Oil-by-Rail Threatens Safety of People and Planet in Pacific Northwest

by Cassady Sharp

August 12, 2014

Firefighters work to put out the fire early July 6, 2013 in Lac-Mégantic in eastern Quebec, after a train carrying crude oil derailed. The event killed 47 people, destroyed more than 30 buildings and resulted in one of Canada's largest ever oil spills.

© TSB Canada

Reposted with permission from EcoWatch

By Stephanie Spear, CEO of EcoWatch

With an estimated 9 million barrels of crude oil moving over rail lines in North America at any given moment, its no wonder that safety and environmental ramifications of oil-by-rail are top of mind for many. In the wake of theone year anniversary of QuebecsLac-Mganticfatal train derailment explosion,its imperative that more people become aware of the dangers of unprecedented amounts of oil being transported through the heart of communities and cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail,a video produced and published this week byVICE News,investigates the rapid expansion of oil-by-rail transport. Producer and cinematographerSpencer Chumbley, accompanied by Nilo Tabrizy,traveled to the Pacific Northwest to speak with residents and experts on the front lines of the battle over bomb trains in the Seattle, Washington area.

When you walk aroundWashington and Oregonwith a camera in your hand and a tripod slung over your shoulder, people are going to come up and ask you what you are working on, said Chumbley in an email interview. The Pacific Northwest lived up to its stereotypecommunity members are pretty engaged in environmental issues.And when we spoke to them about oil trains,Idsay 90 percent of the people we ran into were aware of the issue and had a strong opinion about iteitherfor or against. The increase in oil-by-rail is due to thefrackingboom and lack of pipeline infrastructure. In 2013, oil train accidents resulted in more than1.15 million gallons of spilled oil, representing a 50-fold increase over the yearly average between 1975 and2012. This week, in response to a recent train derailment and the extreme threat facing communities, threeSeattle-area residentsblockaded train tracksat an oil facility at Tesoros Anacortes Refinery and were arrested. The protestors were demandingan immediate end to allnew oil-by-rail terminals proposed in the Northwest. Even Seattle Mayor Ed Murray believes oil-by-rail is ahuge public safety issueand is advocating for less oil andcoalcoming through his city.
I asked Chumbley what his biggest takeaway was from filming this video and he said, that proper regulation comes from relentlessness. The researchers, journalists and activists have to relentlessly pressure legislators, government agencies and other authorities to ensure their personal safety and the safety of the environment.

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