Preliminary Oil by Rail Safety in California report issued
The Interagency Rail Safety Working Group has released their preliminary report, which concludes that “California needs more inspectors, more hazmat teams and more information from railway companies to protect against accidents involving trains carrying crude oi”. The complete report can be found here —————————————————————————–
California needs more inspectors, more hazmat teams and more information from railway companies to protect against accidents involving trains carrying crude oil, according to a state report issued Tuesday.
The derailment of an oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec last year caused an explosion that killed 47 people. Photo: AP
The report, from the state’s Interagency Rail Safety Working Group, follows a surge in the amount of oil imported into California by train, with shipments rising more than 500 percent in 2013.
And while the state has experienced nothing like last year’s deadly explosion of an oil train in Quebec, which killed 47 people, California has seen an increasing number of oil spills from trains. According to the report, the state recorded 182 such spills in 2013, most of them minor, compared to 98 in 2010.
Gov. Jerry Brown convened the Rail Safety Working Group in January to suggest ways to protect the state from serious accidents. Not surprisingly, some of the recommendations mirror ideas already put forward by the governor. The governor’s budget, for example, contains funding for another 7 rail inspectors at the California Public Utilities Commission, an idea the working group supports. The commission’s rail safety unit, according to the report, currently has 52 people.
“This staffing level is seriously inadequate, given current and projected numbers of oil shipments,” the report reads.
Many of the oil trains travel through remote wilderness, such as the Feather River Canyon in the northern Sierra Nevada. So the state should establish hazardous material response teams that can quickly reach those areas, according to the report. The state should also create a system to let emergency responders throughout California track crude oil shipments.
And since questions have been raised about whether oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation is more explosive than regular crude, the report calls for better signage on train cars that would let responders to an accident know what kind of crude they’re dealing with. The signs would have to be big enough that fire and hazmat crews could read them from a safe distance..
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