When was the last time you heard the following story on national news: today, a truck transporting solar panels overturned on a highway spilling them into a river? I’m pretty sure the answer is never. That is because, at most, it would be a local news story for causing a traffic jam. The conclusion of that story would be that crews pulled the solar panels out of the river, dried them off, and took them to their destination, where they provided clean, free energy to a neighborhood for many years to come.
The story is very different when it comes to fossil fuels, which, in addition to being dirty during extraction, combustion and disposal, can violently disrupt our communities during transport. Over the past year, we have seen a remarkable increase in fossil fuel transport disasters. And when fossil fuel transport goes wrong, it goes wrong in a big way. Quite often, these disasters involve crude oil that is extremely dangerous and volatile and that is transported via railways that run next to or over our nation’s waterways. This unnecessarily threatens drinking water supplies, recreational resources and the health and safety of our communities.
Recent examples abound: In July 2013, a train carrying oil from North Dakota lost control in Quebec and the resulting explosion killed 47 people. In November 2013, a tanker train hauling 2.9 million gallons of Bakken crude oil derailed into a west Alabama swamp, devastating the community of Aliceville. Shortly after that, a train derailed in Casselton, ND, prompting a “strongly recommended” evacuation of residents. In April 2014, a train carrying Bakken crude derailed into the James River, causing hundreds of people to be evacuated from downtown Lynchburg, VA. That is just a small sampling of how the fossil fuel industry puts our communities at grave risk transporting such dangerous, explosive cargo. According to Politico, there were 132 oil train incidents from 2009 to 2012; 118 incidents in 2013; and already 70 just through the first five months of 2014. MORE