A day after the apocalyptic images from Monday’s oil train crash at Mount Carbon, West Virginia, The Atlantic published a wrap-up of the “new, everyday fiery train crash” that seems to be the new normal with the increase in Bakken crude oil traveling by rail.
“One reason for the increase in accidents is the enormous growth in train hauling of oil, in turn driven by expanded oil production in the western United States,” the magazine notes. The article points to three derailments in 48 hours—last Saturday near the Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta, last Sunday south of Timmins, Ontario, and Monday in West Virginia—as well as a previous accident in Lynchburg, VA.
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The U.S. Department of Transportation sought to improve rail safety last February by mandating lower speed limits through cities and requiring more braking technology, then “called on railroads to replace older, less safe tanker cars called DOT-111s with newer ones, CPC-1232s,” in May.
“And that’s perhaps the scariest part of the West Virginia crash,” Graham writes. “The CSX train [in West Virginia] was hauling only newer, reputedly safer cars when it derailed and caught fire. A car that caught fire in the Lynchburg crash was also a CPC-1232. The National Transportation Safety Board told the Senate last April it didn’t think CPC-1232s were good enough.”
Ultimately, “as long as the nation and the world run on fossil fuels, crude oil will have to move across the continent and through towns and cities,” he notes. “For the time being, though, fiery crashes may remain frighteningly routine.”
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