The pressure to stop major oil pipeline projects prompted the industry to look for other solutions to moving oil. The train seemed like a natural solution. Forget the fact that pipelines are more energy-efficient and emit less carbon. People protest against them so trains carrying millions of barrels of oil are crisscrossing the continent in greater than ever numbers.
And then this happens. A couple of train derailments just days apart has people wondering about the safety of trains and the ability to move crude this way.
One derailment (February 15) happened in Northern Ontario. The other in West Virginia the following day.
A train heading east from Alberta, pulling 100 cars, had a close to a third of them jump the tracks. Seven of them caught fire. It happened 80 kilometres from Timmins. No word yet on the amount of oil spilled into the wilderness area.
In West Virginia, 19 cars each carrying 700 barrels (114-thousand litres) went up in flames when they derailed. Emergency crews could just watch the fire burn – there was no way to extinguish it. Unlike the Ontario fire this one happened closer to where people lived and hundreds of families had to be evacuated from the surrounding area.
In both cases the train cars involved were the newer CPC-1232 models which are supposed to be better for handling dangerous, flammable products. But accidents happen and with the amount of trains carrying oil having increased at a dramatic rate (U.S. – 9,500 carloads in 2008 to more than 435,000 in 2013. Canada is not far behind at 340,000 expected this year), it’s likely there could be similar such accidents in the future.
Something for Canadians to keep in mind. According to the Globe And Mail the Harper Government has cut the budgets for the inspectors who monitor railways.