One of Chuckanut Transition’s objectives is community safety. With that in mind, we feel our neighbors should be aware of the dangers that oil cars risk to our community since Blanchard, Bow, and Ershing are all bisected by railroad tracks.
The ForestEthics organization, located in Bellingham, and many others believe moving Oil By Rail is unacceptably risky.
What kind of impacts and risks are we talking about? In the US, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has investigated the tanker cars used to move crude oil and tar sands, and noted a “high incidence of failure during accidents” (1).
Here are three very recent disasters:
- Wednesday, April 30, train derailment in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia sent several punctured, burning oil cars plunging into the James River—a major water source for local communities and major cities downstream, including Richmond. The amount of crude oil spilled into the river hasn't yet been confirmed, but even a small amount of gooey, sticky crude oil could be disastrous to the watershed.
This fiery disaster comes after the purported implementation of "voluntary" safety improvements demanded by the Department of Transportation. The regulatory system just hasn't caught up to the problem.
- In Alberta on October 19, 20113, 13 cars burned and one exploded after a train with liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil derailed. The explosion took place near Gainford, Alberta, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Edmonton. One hundred residents were forced to evacuate.
- Tank cars carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and exploded on July 6, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec devastating the entire town and claiming the lives of 47 individuals.
It’s hard to believe, but the rail cars carrying tar sands and crude oil are not only unsafe, but are part of trains often operated by a lone engineer, even late at night. The tank cars usually used to move the oil, called DOT-111 cars, are prone to puncturing and exploding even during derailments as slow as 36 miles per hour (58kph) (2). They need to be removed from the tracks immediately. What’s more, those DOT-111 tank cars are often strung together in unit trains of 100 cars or more, multiplying the risks.
In the US alone, there are over 30 new crude-by-rail proposals, which if built would combine to receive up to 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. If those 30+ terminals are approved, then those cars would move triple the amount of oil per day as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Like pipeline ruptures and tanker spills, train accidents happen. It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” By using unsafe cars, industry is putting towns and cities along train tracks at even greater risk.
What makes using these rail tank cars, the so called DOT 111s, so problematic? Here’s why, in five points:
1. Decades old design and a thin skin mean they are highly prone to puncture upon derailment;
2. Crude is transported in trains over a mile long with 100 or more cars, meaning three million gallons of crude per train and a huge concentration of risk;
3. The Bakken crude that has driven a 4,100% growth in crude by rail in the last five years is particularly prone to exploding;
4. 80% of the DOT 111 fleet is the oldest pre-2011 design; and
5. The primary rail routes are right through the middle of major urban areas.
If you feel these rail tank cars are unsafe, demand that Congress put an end to the use of dangerous DOT 111 tank cars for the transport of flammable, explosive substances like crude oil and ethanol by clicking on this link: Take Action for Safer Oil Trains!
Ask the governors of Washington and Oregon for a moratorium on new oil-by-rail projects until safety concerns are addressed by clicking on this link:
Sign this Moveon petition that asks Governor Inslee to issue a moratorium on all new "oil by rail" permits http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/moratorium-on-all-new.
There is also a public comment period going on now, which ends Friday, May 9 regarding the county's determination that the Shell project doesn't require an EIS.
This MDNS is issued under 197-11-340(2).
You may appeal this threshold determination by addressing those criteria as set forth in SCC 14.12.210 and then by filing per Section 14.06.110 such with Skagit County Planning and Development Services for service to the SEPA responsible official(s).
Appeals must be submitted no later than: May 23, 2014.
RESPONSIBLE OFFICIAL: Director of Planning and Development Services
CONTACT PERSON: Leah Forbes, Senior Planner
MAILING ADDRESS: 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273.
PHONE: (360) 336-9410
Date: 4-24-14 Signature: Leah Forbes, AICP
On behalf of Dale Pernula AICP, Planning and Development Services Director
cc: WDOE, Public Works, NW Clean Air Agency, Fire Marshal, WDFW, US Army Corps of Engineers, Skagit River System Cooperative, Samish Tribe, Applicant, parties of record
1. Paul L. Stancil, CHMM (2012). DOT-111 Tank Car
Design [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2012/cherry_valley/presentations/Hazardous%20Materials%20Board%20Presentation%20508%20Completed.pdf
2. National Transportation Safety Board (June 19, 2009). "Railroad Accident Report - Derailment of CN Freight Train U70691-18 With Subsequent Hazardous Materials Release and Fire." NTSB Number: RAR-12-01. Retrieved from http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2012/cherry_valley/