Most Americans see combating climate change as a moral duty

BY BRUCE WALLACE   Reuters   Fri Feb 27, 2015

(Reuters) – A significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders – to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters/IPSOS poll has found.

    The poll of 2,827 Americans was conducted in February to measure the impact of moral language, including interventions by Pope Francis, on the climate change debate. In recent months, the pope has warned about the moral consequences of failing to act on rising global temperatures, which are expected to disproportionately affect the lives of the world’s poor.

    The result of the poll suggests that appeals based on ethics could be key to shifting the debate over climate change in the United States, where those demanding action to reduce carbon emissions and those who resist it are often at loggerheads.

    Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that world leaders are morally obligated to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. And 72 percent said they were “personally morally obligated” to do what they can in their daily lives to reduce emissions.

    “When climate change is viewed through a moral lens it has broader appeal,” said Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network, a grassroots organization that mobilizes faith-based communities on politics and policy issues.

    “The climate debate can be very intellectual at times, all about economic systems and science we don’t understand. This makes it about us, our neighbors and about doing the right thing.”

    Some observers believe the pope’s message can resonate beyond his own church.

    “The moral imperative is the way to reach out to conservatives,” said Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelic Environmental Network, a large evangelical organization that advocates for action on climate change.

    Talking in terms of values is “the only way forward if we are to bring our fellow Republicans along,” he added.

    Some Republican politicians have begun to search for a new message on climate change, in an attempt to distance the party from those who oppose most efforts to limit greenhouse gases and have questioned the science explaining human-caused climate change.


   Whether shifting moral beliefs can translate widely into a willingness to modify carbon-intensive lifestyles and assume the costs of weaning the U.S. economy off fossil fuels remains to be seen. U.S. sales of trucks and SUVs have been rising in recent months, for example, spurred by lower gasoline prices.

    But moral questions are increasingly invoked in the climate debate – and not just among anti-carbon activists.

    In a Feb. 12 speech to oil industry leaders in London, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden noted that “the issue is how to balance one moral obligation, energy access for all, against the other: fighting climate change.”

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also wrapped some of its anti-pollution initiatives in the language of “climate justice,” likening the battle against climate change to the mid-20th century fight for civil rights.

    Pope Francis also vowed to make fighting climate change a centerpiece of his papacy, using his authority as head of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to push political leaders toward a deal at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Paris this December that is aimed at cutting carbon emissions.

    The pope has confronted critics of climate change science that finds human activities responsible for increases in global temperatures, saying in January that it is mostly “man who has slapped nature in the face.”

    Sixty-four percent of those polled agreed with the pope that human activities are largely responsible for the rising CO2 levels that scientists say drive climate change.

    The pope also criticized the negotiators at a global climate conference in Peru last December for “a lack of courage” and has promised to issue an encyclical – a letter setting out papal doctrine – on climate issues that he hopes will add momentum to getting a deal in Paris.

    In turn, he has been attacked by those who deny the scientific findings on global warming for aligning himself with environmentalists.

    But only one in 10 saw him as a voice of authority on the issue, on a par with Democrats and Republicans in Congress and less than the percentage citing President Barack Obama(18 percent). The poll respondents also said that United Nations scientists and a popular U.S. television host, Bill Nye “The Science Guy”, carry more authority on climate change than U.S. politicians.

    The Reuters poll was conducted from Feb. 13 to 25 and the results were weighted to current U.S. population data by gender, age, education and ethnicity. It has a credibility interval – which measures the survey’s precision – of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

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Texas reconsiders and will disclose oil train records

By AP    February 23, 2015

Derailed oil tanker train cars burn near Mount Carbon, W.Va., Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. A CSX train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm, sending a fireball into the sky and threatening the water supply of nearby residents, authorities and residents said Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Daily Mail, Marcus Constantino)

Derailed oil tanker train cars burn near Mount Carbon, W.Va., Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. A CSX train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm, sending a fireball into the sky and threatening the water supply of nearby residents, authorities and residents said Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Daily Mail, Marcus Constantino)

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas officials have reconsidered their decision to withhold details of how many trains carry at least 1 million gallons of crude oil across the state each week.

The Texas Attorney General’s office decided last week that the records BNSF and Kansas City Southern railroads gave the state should be disclosed.

Previously, the Texas Department of Public Safety refused to share those records when The Associated Press and others requested them.

It was not immediately clear Monday morning how quickly Texas officials will produce the records.

Last spring, federal transportation officials ordered the railroads to begin notifying states about trains carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude oil.

The crude oil shipments are being scrutinized because of several fiery derailments, including a 2013 incident in Canada when 47 people died.

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Why bitumen isn’t necessarily safer than Bakken

Written by David Thomas, Contributing Editor for Railway Age

Feb. 14, 2015 CN oil train derailment near Gogama, Ontario CBC News/Dillon Daveikis

Feb. 14, 2015 CN oil train derailment near Gogama, Ontario
CBC News/Dillon Daveikis

The chain reaction fireballs that attended the Feb. 16, 2015 derailment of a CSX unit oil train in populated West Virginia probably blinded observers to the significance of the concurrent derailment and explosions of a CN oil train in a remote and uninhabited area of northern Ontario. Most reports treated the two events as equals, given that both trains consisted of recently manufactured CPC-1232 tank cars loaded with crude oil.
CN’s Ontario conflagration is the more disturbing of the two mishaps: The railroad reported that its train was not carrying the extra-light Bakken crude that, in a series of high-energy derailments since 2013, has proved to be explosive. To the contrary, the CN train was laden with bitumen, the extra-heavy tarry substance extracted from Alberta’s oil sands. Bitumen, in its natural highly viscous form, is considered to be essentially inflammable by petrochemical experts and is rarely considered in safety evaluations of crude by rail.

So why did the bitumen ignite and explode in Ontario’s -40ºC (-40ºF) weather? The reason, based on research consulted by Railway Age, is that the diluent added to make bitumen flow into and out of tank cars makes the blended lading quite volatile.

This blend of bitumen and petroleum-based diluents, known as “dilbit,” has a low flash point. Thus, the widespread belief that bitumen from Alberta’s northern oil sands is far safer to transport by rail than Bakken crude is, for all intents and purposes, dead wrong. This may be disruptive news for bitumen shippers, carriers, and regulators.

The hope for Bakken crude is that it can be treated to remove benzene and other “light end” substances before loading, rendering it mildly flammable instead of highly explosive. The same is not true for dilbit, because the highly volatile diluents are added to the crude to make it less viscous. A safer procedure is to heat bitumen at origin before loading into a tank car and again at destination, prior to unloading. Some tank cars are equipped with internal steam coils for this purpose and are used in crude oil service, but a requirement for such heating elements is not included in the specifications proposed for a future DOT-117 tank car to replace both the DOT-111 and CPC-1232 cars now in CBR service.

According to “Properties of Dilbit and Conventional Crude Oils,” a February 2014 report by the Alberta Innovates consortium of industry, government, and university researchers, “[T]he flash point of fresh dilbit is initially lower than other oil types and is comparable to a diluent.” It says that dilbit will ignite upon exposure to an ignition source at -35ºC, compared to -9ºC for conventional light oil. The flash point of raw diluent is -35ºC or less. The flash point of undiluted bitumen is +151ºC, well above the +60ºC flammability threshold specified in current hazardous materials classification regulations.

The reason for the low flash point of dilbit is that ignitability is determined by a blend’s most volatile components, in this case, the diluent itself: “[T]he flash point is determined by the lowest-boil-point components (volatiles). Consequently, the flash point of the dilbit is governed by the 20%-30% volume diluent component . . . .”

The study defines flash point as “the temperature to which the fuel must be heated in order to produce an adequate fuel/air concentration to be ignited when exposed to an open flame. The flash point of the crude oil is used as an index of fire hazard in North America.”

Thus, flash point is the critical factor in determining whether a tank car breach will lead to its contents burning or exploding upon exposure to the pyrotechnics of a high-energy derailment.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board can be expected to analyze the dilbit lading of CN’s Ontario accident, as it did the Bakken crude that exploded at Lac-Mégantic in 2013. TSB reported then that Bakken crude is more volatile than other varieties. Should TSB conclude that dilbit has a volatility similar to Bakken crude, as the Alberta research suggests, the hazmat classification of crude oil could be in question.

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No More Exploding Tank Cars

By The New York Times EDITORIAL BOARD    FEB. 20, 2015

Wreckage from a train derailment this week in West Virginia. Credit: Associated Press

Wreckage from a train derailment this week in West Virginia. Credit: Associated Press

By some miracle, considering how close it was to the city of Charleston, the huge fireball from an enormous explosion of oil tank cars in West Virginia this week did not cost lives. But this latest explosion has served as a terrifying reminder that the industry’s ability to safely ship oil from North Dakota’s booming oil fields lags well behind its capacity to get that oil out of the ground.

There are two important ways to make transporting oil much safer than it is now. One is to impose tough new standards on tank cars, improving valves and brakes and generally making them more resilient. A final rule from the Department of Transportation aimed at doing that is awaiting approval at the Office of Management and Budget, which needs to move quickly.

Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the TrainJAN. 25, 2014
The second is to make the crude oil itself less volatile before it is pumped into the tank cars. Producers call it “stabilizing” the oil, a process that involves separating light gases, which in turn reduces vapor pressures and makes the oil safer to transport. Officials in North Dakota say they will take steps to make the oil less volatile starting April 1.

Tank cars filled with the volatile Bakken crude from North Dakota have exploded with disturbing regularity in the past few years as more of the oil is moved across the country. Crude oil tank cars exploded last year near Lynchburg, Va. Forty-seven people were killed in 2013 after cars derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Bakken crude production has increased 400 percent since 2009, and the huge, cylindrical, matte black tank cars rumble out of North Dakota’s oil fields each week by the thousands. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who has been pushing Washington for tougher standards, noted this week that trains move through cities across the Northeast, including Buffalo, Rochester and Albany, and warned that “all you need is for one of these to explode in a populated area.”

The West Virginia explosion should be a reminder that the Obama administration, the railroad industry and the oil producers all need to find answers, as quickly as possible, to an increasingly serious problem.

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Fuel-hauling trains could derail at 10 a year


This aerial Feb. 17, 2015 file photo photo made available by the Office of the Governor of West Virginia shows a derailed train in Mount Carbon, WVa. As investigators in West Virginia and Ontario pick through the wreckage from the latest pair of oil train derailments to result in massive fires, U.S. transportation officials predict many more catastrophic wrecks involving flammable fuels in coming years absent new regulations. (AP Photo/ Office of the Governor of West Virginia, Steven Wayne Rotsch)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – The federal government predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.

The projection comes from a previously unreported analysis by the Department of Transportation that reviewed the risks of moving vast quantities of both fuels across the nation and through major cities. The study completed last July took on new relevance this week after a train loaded with crude derailed in West Virginia, sparked a spectacular fire and forced the evacuation of hundreds of families.

Monday’s accident was the latest in a spate of fiery derailments, and senior federal officials said it drives home the need for stronger tank cars, more effective braking systems and other safety improvements.

“This underscores why we need to move as quickly as possible getting these regulations in place,” said Tim Butters, acting administrator for the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The volume of flammable liquids transported by rail has risen dramatically over the last decade, driven mostly by the oil shale boom in North Dakota and Montana. This year, rails are expected to move nearly 900,000 car loads of oil and ethanol in tankers. Each can hold 30,000 gallons of fuel.

Based on past accident trends, anticipated shipping volumes and known ethanol and crude rail routes, the analysis predicted about 15 derailments in 2015, declining to about five a year by 2034.

The 207 total derailments over the two-decade period would cause $4.5 billion in damage, according to the analysis, which predicts 10 “higher consequence events” causing more extensive damage and potential fatalities.

If just one of those more severe accidents occurred in a high-population area, it could kill more than 200 people and cause roughly $6 billion in damage.

“Such an event is unlikely, but such damages could occur when a substantial number of people are harmed or a particularly vulnerable environmental area is affected,” the analysis concluded.

The two fuels travel through communities with an average population density of 283 people per square kilometer, according to the federal analysis. That means about 16 million Americans live within a half-kilometer of one of the lines.

Such proximity is equivalent to the zone of destruction left by a July 2013 oil train explosion that killed 47 people and leveled much of downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the analysis said.

Damage at Lac-Megantic has been estimated at $1.2 billion or higher.

A spokesman for the Association of American Railroads said the group was aware of the Department of Transportation analysis but had no comment on its derailment projections.

“Our focus is to continue looking at ways to enhance the safe movement of rail transportation,” AAR spokesman Ed Greenberg said.

Both the railroad group and the Railway Supply Institute, which represents tank car owners and manufacturers, said federal officials had inflated damage estimates and exaggerated risk by assuming an accident even worse than Lac-Megantic, which was already an outlier because it involved a runaway train traveling 65 mph, far faster than others that had accidents.

To get to refineries on the East and West coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, oil shipments travel through more than 400 counties, including major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Newark and dozens of other cities, according to routing information obtained by The Associated Press through public record requests filed with more than two dozen states.

Since 2006, the U.S. and Canada have seen at least 21 oil-train accidents and 33 ethanol train accidents involving a fire, derailment or significant amount of fuel spilled, according to federal accident records reviewed by the AP.

At least nine of the trains, including the CSX train that derailed in West Virginia, were hauling oil from the Northern Plains’ Bakken region that is known for being highly volatile. Of those, seven resulted in fires.

Both the West Virginia accident and a Jan. 14 oil train derailment and fire in Ontario involved recently built tank cars that were supposed to be an improvement to a decades-old model in wide use that has proven susceptible to spills, fires and explosions.

Safety officials are pushing to make the tanker-car fleet even stronger and confronting opposition from energy companies and other tank car owners.

Industry representatives say it could take a decade to retrofit and modify more than 50,000 tank cars, not the three years anticipated by federal officials, who assumed many cars would be put to new use hauling less-volatile Canadian tar-sands oil.

The rail industry’s overall safety record steadily improved over the past decade, dropping from more than 3,000 accidents annually to fewer than 2,000 in 2013, the most recent year available, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

But the historical record masks a spike in crude and ethanol accidents over the same time frame. Federal officials also say the sheer volume of ethanol and crude that is being transported – often in trains more than a mile long – sets the two fuels apart.

Most of the proposed rules that regulators are expected to release this spring are designed to prevent a spill, rupture or other failure during a derailment. But they will not affect the likelihood of a crash, said Allan Zarembski, who leads the railroad engineering and safety program at the University of Delaware.

Derailments can happen in many ways. A rail can break underneath a train. An axle can fail. A vehicle can block a crossing. Having a better tank car will not change that, but it should reduce the odds of a tank car leaking or rupturing, he said.

Railroads last year voluntarily agreed to reduce oil train speeds to 40 mph in urban areas. Regulators said they are considering lowering the speed limit to 30 mph for trains not equipped with advanced braking systems. Oil and rail industries say it could cost $21 billion to develop and install the brakes, with minimal benefits.

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Bay Area Crude Oil-By-Rail Shipments Halted After Price Per Barrel Drops Sharply

By Christin Ayers    February 17, 2015 11:03 PM    KPIX5

RICHMOND (CBS SF) — The low price of oil has has prompted an energy company to halt the transportation by rail of Bakken crude through the Bay Area.

KPIX 5 learned that the trains have been abruptly halted after crude oil prices dropped sharply, making it less cost effective to transport.

The Tesoro refinery in Martinez had been ordering the more expensive and more explosive grade of crude.

The last train carrying Bakken crude oil passed through the Bay Area on November 22nd.

Richmond Fire Marshal Terry Harris said the city was glad to hear of the development, saying, “It relaxes everyone so that we know the product is not coming into the city.”

Train cars carrying Bakken crude derailed in West Virginia Monday, sparking a massive fire.

Harris’ firefighters are preparing for a possible derailment if trains begin carrying the oil when prices rise again.

“It just erupts in a ball of fire, so we [would be] trying to cool the cars within that 25-30 minutes,” Harris said.

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DANGEROUS CARGO: State seeks train routing informatio

Derailment that caused crude-oil inferno in West Virginia called wake-up call for California.

BY DAVID DANELSKI    Feb. 17, 2015    Press Enterprise

The fiery derailment this week of a train pulling more than a hundred tank cars of crude oil in West Virginia underscored on-going demands by California officials for more information about hazardous materials moving through the state by rail.

The accident “is another sobering wake up call for us,” said Kelly Huston, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Following last year’s directive by President Barack Obama, railroad companies now give California and other states limited information about large rail shipments of crude oil from the Northern Plains. This was the kind of oil that spilled and caught fire in West Virginia.

But the railroad companies, which fall under federal regulations, do not provide that kind of information to state and local officials about other shipments of toxic, volatile and explosive materials, Huston said by telephone.

“We want to know what all trains are carrying before they get here so our first responders can better prepare for such accidents,” Huston said Tuesday, Feb. 17.

A spokeswoman for BNSF Railway, one of two major railroad companies in California, said the company is now working on getting more information about hazardous cargo shipments to California officials.

BNSF is developing a software application for smart phones and computer tablets that will give state officials real-time information about what kind of hazardous shipments each train is carrying, said Lena Kent, the BNSF spokeswoman.

“It should be out in about a month,” Kent said.

Knowing the kinds of hazardous materials being shipped and their routes would allow local fire departments and other agencies to better train for accidents and more strategically deploy equipment and manpower, Kelly said.

Still, California and other states are getting more information than they did a year ago.

Because of an increase in rail shipments of volatile crude from the boom oil fields in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last year ordered the nation’s railroads to provide states with information about crude shipments from those plains areas.

Bakken crude contains higher levels of combustible gases, making it potentially more flammable than other kinds of crude, federal officials have said in media reports.

Foxx’s order followed a string of fiery accidents. Those include derailments in North Dakota, Alabama, New Brunswick and Quebec, where a runaway oil train crashed in July 2013 in Lac-Megantic and killed 47 people.

But this information provided to California so far is limited, Huston said. The companies have provided only estimates about the number of trains carrying one million or more gallons of Bakken crude oil and the counties they travel through, he said.

Kent said BNSF shipments of Bakken oil in California are “very limited” — no more than two trains a month that go to refineries in Northern California. A notice BNSF submitted to the state last fall said the trains followed a route from Oregon though nine counties to the Bay Area.

A spokesman for the Union Pacific, the other major railroad company in California, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In 2014, California received 1.2 million barrels of crude from North Dakota by rail, according to the California Energy Commission.

Huston pointed out that most crude oil rail shipments to California — about 79 percent — come from other parts of the United States and Canada. Much of it goes to refineries in South California, he said.

Contact the writer: 951-368-9471 or

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Torrance ExxonMobil Refinery Rocked by Large Explosion; Nearby Residents Report Shaking



The Torrance Fire Department was responding  Wednesday morning after a “large explosion” was reported at the ExxonMobil Refinery.

The Torrance Fire Department responded to an explosion at the ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery on Feb. 18, 2015.  The refinery “experienced an incident that occurred at approximately 8:50 a.m.,” ExxonMobil Spokesperson Gesuina Paras told KTLA in an emailed statement.

While Paras did not elaborate on the nature of the incident, residents had reported hearing an explosion coming from the direction and feeling the ground shake, Torrance fire Capt. Steve Deuel said.

Several KTLA viewers described the shaking as feeling like an earthquake-type motion.

The blast at the refinery, which is located in the 3700 block of West 190th Street (map), was described as a “large” and “second-alarm fire” explosion, according to the Torrance Police Department.

The refinery has activated its flare system, and flames and smoke would be visible in surrounding areas, Deuel said.

Emergency procedures at the refinery were activated, according to Paras, adding that “employees are working with the appropriate agencies.”

It was not immediately clear whether anyone was injured or missing. One structure, however, appeared to have been damaged, aerial video over the scene showed.


Paras said the refinery was still “accounting for all personnel.”

The cause of the incident, as well as the occurrence and amount of any damages was also being evaluated.

It was also not known where in the refinery the explosion occurred.

The incident prompted police to temporarily shut down Del Amo Boulevard between Maple Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard.

Air quality readings were within the normal range, and an air quality warning has not been issued, officials said.

Although a warning hadn’t been issued, video and photographs showed ash raining down around the surrounding on homes, vehicles, plants and roadways.

Schools in the area were initially told to shelter in place, but that was no longer the case with each campus, according to Tammy Khan with the Torrance Unified School District. A list of schools where the warning was in place has not been released.

Smoke could be seen rising from miles away from the ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery on Feb. 18, 2015. (Credit: KTLA)
An alert sent out to residents advised young children and people with certain medical conditions to stay indoors and follow shelter in place procedures, the Fire Department said.

Those in the area were also being told not to use their air conditioning.

The refinery covers roughly 750 acres, according to Exxon Mobil Corporation. It processes an average of 155,000 barrels of crude oil per day and produces 1.8 million gallons of gasoline each year.

KTLA’s Jennifer Thang contributed to this report.

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Gogama oil spill raises concerns about environmental damage

Cleanup continues at the site of a CN train derailment about 30 km northwest of Gogama, Ont.

CBC News    Feb 18, 2015


While investigators continue to search for the cause of a CN train Saturday near Gogama, Ont., the environmental impact is becoming more apparent.

Black charred oil tankers lie on their sides in snow stained by crude oil.

CN said the derailed train was carrying diluted bitumen from Alberta to eastern Canada.

Laurentian University professor Charles Ramcharan says that’s one of the worst things that can be spilled.

“The trouble is that it’s very toxic, so if you have a spill it causes a lot of damage and because the bitumen is a solid, it stays on the landscape for a very long time.”

The nearby Mattagami First Nation is also concerned.

Oil is pooling at the frozen headwaters of a small creek near the site of the derailment.

Councillor Jennifer Constant said that waterway leads to her community.

“The impacts may be not immediate, but what are the long-term aspects going to be for people who do utilize the lake and go hunting in the area? They’ve used these lands for time immemorial and they’re worried about the impacts of that,” she said.

“Their health or practices have the potential to be affected by this.”


Contamination, die-off
While CN works with partners to clean up the spill, Ramachran said he worries the incident could fall off the radar because of its remote location.

“Just because there are no immediate human health concerns, I do worry that this one will kind of fall off the radar.”

CN says crews are letting a controlled fire burn out at the site.

Once the dillutants burn off, tar will be left to remove, Ramcharan noted.

He predicted all trees in the surrounding area will be coated with toxins, leading to some die-off. He said the soil will be contaminated as well.

A total of 15 cars released crude oil and seven caught fire when the train went off the tracks late Saturday night.

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating a section of broken rail containing a rail joint and a broken wheel.

The director with Transport Action Ontario, an organization that advocates for transportation improvements, said some kind of mechanical failure might be to blame.

“It’s hard to tell,” Dan Hammond said.

“You know, I would like the investigation to takes its course on this one. But things like broken wheels, the industry does not like to see.”


CN said both the train and the track passed safety inspections shortly before the derailment.

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Train derailment sends crude oil cars into Kanawha River; explosions erupt
By Jeff Jenkins in News | February 16, 2015


MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. — Multiple tanker rail cars carrying crude oil derailed Monday afternoon in Fayette County, triggering explosions and a 100-yard-high flames as several cars rolled through a residential subdivision and into the Kanawha River.  CSX officials say “at least one rail car appears to have ruptured and caught fire.”

At least one house was destroyed, but police have found no evidence of fatalities.  CSX says one person was treated for potential inhalation (of fumes).

CSX says its teams “are working with first responders to address the fire, to determine how many rail cars derailed and to deploy environmental protective and monitoring measures on land, air and in the nearby Kanawha River.

The an undetermined number of cars of the CSX train jumped the tracks at about 1:20 p.m. Eyewitness Randy Fitzwater of Boomer said he thought a plane had crashed.

“I heard this loud noise. It sounded like a jet airplane flew over my house and then I heard an explosion,” Fitzwater told Metronews.  “I looked across the river and I could see this big ball of flame.”  (Listen to Fitzwater’s full interview above.)

Another eyewitness, who declined to give her name, told Metronews “the flames were going at least 300 feet in the air … black smoke everywhere.” She reported hearing several explosions “that shook my whole house. I could feel the heat through my door.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office said the tanker cars were carrying highly flammable Bakken crude from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va. Governor’s spokesman Chris Stadleman said it was unclear what caused the derailment or how many cars tumbled into the river.

State Public Safety spokesman Larry Messina said first responders had trouble reaching the scene because of road conditions from the snowstorm and the derailment itself.

Mount Carbon residents in the Adena Village area, which is just a few miles from Montgomery on state Route 61, were being evacuated. Residents across the river in Boomer also were told to leave their homes.

An evacuation shelter was set up at Valley Elementary School in Smithers, W.Va.  CSX said it is working with the Red Cross and other relief organizations to address residents’ needs, taking into account winter storm conditions.

With water intakes at Montgomery and Cedar Grove closed, residents were asked to conserve water.
West Virginia American Water reported the intake for the Montgomery water treatment plant, which draws water from the Kanawha River a few miles downstream from the derailment, was shut down by 2:30 p.m. Spokeswoman Laura Jordan said the Montgomery treatment plant “was shut down before anything could reach the intake.”

CSX says “The train consisted of two locomotives and 109 rail cars and was traveling from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va.”  Governor Tomblin’s office said the train was hauling Bakken crude.

Bakken crude produced in the booming regions of Montana and North Dakota could be more flammable and more dangerous to ship by train than crude from other areas, U.S. regulators announced in January. A four-month study by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration could force more rigid labeling of contents and require petroleum to be shipped in stronger rail cars.

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