Posts Tagged ‘train explosions’


Dee Arellano (t.e.j.a.s.) shows the oil train blast zone for East Houston.

The news of the fiery explosion of two trains in Panhandle, Texas broke as organizers in Houston were discussing how to reduce the high risks of accidents involving toxic trains in Houston. That day, June 28th, two trains collided, resulting in a fiery explosion, the presumed death of three workers and the hospitalization of another. The trains in Panhandle, TX, were fortunately not carrying crude. However, the collision and explosion reminded us of the importance of standing up for safety in rail transport during the Stop Oil Trains Week of Action, July 6th – 12th.

The Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) kicked off the week of action on July 6th with a press conference and a community meeting to discuss the risks that we Houstonians face as a result of rail traffic within our communities. This was especially poignant as less than a week earlier, on June 28th, two trains collided near Panhandle, TX, leaving 1 employee injured and 3 employees presumed dead. Fiery and fatal incidents over the past few years have increased concerns around rail, public safety, and chemical security, and we shared our concerns with media (“Exigen a autoridades frenar la contaminación por el transporte de combustible” and “Crude-by-Rail Plummeting In Texas But Critics Insist Risk Of Accidents Remains“) and with community members. From our discussion, community members wanted to find out more information about exactly what kind of chemicals are transported through their neighborhoods to better understand the risks. The HPCC is taking a stand against oil trains because we are concerned with hazardous, flammable materials coming into the Houston area. Toxic trains put Houstonians at risk through the possibility of explosion and by polluting the air with cancer-causing diesel and other toxic gases, through collisions, and by trapping folks behind stalled trains. One person reported being trapped behind a train for 90 minutes! (more…)

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After several major accidents involving crude oil trains derailing and exploding, the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] is warning that “major loss of life” could result from an accident if tougher regulations on oil-by-rail shipments are not implemented.

The NTSB’s recommendations were echoed by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Regulators in both countries are urging their governments to adopt stricter rules.

The NTSB’s recommendations on Thursday came just days after a train derailed in Philadelphia, and just weeks after a train exploded in North Dakota. These two accidents are just the latest in a string of accidents that have happened over the last seven months, the worst killing 47 people in Canada.

“The NTSB is concerned that major loss of life, property damage and environmental consequences can occur when large volumes of crude oil or other flammable liquids are transported on a single train involved in an accident,” said the NTSB in a press release. “Crude oil shipments by rail have increased by over 400 percent since 2005.”

Philadelphia had a close call on Monday when seven of the train’s 101 cars slide off the rails – including tankers carrying oil from North Dakota – on a bridge over the Schuylkill River, a tributary of the Delaware River. Luckily none of the oil spilled out, but other communities across the United States and Canada have not been so lucky.

Last July, a runaway train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and exploded in the center of the Quebec town of Lac-Magantic, killing 47 and destroying 30 buildings.

Last November, 30 cars of another 90-car train carrying Bakken crude derailed in rural Alabama, sending more than a dozen of the cars into flames before being extinguished several days later. No one was injured or killed in this accident.

North Dakota Oil Train explosion - Dan Gunderson

North Dakota Oil Train Explosion – Dan Gunderson

On December 30th, a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale derailed outside of Casselton, North Dakota. Residents reported several loud explosions that sent huge fireballs into the sky. Authorities urged residents within five miles of the explosion to evacuate and avoid contact with the smoke, while residents living 10 miles away were asked to stay indoors.

The common theme between all of these accidents is that they were all carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale formation. The Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration [PHMSA] issued a safety alert earlier this month warning that “crude oil being transported from the Bakken region may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil.”

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