June 05, 2014

Railroads take a #security page from government playbooks on #Bakken oil

Ironically, it's to working around the federal government.

Per this story out of Washington state, BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad, the nation's two biggies, of course, are asking to be allowed not to comply with a federal Department of Transportation emergency order. This order:
(R)equir(es) railroads by Friday to notify state officials about the volume, frequency and county-by-county routes of trains carrying large Bakken crude oil shipments.
As noted, DOT came up with the idea after a railroad tank car fire here in the US earlier this year, and the horrific collision and fire with dozens of deaths in Lac-Megantic, Quebec last year.

The railroads' response? This:
BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad last Friday asked the state to limit the “security sensitive” information to emergency planning and response groups.
You know, because knowing exactly, to the nanosecond, when a train will be in a certain county and exactly whether it has 31, rather than 36, oil cars is going to incredibly increase the odds of a terrorist attack when 31 oil cars will burn and explode just about as much as 36 and railroad timetables can be figured out closely enough just by making a few days of observations.

First, the state of Washington is right. This is public information and I hope it stands its ground.

Second, states that have caved in should be ashamed.

Third, DOT, and its regulatory cousin, the National Transportation Safety Board, should be ashamed. It still refuses to require, rather than request, railroads to upgrade from the DOT-111 tank cars known to be unsafe.

Fourth, railroad companies should be ashamed for refusing to do the voluntary upgrade.

Fifth, railroads ought to be ashamed for their deliberate mislabeling of the type of oil in said tank cars, which added to the intensity of some of those fires:
(Canadian) investigators found that the oil (at Lac-Megantic) had been mislabeled by the railroad as regular crude. It was far too dangerous to be transported in the puncture-prone DOT-111 cars used. (bangordailynews.com) Now Albany has become the new oil train hub and the derailment here involved the same type of tanker cars.
Even with safer tankers, emergency workers AND the general public have the right to know that a particular type of oil is coming through their town.

See, with the expected growth in Bakken transport by rail through Washington state — and, who knows, maybe some Alberta tar sands stuff, too, eh? —BNSF and Union Pacific are actually afraid of tar sands protesters above all else, I suspect.

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