May 12, 2014
On April 30th, a train carrying oil tank cars derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia. This train of more than 100 tank cars was carrying crude oil from the Bakken Shale deposit in North Dakota, where the latest oil boom is occurring. A few cars caught fire, with flames shooting up 100 feet. The derailment occurred next to a children’s museum with visitors and a popular lunch spot.
This wasn’t the first derailment of oil tank cars coming from North Dakota. In July 2013, an unmanned train exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada and killed 47 people. Last December 30th, a derailment occurred near Casselton, North Dakota, that led to an explosion of several tank cars.
This oil from North Dakota is more volatile than oil originating elsewhere. Much of it is being shipped in trains more than 100 tank cars long. And these tank cars are of a type that the National Transportation Safety Board called “subject to damage and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials.”
These tank cars often go through many small towns and big cities like Chicago on their way to markets across the continent. The only rational way to handle this oil would be to figure out a safe way to transport it before it’s moved, which could certainly be done.
Until then, not one drop should be taken out of the ground. But in this irrational capitalist society, the rush for profit puts anyone near a train track in danger, all so oil companies and railroads can make their enormous profits in a hurry. The oil bonanza is a disaster on wheels waiting to explode in any town or city, large or small.