On May 1, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released their proposed rule to improve safety for high hazard flammable trains carrying crude oil. The proposal falls far short of what we hoped. Just last week, another train exploded in North Dakota signaling how urgently communities need protections to keep them safe. Instead, what we see from the DOT is a long-term plan that gradually phases in a series of simple changes designed to accommodate sending more rolling dangers through our towns.
Some communities do not even know that mile long 100-car unit trains hauling explosive crude oil pass through their neighborhoods until they hear the rumbling of the tracks. Last summer, one of these trains derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Additional tragedies, including one in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia last April, spotlight the enormous danger posed by what some now call “Bomb Trains”. Driven by the expansion of fracking for oil, especially in North Dakota, these rolling hazardous dangers carrying their climate-warming fossil fuels spilt more flammable crude oil last year than in the previous forty years according to Federal Railroad Administration records.