Accident investigation boards in the U.S. and Canada are calling for tougher regulation of trains carrying crude oil, warning that an accident in a populated area could cause a “major loss of life,” as well as significant property and environmental damage. Worries about shipping crude oil by train have been heightened by recent accidents:
— Jan. 20: Seven CSX train cars, six of them containing oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, derailed on a bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The bridge is near the University of Pennsylvania, a highway and three hospitals. No oil was spilled and no one was injured. The train from Chicago was more than 100 cars long.
— Jan. 7: A 122-car Canadian National Railway train derailed in New Brunswick, Canada. Three cars containing propane and one car transporting crude oil from Western Canada exploded after the derailment, creating intense fires that burned for days. About 150 residents of nearby Plaster Rock were evacuated.
— Dec. 30, 2013: A fire engulfed tank cars loaded with oil on a Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train after a collision about a mile from Casselton, N.D. No one was injured, but more than 2,000 residents were evacuated as emergency responders struggled with the intense fire.
— Nov. 8, 2013: An oil train from North Dakota derailed and exploded near Aliceville, Ala. There were no deaths but an estimated 749,000 gallons of oil spilled from 26 tanker cars.
— July 5, 2013: A runaway Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train that had been left unattended derailed, spilling oil and catching fire inside the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec. Forty-seven people were killed and 30 buildings burned in the town’s center. About 1.6 million gallons of crude oil being transported from the Bakken to a Canadian refinery was spilled.