we focusing on renewable energy instead of Bomb Trains after New York finally rid itself of Fracking in a time of Climate Change?
There are some craven arguments that the reason for these Bomb Trains is that environmentalists keep stopping pipelines, which are much safer. Please. Check here for a list of hundreds of oil spills this century, and, of course there was this one this week:
Wildlife, pristine beaches focus of 'aggressive' oil spill cleanup Oil pipeline company officials said Wednesday that as many as 105,000 gallons of crude oil may have spilled from a ruptured pipeline on the California coast. The 24-inch pipeline ruptured along the Santa Barbara coast, leaking the oil near Refugio State Beach, a protected state park, just before Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer tourist season. Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline based the estimate -- what it called a worst-case scenario -- on the typical flow rate of oil and the elevation of the pipeline, said Rick McMichael, the company's director of pipeline operations. (May 20, 2015) CNN