Justin Mikulka's blog

Pre-emption: How and Why Rail Companies Are Above The Law

CSX is one of the major rail companies that is profiting from the oil-by-rail boom led by North Dakota’s Bakken crude oil. On September 28th, a day that is apparently national “good neighbor day,” CSX broadcast the following message on Twitter.

Oil-by-Rail Giant BNSF Threatens Shutdown Over Safety

In June of 2014, a representative of oil-by-rail giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) attended a meeting with regulators where the American Association of Railroads (AAR) lobbied against any speed limits for oil trains. One of the slides from that presentation – titled “Far Reaching Economic Impacts” (image below) — predicted dire consequences to the American economy if speed limits were put in place.

There was no mention of the safety benefits of such a speed limit in the presentation. 

And now BNSF is back at it, informing regulators that if a congressionally mandated requirement from 2008 that requires all railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) by the end of 2015 isn’t extended, they may just shut down BNSF.

Half a Million California Students Attend School In Oil Train Blast Evacuation Zones

A new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity finds that 500,000 students in California attend schools within a half-mile of rail tracks used by oil trains, and more than another 500,000 are within a mile of the tracks.

Railroad disasters shouldn’t be one of the ‘three Rs’ on the minds of California school kids and their parents,” said Valerie Love with the Center. “Oil trains have jumped the tracks and exploded in communities across the country. These dangerous bomb trains don’t belong anywhere near California’s schools or our children.”

Filmmaker Jon Bowermaster Fights for the Environment From the Hudson to Antarctica

Jon Bowermaster spent ten years kayaking oceans and waterways all around the globe in an effort to document and understand the relationship between humans and the oceans for a National Geographic project. Understandably, he has a lot of stories to tell and shared many when DeSmog recently sat down to talk with him about his various upcoming projects.

We were on a remote island off of Croatia one time and turned a corner in the kayaks and pulled up on what would have been this beautiful beach and it was just knee deep in trash,” Bowermaster recounted. “And a woman was standing on the shore and was throwing it back in the water. And we asked her why she was doing that and she said, ‘Well that’s where it belongs.’”

Lifting Ban On U.S. Crude Oil Export Would Enable Massive Fracking Expansion

In a recent Washington Post editorial supporting oil industry efforts to lift the existing ban on exporting crude oil produced in America, the editors stated:

The most serious objection to lifting the ban comes from environmentalists who worry that it would lower fossil fuel prices and lead to more oil consumption.”

And then they make the case that this is actually a positive as there may be some negotiations that result in support for “energy research funding, efficiency programs or, in an ideal world, a charge on carbon dioxide emissions to the package could balance its possible effects on the environment.”

In an ideal world, the climate wouldn’t be changing either. But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? And the oil industry usually gets what it wants and environmental concerns go by the wayside regardless of who is in the White House. See arctic drilling permits for recent proof.

Most Recent Oil Train Accidents and Spills Involved ‘Safer’ CPC-1232 Tank Cars

oil train credit Justin Mikulka

Roosevelt County chief deputy sheriff Corey Reum was one of the first responders to the recent Bakken oil train derailment in Montana, a few miles from the North Dakota border.

“We're lucky it didn't ignite,” Reum told ABC News.

That is just one of the things first responders have learned since the deadly accident two years ago in Lac-Megantic. As a Globe and Mail article marking that two year anniversary recently noted, when the train was on fire and rail cars were exploding in Lac-Megantic, no one could figure out why.


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