Monday was the second anniversary of the tragic Lac-Megantic, Quebec, oil train disaster that killed 47 people. Since then, oil trains continue to derail and explode with five already this year. Four of the derailments occurred within just four weeks. In response, a coalition of environmental and social justice organizations has launched a week of action -- including more than 80 events across the US and Canada -- to call for an end to shipments of crude oil by rail.
Nationwide Protests Call for Immediate Ban on Oil Bomb Trains Cole Mellino / EcoWatch
(July 8, 2015) -- Monday was the second anniversary of the tragic Lac-Megantic, Quebec, oil train disaster that killed 47 people. Since then, oil trains continue to derail and explode with five already this year. Four of the derailments occurred within just four weeks.
A coalition of environmental and social justice organizations including Sierra Club, Greenpeace, ForestEthics, Oil Change International, Center for Biological Diversity, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and Earthworks, have launched a week of action [See interactive online map for locations] to call for an end to crude by rail shipments. The coalition has organized more than 80 events across the US and Canada to call for an immediate ban on oil trains.
Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club's Dirty Fuels campaign made the following statement:
Exploding crude oil trains do not belong on the nation's rails, and 25 million Americans -- most of them people of color -- do not deserve to be living in a blast zone. The Department of Transportation needs to take responsibility, and rather than put forward wholly inadequate rules that jeopardize the health and safety of communities along rail lines, the administration should ban bomb trains outright.
For the health and safety of all Americans, we need to leave dirty, volatile fuels like tar sands and Bakken crude in the ground. We don't have to choose between pipelines that spill and bomb trains that explode because we can choose clean energy instead. From Vermont to Oregon, organizers remember those who lost their lives in the disaster.
Emily Heffling, of Oakland, California, was arrested during a protest at the Benicia-Martinez
This young woman [above] was arrested along with a fellow activist for attempting to unfurl a banner on a railroad bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area. The large banner, with the message "Stop Oil Trains Now," was sponsored by ForestEthics, Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network as part of the week of action.
Megan Zapanta, an organizer with Asian Pacific Environmental Network, "estimates 5.5 million Californians live within one mile of an oil train route, which she says is considered the potential blast zone of a catastrophic explosion," according to Public News Service.
"Oil trains are carrying extremely volatile, flammable crude oil," she told Public News Service. "Many different derailments have happened across the country, so we're very concerned about seeing an explosion or some sort of spill or damage here."
We've come very close to more deadly disasters with the recent explosions, as Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics points out: "Five times in 2015 we've seen oil trains derail and send toxic fireballs into the sky. Luckily, none of these accidents was fatal, however, each of these trains traveled through heavily populated areas, and would have travelled through more on their way to coastal refineries."
"ForestEthics calculates that 25 million Americans live in the oil train Blast Zone," says Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme oil campaign director. "Federal regulations do little or nothing to protect our communities. Our first responders aren't equipped for these dangerous trains carrying millions of gallons of the world's most toxic, most carbon intensive, most explosive crude oil. These trains are too dangerous for the rails."
Stop the Oil Trains Week of Action: July 6 – 12
July 6 [was] the second anniversary of the tragic Lac-Megantic, Quebec, oil train catastrophe that killed 47 people. The Stop Oil Trains week of action will call attention to the growing threat of oil trains across North America.
There is NO safe way to transport extreme tar sands and Bakken crude. Two years after Lac-Megantic, oil trains keep exploding and carbon pollution keeps rising. Oil trains are a disaster for our health, our safety, and our climate.
In July 2014, thousands gathered at 63 events for the first Stop Oil Trains Week of Action. In 2015, we will demonstrate the growing power of our movement and organize more than 100 events across the US and Canada to demand an immediate ban on oil trains. Yet Another Oil Bomb Train Explosion
Marks Fourth Derailment in Four Weeks Anastasia Pantsios / EcoWatch
(March 9, 2015) -- Once again this weekend, we saw scenes of tanker cars strewn across the landscape on their sides emitting huge billows of smoke and fire. On Saturday a 94-car train carrying Alberta tar sands oil derailed two miles outside Gogama, Ontario, with at least 35 cars going off the rails and at least seven igniting. Five cars landed in the Makami River, prompting a warning to residents not to drink the water as well as to stay inside to avoid possible toxic effects from the fire.
It follows fiery derailments of the so-called oil bomb trains carrying volatile crude oil that have occurred in Illinois, West Virginia and Ontario since the beginning of the year. In each of those cases, only about half a dozen cars derailed, making the Gogama derailment the biggest so far this year.
Gogama is about 60 miles north of the remote, unpopulated area outside Timmins, Ontario where a derailment occurred Feb. 14. And while Gogama itself is remote, it's not unpopulated: the town has almost 400 residents and the nearby Mattagami First Nation community, and it's a major center of outdoor tourism. The tracks the train was traveling go through the town, raising the specter of another tragedy like the one that killed 47 people and leveled much of the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July 2013.
"It's frightening and nerve-wracking, especially after what happened in Quebec," Roxanne Veronneau, owner of the Gogama Village Inn, told the Toronto Star. "People here are on pins and needles. The tracks run right through town. I'm sure that there's going to be a lot of talk afterward that this shouldn't be in the middle of our town."
Mattagami chief Walter Naveau told northern Ontario news outlet Village Media that he had met with representatives from CN, the company whose train derailed and wasn't comfortable with their reassurances.
"They're saying it's okay, and yet why are some of my band members feeling it in their chests and tasting it in their mouths?" said Naveau. "I'm very angry at CN right now, to put it mildly."
He said he was concerned about the potential impact of oil spilling into the river. "The water is coming our way and that's going to harm our fish habitat and tourist habitat," he said.
"Anywhere you're going to see a major spill of oil and chemicals onto the ground you're going to see permanent contamination of the ecosystem nearby," Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager for Canadian nonprofit advocacy group Environmental Defence, told Canada's National Post, "They almost never are able to clean up all of the oil released in a spill like this and it's much worse even when there's a direct spill into a river because the oil gets moved down the river and the chemicals can spread."
Each derailment suggests we're a little closer to another Lac-Megantic -- or worse.
A recent study from the Center for Biological Diversity called Runaway Risks found that, with the 40-fold increase in rail cars carrying oil since 2008, 25 million people now live within a mile of tracks carrying these dangerous trains.
"Before one more derailment, fire, oil spill and one more life lost, we need a moratorium on oil trains and we need it now," said Center for Biological Diversity senior scientist Mollie Matteson. "The oil and railroad industries are playing Russian roulette with people's lives and our environment, and the Obama administration needs to put a stop to it.
Today we have another oil train wreck in Canada, while the derailed oil train in Illinois is still smoldering. Where's it going to happen next? Chicago? Seattle? The Obama administration has the power to put an end to this madness and it needs to act now because quite literally, people's lives are on the line."
While both Transport Canada and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have proposed new safety regulations for oil trains, including phasing out the old puncture-prone DOT-111 oil tankers, many of the recent derailment fires, including the one in Gogama, involved the new and supposedly safer CPC 1232 cars. And the industry is lobbying for a longer time frame in which to phase out the old cars.
"The cars involved in this incident are new models, compliant with the latest federal regulations, yet they still failed to prevent this incident," said Glenn Thibeault, who represents the Gogama area in the Ontario legislature.
"It's basically guaranteed to happen again; this is not an isolated incident," Scott told The Star. "So until something dramatic is done, we're going to see this continuing over and over again."
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