Oil train dangers extend past shipments from Bakken region, official says

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press Published: June 27, 2014
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— The dangers posed by a spike in oil shipments by rail extend beyond crude from the booming Bakken region of the northern Plains and include oil produced elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada, U.S. safety officials and lawmakers said.

Acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said all crude shipments are flammable and can damage the environment — not just the Bakken shipments involved in a series of fiery accidents.

Hart cited recent derailments in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Brunswick and Pennsylvania of oil shipments from Canada. He said those cases exemplify “the risks to communities and for the environment for accidents involving non-Bakken crude oil.”

Hart’s comments were contained in a letter to U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley obtained by The Associated Press. They add to growing pressure on federal regulators to improve oil train safety in the wake of repeated derailments, including in Lac-Magentic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed in a massive conflagration last July.

Citing the highly volatile nature of Bakken oil, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last month ordered railroads to notify states of shipments from the region so firefighters and first responders can better prepare for accidents.