The deadly oil train disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec on July 5, which (as of this writing) has left 33 people dead, with 17 still missing, and contaminated over 60 miles of local drinking water sources, has initiated a curious response across the media spectrum.
Some observers cite this accident as reason to consider pipelines, rather than trains, as the safer choice to transport oil and gas fossil fuels.
Two new major reports, however, reveal that this question misses a much larger point: oil, gas, and coal – the fossil fuel trio – indeed are inherently unsafe industries regardless of the mode of transport.
The first report, from Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E), an organization which focuses on energy policy and markets, examined on-shore oil and gas and documented over 6,000 spills and accidents at oil and gas sites in 2012 - an average of more than 16 spills a day. A total of 15.6 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, wastewater and other liquids were reported spilled at production sites during 2012. That's more than the 11 million gallons of oil that leaked from the shattered hull of the Exxon Valdez in 1989.
This represents a significant increase in accidents since 2010 and parallels the dramatic rise in drilling activity across key oil and gas producing states, such as North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.