Advocating Against Shipment of Crude Oil in Unsafe Tank Cars

Oct 6, 2014

Baykeeper recently joined with Waterkeeper organizations across the country to urge federal regulators to tighten lax regulations on crude oil shipped by rail. The amount of crude oil shipped by rail in the US has skyrocketed in recent years due to the increase of oil production in North Dakota and Canada. As a result, spills, accidents, and explosions have also increased, especially because some of this crude oil is highly volatile, yet it is shipped in railroad tank cars not designed for flammable substances.  

The federal government has proposed regulations to require the rail and oil industry to upgrade unsafe tank cars that are prone to explosions and spills when they derail. However, the proposal would allow seven years for the cars to be upgraded. In the meantime, tens of thousands of the unsafe tank cars would be allowed to continue to roll through our communities full of crude oil. Moreover, the required upgrades aren’t strong enough, falling short of safety standards advocated by many experts.

Baykeeper and members of Waterkeeper Alliance urged the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to stop deferring to the rail and oil industries, and provide real protection for communities and the environment.

We are calling for regulations that are more protective, transparent, and far-reaching than those currently proposed, including:

  • The most protective tank cars must be used for all types of crude oil.
  • Speed restrictions should be immediately adopted.
  • Automatic braking in trains carrying crude oil should be required.
  • Train routes should be redesigned to avoid highly important natural resources.

Waterkeeper Alliance is working to stop the transport of up to 6.3 billion gallons of crude oil per year across the US via trains, barges, and ships.

This action is also part of San Francisco Baykeeper’s ongoing opposition to the oil industry’s push to ship more oil to Bay Area refineries by train. More oil coming here by rail will create a risk of accidents that could spill oil into San Francisco Bay and its watershed.

Baykeeper has been working on several fronts to protect San Francisco Bay and its wildlife from the threat of increased shipping of crude oil by train in and out of the region:

We also have a long history of improving oil spill protections for San Francisco Bay. Baykeeper was a lead responder to the Cosco Busan oil spill of November 2007 that released 53,000 gallons of heavy fuel into the Bay. Since then, Baykeeper has played a key role in improving oil spill response policy in the Bay Area, in California, and across the country. We will keep working to ensure that San Francisco Bay has the best possible protections to prevent oil spills, and the best achievable cleanup when spills occur.

Photo by Robb Most

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