Rail cars carrying volatile crude oil are so unsafe they must be banned, according to a petition recently filed by Earth Justice on behalf of the Sierra Club and Forest Ethics. Government action by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving too slowly to phase out these rail cars, known as DOT-111s, according to Earth Justice, so it filed a petition with the DOT.
The DOT-111s oil tank cars are unsafe for carrying hazardous materials such as volatile Bakken crude oil, according to the petition. The railcars have a chance of a “breach,” potentially leading to an explosion, in as much as 50 percent of some derailment scenarios. Bakken crude is oil from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota where production has rapidly increased due to hydraulic fracking techniques. Bakken crude oil moves in “unit trains” of up to 120 railcars, often made up of unsafe DOT-111s, according to the petition. A major accident of some sixty DOT-111s happened in the small Canadian town of Lac-Megant in July 6, 2013, killing 47 people.
The US government has recognized that DOT-111 tank cars should not be used to ship Bakken crude oil, but has failed to stop their use, according to the petition. In May, 2014, the U.S. DOT issued a safety alert recommending that shippers use the safest tank cars to ship Bakken crude and avoid using DOT-111 tank cars but failed to ban the cars. In contrast, Canada has required an immediate phase out of some DOT-111 tank cars, a longer phase out of the remainder and a charge on their use to ship crude oil in the meantime. The U.S. DOT has moved too slowly to phase out these dangerous DOT-111 tank cars, according to Earth Justice. An emergency order from the U.S. DOT barring DOT-111 tank cars from use is required to protect the public, according to Earth Justice.
For more information, call Galfand Berger at 1-800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online.