Saturday, September 6, 2014

There’s oil-by-rail good news, and oil-by-rail bad news

From:  Grist 

Trains — does anything else have cooler whistles? Does anything else have more impenetrable regulations? 

As someone whose childhood home was just a few blocks away from the freight line, I feel a personal connection to all this oil-by-rail, exploding/leaking train drama that our nation has been going through for the last two years. Just looking at this graph, I think, 2012, you were so innocent!
Crude oil shipped vs. accidents

Last week I wrote about something that might end this disaster spike — the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed new safety rules for oil-by-rail and disaster response.  You could say that it took them long enough, but whatever. Let us live in the moment and be grateful they are doing this now.

But there is more. Part of the proposed rules involves the vehicle that is at the center of so much of this issue — the older-than-the-hills and puncture-prone DOT-111 tank car. These older tank cars, mostly intended for transporting non-hazardous liquids like corn syrup, have lately been drafted into ferrying volatile Bakken shale crude around the continent. Now the Transportation Department intends to phase them out. This looks like good news, and it is — but there is a wrinkle. The DOT-111s won’t be going away away. Instead, they’ll be given a new job: carrying tar sands crude from Alberta.

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