Breaking: The Amtrak disaster in Philadelphia happened just a few feet away from oil “bomb train” tank cars. Two powerful photographs have just been published showing just how close this came to becoming an even worse disaster.
In the Philadelphia Inquirer: Amtrak crash occurred near tank cars.
And posted by Matt Krogh:
Matt Krogh @MattKrogh 5m5 minutes ago
#Amtrak disaster in Philly happened feet away from #oiltrains tank cars. http://ow.ly/i/aO1Qq
Click on links to view photos.
What are we waiting for, bigger and deadlier disasters? Ban the bomb trains. In Philly, the oil by rail plague means rail cars that should be barred immediately, including DOT 111 cars and unsafe 1232s, are just feet from I95, I76, other major highways, Amtrak lines, hospitals, stadiums and more. The risk is completely unacceptable, as these photos show.
Bigger earthquakes — caused, scientists say, by the re-injection of 1.1 billion gallons of toxic fracking flowback waste underground annually — are more frequently shaking Oklahoma. State officials appear unable to shake the sleep from their eyes, even as the warnings from scientists become more direct. The state of Oklahoma, despite already having experienced the Dust Bowl, one of the worst man-made environmental disasters of the 20th century, can’t be bothered to fully staff its seismologist’s office, the New York Times reported on Saturday:
The state seismologist’s office, short-staffed, has stopped analyzing data on tremors smaller than magnitude 2.5 — even though a recent study says those quakes flag hidden seismic hazards “that might prove invaluable for avoiding a damaging earthquake.”
The Times put significant research into their major expose, As quakes rattle Oklahoma, fingers point to oil and gas industry, using multiple sources, reputable geologists, and first-hand interviews.
Nobody’s fault? Is that supposed to be a pun?
Jennifer Lin Cooper, profiled in the opening paragraphs of the Times’ story, was shaken from her sleep by a big quake:
A 5.0-magnitude earthquake — the first of three as strong or stronger over several days in November 2011 — had peeled the brick facade from the $117,000 home she bought the year before. Ms. Cooper, 36, could not get out until her father pried a stuck storm door off the front entrance. Repairs have so far cost $12,000 and forced her to take a second job, at night, to pay the bill.
At a packed town hall meeting days later, Ms. Cooper said, state officials called the shocks, including a 5.7 tremor that was Oklahoma’s largest ever, “an act of nature, and it was nobody’s fault.”
Scientists disagree. Lots of them. Study after study, state, federal USGS, and university studies, point the incorruptible scientific finger at the oil and gas industry:
“As long as you keep injecting wastewater along that fault zone, according to my calculations, you’re going to continue to have earthquakes,” said Arthur F. McGarr, the chief of the induced seismicity project at the federal Earthquake Science Center in Menlo Park, Calif., who has researched the Prague quakes. “I’d be a little worried if I lived there. In fact, I’d be very worried.”
At the core of the problem is fracking, the extraction of oil and gas from tight rock layers, particularly shale, using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, which produces millions of gallons of toxic waste per well, compared to thousands of gallons in the old days of vertical, shallow drilling:
From 2010 to 2013, Oklahoma oil production jumped by two-thirds and gas production rose by more than one-sixth, federal figures show. The amount of wastewater buried annually rose one-fifth, to nearly 1.1 billion barrels. And Oklahoma went from three earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater to 109 — and to 585 in 2014, and to 750-plus this year, should the current pace continue.
In the most absurd comment of all, an industry spokesperson warns that Oklahoma will turn back into The Grapes of Wrath times if the fracking industry is curtailed or stopped to prevent damage and deaths from the escalating, intensifying quakes. This turns the meaning of the John Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath, upside down.
Steinbeck’s famous novel chronicles the extreme suffering which resulted from a terrifying man-made disaster. When humans destroyed topsoil on a massive scale due to the wheat boom, that left the soil vulnerable during droughts. It was gathered up into towering, engulfing, death-dealing dust storms for a decade. Watch the Ken Burns special, “The Dust Bowl,” to learn more.
Only after years of intense suffering, failed crops, and exodus did the federal government, and farmers themselves, begin to listen to soil scientists and change their cultivation practices to plant cover crops to prevent the giant storms that had begun burying Oklahoma in sand dunes.
Now Oklahoma’s being buried in something even scarier: toxic, carcinogenic radioactive fracking flowback waste injected near faults.
Listening to the earth, the good earth: it’s something we learned before. Let’s learn it faster this time. Let’s learn it now.
Read the full story: As quakes rattle Oklahoma, fingers point to oil and gas industry.
An 18-day sit-in sure helped: Syracuse University announced on March 31st that it is dropping all fossil fuel stocks from its $1.2 billion endowment. Stanford University promised last year to drop coal stocks from its huge $21.4 billion endowment. But Syracuse is now widely reported to be the largest endowment to “completely divest” from all fossil fuel stocks.
The students, while jubilant at the victory, nonetheless critiqued the New York Times for being less than completely accurate in reporting on the divestment announcement. From the Syracuse divestment campaign’s Facebook page:
“But the article is wrong about full divestment – Syracuse University put a prohibition on direct investments from fossil fuels, which they had none of in the first place. SU still has substantial investments in fossil fuels through external fund managers.”
In a throwback to anti-apartheid divestment campaign days, the university pats itself on the back without giving credit to the fiercely determined student organizers who actually won the victory. The New York Times reports:
The university’s chancellor, Kent Syverud, said the move was part of Syracuse’s “long record of supporting responsible environmental stewardship and good corporate citizenship.”
Student protesters staged an 18-day sit-in in November over divestment and other issues. Katie McChesney, a campus divestment campaign organizer with the climate action group 350.org, said the student action showed that “if you want results, turn up the heat.”
Turning up the heat: That’s what it’s all about. On the same day Syracuse announced its divestment, a major story came out about the huge increase in glacial melt: Massive Glacier Melt and Fresh Water are Pouring into the Gulf of Alaska.
The next day — today, April 1st 2015 — the Guardian Media Group announced it is divesting its 800M pound fund from fossil fuels.
It’s a race against time.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection denies public hearings for Sunoco Pipeline pumping stations despite 452 requests
For Immediate Release: March 24th, 2015
Although Philadelphia City Council just yesterday unanimously passed a Resolution pressing the feds to ban the puncture-prone, dangerous tank cars carrying volatile Bakken Shale crude oil, today City Council is doing something entirely different.
They’re holding a hearing from 10 AM to 2 PM designed to promote, design and build public-private partnerships in order to transform Philadelphia from the “Next Great Green City” into a “Dirty Shale Energy Hub” instead.
The language they use sounds innocuous. “Energy Hub”: that could mean energy efficiency: deep energy retrofits, insulation up to R60 for severe winter weather, double and triple-pane windows, excellent public transportation infrastructure, and increased investment in sustainable agriculture, since the way we currently produce food involves irrational, poisonous large-scale use of petrochemicals. It could mean shiny solar panels, large-scale wind investment, and small-scale wind turbines that look solid (to birds) so they don’t kill birds.
Except it doesn’t mean any of that. Philadelphia City Council’s “Special Committee on Energy Opportunities” plans to expand PGW’s use of Marcellus Shale fracked gas, including dangerous LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) infrastructure and production. The plan includes building an insane 42″ fracked gas pipeline which would go under the Delaware River.
The plan includes attracting dirty, polluting industries like plastics and chemicals manufacturers to use the cheap Marcellus Shale gas. It’s cheap because it’s almost completely unregulated in the shalefields, from vertical drilling to fracturing and “completion” to waste dumping and spreading waste on the roads, to compressor stations and pipelines, which in case you haven’t noticed keep exploding like the brand-new fracked gas liquids pipeline did in West Virginia in January 2015.
The Philly plan includes more dangerous oil trains, which Philadelphia Energy Suicide (PES), the refinery which keeps flaring and sending toxic smoke and emissions into Philadelphia neighborhoods, relies upon to enact CEO Phil Rinaldi’s vision of expansion and everlasting profits.
So, is Philadelphia City Council getting credit for doing the right thing one day only to race in the exact wrong direction the next day? You bet they are! From Philadelphia Weekly Press:
The Special Committee of City Council on Energy Opportunities for Philadelphia has announced its inaugural hearing agenda for Friday, March 13, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The Special Committee will hear testimony on the viability of public-private partnerships (P3s) in Philadelphia, opportunities for expanding the role of the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) in Philadelphia’s energy future, best practices and proposals for energy-related P3s, and possible legislative frameworks for future P3 proposals.The Special Committee is co-chaired by Councilman Bobby Henon (6th District; chair, Committee on Public Property and Public Works) and Councilwoman Marian Tasco (9th District; chair, Philadelphia Gas Commission), and includes Councilman Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District; chair, Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities), Councilman At-Large Ed Neilson (chair, Committee on Labor and Civil Service) and Councilman At-Large David Oh (chair, Committee on Global Opportunities and the Creative/Innovative Economy).The order of witnesses expected to testify is as follows: Craig White, CEO, PGW; Scott Rubin, Esq., public utilities consultant; Philip Rinaldi, CEO, Philadelphia Energy Solutions; Boris Brevnov, Managing Member, Liberty Energy Trust; John Henry, CEO, Chariot Companies; Franc James, CEO, Penn America Energy LP; The Honorable Ed Pawlowski, Mayor, City of Allentown. Members of the public wishing to testify may email Chris.Goy@phila.gov or call 215-686-2070.
Show up, of course, if you can: run over at lunch to City Hall (bring your photo ID!); witness, testify, and protest with small paper signs with messages like “No Dirty Shale Energy Hub” and “Clean Energy Efficiency Hub, Don’t Frack Philly!” and “Sustainability Now: Climate Change is Here” and “NO to Philadelphia Energy Suicide.”
More importantly, pepper Philadelphia City Council members with phone calls, today and over the next few weeks, with that same message. Call the Council President, Darrell Clarke; the Councilmembers involved in this hearing — Henon, Tasco, Johnson, Neilson, and Oh — as well as the at-large Councilmembers and your own Council representative.
Not from Philly? Call anyway! Philadelphia Energy Suicide (PES) is already the largest consumer of Bakken Shale oil. The fracking, flaring and transportation of Bakken Shale oil has already killed well over 50 people, in Lac Megantic and in the shalefields. It will kill many more both in the short term and in the long term.
So when you make your calls today and over the next few weeks, call for:
* A complete moratorium on oil “bomb trains” rather than an expanded role for PES. Invest in renewables instead!
* A complete moratorium on Phil Rinaldi’s testimony at City Council hearings. Bring in Anil from Sumintra instead!
* No 42″ fracked gas pipeline under the Delaware River. No expansion for PGW. Invest in energy efficiency instead!
* Environmental justice instead of environmental racism. No increase in asthma and COPD from new plastics, chemicals and other dirty manufacturers in the Philadelphia region. Invest in sustainable agriculture and public transit instead!
For inspiration, look at what’s going right in Philly! Read “Simply the Sun,” the beautiful, fact-filled photo-essay by renowned photographer JJ Tiziou. Here’s an excerpt from his photo captions:
“Since the panels that Anil installs kick out so much power, they can not only power the home, but also send excess energy into the utility grid.”
“Anil runs a local sustainable energy business called Sumintra. With a little bit of know-how and some technology that is becoming more and more affordable.”
“That very blast of sunlight that’s overexposing the left side of this image is the same one that could power your home. For free.”
“The panels used are modular, so you can build an array that suits your space.”
What Philadelphia does is not just about Philly. It’s about death and life in the shalefields; it’s about the extreme flooding in our near future if we don’t turn around our greenhouse gas emissions right now; it’s about our democracy.
What Philadelphia decides in the coming weeks and months — to embrace wholeheartedly the expanded profits in polluting industries to massively expand the “market” for fracked gas and oil, or to turn towards sustainability wholeheartedly — impacts the region, the nation, and the globe. Remember we must keep 4/5ths of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid going beyond 2 degrees of global warming, triggering the type of climate change which would render the planet mostly uninhabitable, according to scientists.
Calls for substandard tank cars to be prohibited, highest safety standards for new tank cars, public disclosure of train traffic and emergency response community forums
Philadelphia, PA – Today Philadelphia City Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for action by the federal government, rail companies and Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management to address threats posed by the train transport of Bakken crude oil through Philadelphia.
The resolution calls for substandard DOT111s and other presently used tank cars that carry Bakken crude to be stopped and urges the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to issue specifications for tank cars that meet the highest safety standards for crude by rail. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced the resolution that was fully supported by the Council today.
The resolution also calls for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to publicly disclose train schedule and route information and for the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to share with the public the emergency response plans specific to oil train derailments at community workshops. Testimony at City Council today was made that hundreds of thousands of people are within the evacuation zone of the train route in Philadelphia and that people don’t know anything about the threat and need to know what to do should there be an accident. The resolution calls for OEM to work pro-actively to update the City’s emergency response plans.
“City Council has taken a stand to protect Philadelphians from these dirty and dangerous oil trains. We look to the companies that are profiting from this enormous and rapidly expanding oil transport to take their cue from City Council and voluntarily stop using DOT111s and CPC1232s for the sake of the people who live and work here. Philadelphia Energy Solutions (the refinery, PES) and CSX must recognize the profits they make are not worth endangering public safety, our water supplies, and the City’s economic well-being. A derailment catastrophe can be avoided here but not while these explosive oil trains roll through Philadelphia,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
“We hope OEM starts to take crude by rail more seriously by engaging the public and showing transparency and for the federal government to pass strong tank car regulations when the Department of Transportation releases its final rule in May. Public safety and the environment have been sacrificed by industry and the federal government for economics and the expediency of delivering crude by rail, for too long,” said Brooks Mountcastle, Eastern PA Director for Clean Water Action.
Testimony by several residents and organizations pointed out that two to three oil trains of 100 cars or more, each carrying about three million gallons of highly volatile and flammable domestic crude oil, course through the City every day in tank cars deemed unsafe by federal agencies. The tank cars that are used – DOT111s and CPC 1232s – are prone to puncture, explode, and catch fire when derailed, even at very low speeds (DOT 111s puncture at speeds in excess of 8 mph).
Speakers pointed out that most of the oil trains go to the PES refinery in South Philadelphia, which is expanding its operations, meaning more oil train traffic. Today PES is the largest single customer of Bakken crude in the nation, operates the largest oil train rail yard in the U.S., and is the largest oil refinery on the Eastern Seaboard.
Several speakers referenced the four fiery oil train derailments that occurred in just the last month in the U.S. and Canada, heightening fears along the oil train routes. Oil train derailments have sharply risen since Bakken crude oil began to be fracked in North Dakota in the last two years. The Associated Press reported that a USDOT report predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of ten times per year over the next two decades, killing hundreds of people and racking up damages exceeding $4 billion nationwide.
Speakers reminded City Council members that Philadelphia had two near disasters when CSX train cars derailed on January 20, 2014 and January 31, 2015 in the City. Some stated it was just a matter of time before a disaster occurs here unless something is done. There are hundreds of thousands of people within the blast zone of the train tracks in Philadelphia.http://explosive-crude-by-rail.org/
Councilman Johnson was thanked repeatedly by speakers for his leadership and City Council members were recognized for standing up for public safety. Speakers said they see this as a crucial first step in addressing the enormous risks and pollution that crude by rail brings to the City and the look forward to working with the City to put public safety and the environment first.
You’ve seen them: the mile-long trains with black cylindrical cars full of fracked Bakken Shale oil, coming through Philadelphia neighborhoods, snaking along next to and over the Schuylkill River, mere yards from I-76 and I-95 in places. Every one of them is a potential disaster for residents, railway and emergency workers, and for the City of Philadelphia.
We’ve had enough! Tomorrow, Philadelphia City Council will finally vote on pressing the feds to ban the unsafe rail cars (and more: details below). Action in Philly can help provoke municipalities large and small all over America, where 25 million people are at risk from oil bomb trains, to act. So help us all make sure Philly does the right thing Thursday!
What: City Council Vote on Oil Trains Resolution #150129
When: Thursday, March 12, 10:00 am (it’s first on the agenda)
Where: Philadelphia City Hall, Broad and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Sign up: Arrive at 9:45 AM with photo ID and sign up in Room 400 to give public comment.(If you arrive late, you can still speak when asked whether anyone else wishes to speak. But please come on time to maximize the power of our presence!)
Bring small paper signs to hold up: “YES on oil train resolution” “STOP the oil train madness” “Oil trains kill!” “Protect Our People / Water / Climate / Safety: No Exploding Oil Trains!”
Please call and write to thank Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and call your City Councilperson to say “Vote Yes” for the Protect Philadelphia oil train resolution – No. 150129. See Delaware Riverkeeper’s Action Alert here.
Background: Protecting Our Waters calls for a complete moratorium on oil trains, for climateas well as safety reasons. It’s absurd: at least four oil-by-rail derailments and fires in four weeks– two in Ontario, one in West Virginia and one in Illinois. As if the derailments in Lac-Megantic; in Aliceville, AL; Casselton, ND; and Lynchburg, VA weren’t already enough! While we join Center for Biological Diversity and others in standing for a complete moratorium — which City Council’s resolution will not support — we nonetheless urge you strongly to support Resolution 150129 because:
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s resolution calls for banning the unsafe tank cars transporting highly volatile and flammable Bakken crude through Philadelphia; for public disclosure of train schedules and crude by rail movements through the City; and for community meetings by the Office of Emergency Management to share information about emergency response plans if a crude-by-rail fire and/or spill occur. (What is the evacuation plan? Evacuation zones in many of the Bakken crude disasters so far have been one to five miles due to toxic smoke as well as fire.)
Note: PennEnvironment’s report, Danger Around the Bend: The Threat of Oil Trains in Pennsylvania shows that 710,000 Philadelphians live within the evacuation zone of oil train routes. You can also use their action alert to communicate with City Council online: Tell your Councilperson to support these critical protections before the vote.
In case you missed it: Our Coalition put out a press release after the West Virginia derailment and fireball February 16th (but before the Illinois and Ontario derailments and fires last week.) View it here: Catastrophic Oil Train Derailment in West Virginia is an Accident Waiting to Happen in Philadelphia.
Enough with the fireballs. Enough with rivers on fire. Enough with people fleeing from their homes and barely escaping with their lives. Enough with the climate damage. Enough with Philadelphia Energy Solutions — aka Philadelphia Energy Suicide — playing fast and loose with our lives, while harming North Dakota residents hurt by the fracking and flaring. PES brings more risk, more asthma, more flaring, more emissions and more climate damage every day with every oil bomb train.
Protect Philadelphia from Dangerous Oil Trains! Make your voice count.
Tell City Council to Pass Resolution 150129 on March 12th!
Pssst: Remember: Rebut the use of oil train explosions as an argument for more dirty, dangerous, climate-damaging, water-polluting fossil fuel pipelines. Pipelines spill more than oil trains. Pipelines also explode. The answer is “none of the above.” We need to keep 4/5ths of all known oil and gas reserves in the ground to protect climate. Yes to: energy efficiency, reduced consumption, ending war (U.S. military is world’s biggest user of oil), sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy!
Ann, Iris, Claudia, Ana, Steve, Marta, and all the POW Organizers
As yet another oil “bomb train” burns, this time in Illinois about 1000 feet from the Galena River — with a one-mile evacuation zone — the message could not be more clear. The newer, “safer” 1232 rail cars are exploding just like the “unsafe” DOT-111 rail cars. The DOT-111 cars were implicated in many derailments since 47 people were killed by an exploding Bakken Shale oil train in Lac Megantic, Canada in July 2013. But as the February 16th West Virginia fireball and today’s oil cars aflame demonstrate, it’s not the rail cars, it’s the cargo: uber-flammable Bakken Shale oil is not safe by rail, by pipeline, or by barge.
Here is major news coverage followed by organizers and officials responding in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and New York:
Chicago Tribune: BNSF: Oil train derailment near Galena involved safer tank cars (includes video)
Huffington Post: Freight train carrying crude derails near Illinois city (photos)
Chicago Sun-Times: Agencies mobilize after crude oil train derails, catches fire near Galena
KWQC: Moment by moment updates, photos on site in Galena
Thonline.com breaking news: UPDATE: BNSF to set up claims center after derailment
Related: PA, NJ, NY, VA news:
Philadelphia City Council will vote on a Resolution to protect residents from exploding oil trains on Thursday, March 12th. Come in person. To testify, call the Clerk: (215) 686-3410 on Tues. or Weds.
What: Philadelphia City Council general meeting
When: Thursday, March 12th, 10 AM.
Where: City Hall, Broad and Market Streets, 4th Floor, Council Chambers. Remember to bring your photo ID.
Bring: Small paper signs, no sticks, with your messages, such as: “Ban the bomb trains,” “Ban DOT-111 and 1232 rail cars,” “Protect Philly: No Flaming, no Flaring, no Fracking Bakken Shale Oil Trains”
New Jersey: Rally and Press conference Saturday, March 7th, 2015:
Pennsylvania statewide: After three oil train derailments in Pennsylvania in little over one year, PennEnvironment assessed who’s at risk, and where. See their report: Danger Around the Bend.
Virginia: Officials have proposed a $361,000 civil fine to CSX for the Lynchburg derailment and spill last year, plus the costs of investigating the derailment. The massive conflagration and oil spill caused the river to catch fire when a CSX oil train derailed, exploded and burned near Lynchburg last year.
New York: The town of Esopus, already in harm’s way from both oil trains and barges, is also threatened by the controversial proposed Pilgrim Pipelines, which would carry Bakken Shale oil south from Albany to Linden, NJ and refined products like jet fuel and gasoline north, doubling the risk of explosions and leaks. Esopus is holding a forum tomorrow, opposing Pilgrim pipelines with the theme: “Oil trains vs. barges vs. pipelines: A False Choice”:
What: The Esopus Pilgrim Pipelines Community Forum
When: Saturday, March 7th from 10:30 AM to 12 noon
Where: Esopus Library, 128 Canal Street, Port Ewen, New York.
Speakers: Jen Metzger, Citizens for Local Power and Councilmember, Town of Rosendale; Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper; Iris Marie Bloom, Protecting Our Waters and Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY.
Special Appearance: Sen. Kevin Cahill, or staffer, will make a special announcement at the forum.
Hat tips to Tracy Carluccio, Coryn Wolk, Chris Spatz, Adam Garber, and Rosemary Carey for news links.
Catastrophic Oil Train Derailment in West Virginia is an Accident Waiting to Happen in Philadelphia
Organizations call on City Council and regulators to step up to protect Philadelphia residents NOW
Tracy Carluccio, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, 215-369-1188 x 104
Mary Donahue, Clean Water Action, 215-545-0250 x 206 firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Walker, Clean Air Council, 215-567-4004 x121 email@example.com
Adam Garber, PennEnvironment, (215) 732-5897 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Dixon, Protecting Our Waters, email@example.com
Philadelphia, PA – Update February 20th: As we go to press with this post on derailments, the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery lost control of heavy flaring while processing Bakken Shale oil today, sending large clouds of black smoke over southwest Philadelphia and scaring residents of the densely populated neighborhoods.
A CSX train carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota careened off the tracks along the Kanawha River at Adena Village and Boomer, West Virginia upstream of Charleston, during a snow storm Monday. A powerful fireball explosion led to evacuation of residents within a half mile, according to news reports.
The train was carrying more than 100 tank cars of highly volatile crude oil when 20 rail cars caught fire, with 26 cars derailed. At least one car fell into the river. The river was set afire and one house was burned as a fireball rose an estimated 300 feet into the air. Residents fled for their lives in frigid temperatures. One resident has been hospitalized, several hundred people are in community shelters, and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency. The fires still burned late Tuesday night. Water intakes on the river have been closed due to oil in the river.
On January 31, in south Philadelphia, 11 tank cars carrying crude oil derailed in the CSX rail yard along the Delaware River next to Rt. 95. There has been a veritable black out of any information about how and why the derailment occurred and any safety or environmental impacts. There has been no follow up reporting about what occurred at the rail yard, how the tank cars were righted, what type of tank cars were involved and the level of risk for neighboring areas and the river if the trains had spilled, punctured or caught fire. This is disturbing because the public is shut out of the most basic information about events that could have very big effects on them.
On January 20th last year, Philadelphia dodged a bullet when seven cars from a CSX oil train derailed. One of the tank cars carrying crude oil dangled over the river from the Schuylkill Arsenal Bridge for days. CSX has made no safety improvements since this accidents. In fact, the volume of dangerous crude being carried through Philadelphia and the region has increased, increasing risk and opportunities for pollution.
These near-disasters have left many Philadelphia residents asking not IF a catastrophe like the West Virginia calamity will happen here but WHEN it will happen. Two to three mile-long trains carrying domestic crude roll through Philadelphia neighborhoods every day to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery, which is expanding its operations. Today PES is the largest single customer of Bakken crude in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of people live within the blast zone of the train tracks in Philadelphia. http://explosive-crude-by-rail.org/
“West Virginia’s derailment is a horrifying reminder of what could happen in Philadelphia. The possibility of an explosive oil train derailment threatens our health and safety every day. We need action from City Council and the Office of Emergency Management and we need to know what is being done to prevent a catastrophe,” said Mary Donahue, Program Organizer, Clean Water Action.
“CSX is the operator responsible for both derailments here in Philadelphia and for this horrific disaster in West Virginia and many more across the nation. Crude by rail accidents are increasing as fast as the oil is being fracked and loaded into these substandard tank cars on old rickety train tracks and railroad bridges. Where is City Council and emergency management when we need them to protect the City from these unacceptable risks? We are sitting ducks here in Philly, waiting for a catastrophe just like West Virginia’s and no one in authority seems to care,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
“I live in University City near train tracks that run along the Schuylkill River and near the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. If a train explodes here, the river, homes (including my own) and hospital could be destroyed. Oil trains must be banned,” asserted resident Ann Dixon, member of Protecting Our Waters.
“It was extremely fortunate that no one was seriously hurt by the derailment and explosion in West Virginia,” said Matt Walker, Community Outreach Director with Clean Air Council.” If an explosion were to happen in Philadelphia, with our high population density and higher number of older oil trains, it could have catastrophic impacts to residents, businesses, universities, and hospitals. While the federal government plans to slowly phase out older tank cars, this doesn’t address the inherent volatility of Bakken crude oil, which can cause explosions even in newer tank cars like those in the West Virginia accident,” added Walker.
“Oil trains are an outrageous risk to our communities. These trains are barreling through Pennsylvania putting the lives of hundreds of thousands at risk and it’s time our elected officials ended this threat before a disaster like West Virginia happens here,” said Adam Garber of PennEnvironment.
A coalition of organizations has requested City Council to adopt a resolution banning DOT 111s and taking other actions to protect the City from oil train pollution and danger. The letter submitted to City Council and the draft resolution can be found here: http://bit.ly/1A3pzDp
Breaking: Just as we were about to publish this week’s press release deploring the inaction, lack of investigation and complete lack of safety plan for bomb train incidents in Philadelphia in the aftermath of three oil train derailments in three days, Feb 14 – 16 2015, we learned about TODAY’s heavy flaring and smoke erupting from the Philadelphia Energy Suicide (PES) refinery. NBC: “Flare Up at South Philadelphia Refinery Prompts Calls“
We know of no air monitoring whatsoever done by the City of Philadelphia or the Pennsylvania DEP. PES naturally claims the smoky air is pure and clean. See no evil. Call PES, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, for more information about this incident: Cherice Corley 215 339 7061. The City of Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management Director is Samantha Phillips: call her at 215 – 686 – 4465.
Questions: how many times has PES has already flared and sent toxic clouds of smoke over southwest Philadelphia? How many times they will be allowed to flare and smoke before they experience any consequences whatsoever? Most importantly, when will the oil bomb trains be stopped completely?
Now that we know the new rail cars are as unsafe as the old DOT-111 rail cars, we must demand a complete halt on the oil bomb trains. Philadelphia has had two major derailments (one seven cars; one eleven cars) in just over one year. There must not be a third time. Too many risk being incinerated. Stop the oil bomb trains.
February 18th: “North Dakota Oil Train Safeguards Too Little Too Late” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow chronicles three oil train derailments in three days: two in Canada on Valentine’s Day and the West Virginia disaster on February 16th, with special guest Russell Gold. This is a must-watch for the background details about Bakken Shale oil exploding due to its high propane, ethane and butane content — a completely avoidable problem — and due to its spectacular footage from Lynchburg, from the Kanawha River, and from the two most recent derailments in Canada less than one week ago.
Unfortunately, Rachel and Russell leave out the linkage to the ongoing climate disaster and leave unstated the obvious and necessary solution: keep the rest of the Bakken Shale oil in the ground. Four fifths of the current known oil reserves in the world must stay in the ground for us to avoid making our planet uninhabitable due to extreme climate change, scientists say.