Another day, another oil train derailment. This time a train derailed in Northern Ontario on March 7 and caught fire, spilling crude into a nearby river. The derailment of the CN train was the third in less than a month.
It may be difficult to keep track of all the derailments, and the latest accident in Canada should not be confused with a similar event in Illinois just two days earlier. On March 5, six BNSF railcars jumped the tracks, with two cars exploding into a fireball.
The ongoing string of exploding trains has created a public policy nightmare for the U.S. and Canadian governments. Complicating matters is the fact that these most recent derailments have involved the supposedly safer retrofitted railcar models that new regulations are seeking to make mandatory. The 1232 model has been hailed as a significant improvement over the older DOT-111 designs, but several disasters in recent weeks involving those reinforced railcars raise questions over whether stiffer rules are needed. Related: Recent “Bomb Trains” Expose Regulatory Failures
With awkward timing, Reuters reported that the Obama administration considered national rules last year that would require processing of crude to remove volatile gases before it is shipped by rail. Crude coming from the Bakken has been shown to be more volatile than from other places, making the cargo on trains potentially more explosive. But instead of issuing nationwide regulations, the government shelved the idea, opting instead to support North Dakota’s regulations at the state level.
Pressure is mounting on the White House to act. New York Senator Chuck Schumer says there will not be an end to the train disasters “until the stability of the crude being loaded into the tank cars themselves is improved.”
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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