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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Many Expressing Concern Over Unique Risks of Transporting Oil by Rail

From the High Country News:
On the night of March 23, 1989, the Exxon Valdez left the Alyeska Pipeline Terminal, carrying more than 1.2 million barrels of crude oil from Alaska’s North Slope. Three hours into its journey to Long Beach, California, the Valdez grounded at Bligh Reef, in Prince William Sound, rupturing eight of its 11 cargo tanks and spilling some 10.8 million gallons of crude oil. 
In the wake of the spill, which still reigns as one of the largest in U.S. history, the American government established the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The legislation consolidated existing federal oil spill laws and created new requirements for prevention and response. Pacific Northwest states began creating programs to protect coastlines. Pretty soon, the number of marine vessels spilling their slippery black cargo into America’s waters declined. But now, in 2015, oil is increasingly transported by rail, not ships, and Western states are in a vulnerable position, should oil spills occur.

The oil spill response and prevention programs that originally sprung up around marine tanker traffic are struggling to keep pace with the shift in transportation. As more oil is transported via rail and pipeline, the coastal contingency plans and funding models have lost relevance. Regional contingency plans are now needed inland, though none exist at the state level and few at the federal level. This has left the river systems and inland areas of coastal states exposed, says David Byers, response manager for Washington’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program.

“We’re seeing a lot more of the Bakken crude coming through the rail lines into Washington, Oregon and California,” says Sarah Brace, executive coordinator ofThe Pacific States – British Columbia’s Oil Spill Task Force. In Washington, where in recent history 90 percent of crude oil was delivered by vessels, that number fell to 59 percent in 2014. Rail brings in 24 percent and pipelines account for another 17. In California, the percentage of crude oil imported via rail to California refineries jumped by 506 percent between 2012 and 2013.
Read more by clicking here.

In Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown has already called for upgrades to train cars to help reduce some of the spill risk in transporting oil.

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