Bakken

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.

FBI Advisory: Oil Trains At Risk of "Extremist" Attack, But Lacks "Specific Information" To Verify

A documentmarked “Confidential” and published a year ago today, on July 18, 2014, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded that “environmental extremists” could target oil-by-rail routes, as first reported on by McClatchyBut the Bureau also concedes upfront that it lacks “specific information” verifying this hunch.

Rail industry lobbying groups published the one-page FBI Private Sector Advisory as an exhibit to a jointly-submitted August 2014 comment sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT), which has proposed “bomb trains” regulations currently under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

New and Improved Bomb Trains? Oil Industry Plans to Ship Even More Dangerous Light Oils

As oil train protests continue across North America to mark the two-year anniversary of the Lac-Megantic disaster, trouble is brewing in Texas. At the recent Crude Markets and Storage Summit energy conference in Texas, Pat McGannon, vice president of Rangeland Energy, made the following statement.

Rail provides a solution for high-gravity condensates.” 

High gravity condensates are the result of the industry’s fracking for oil. Much of the product that comes out of the ground in the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas is condensate which is also referred to as ultra light oil. So why does rail provide the solution for moving this ultra light oil?

Enbridge Stuffs Provision into Wisconsin Budget to Expedite Controversial Piece of "Keystone XL Clone"

On Thursday, July 3 on the eve of a long Fourth of July holiday weekend, Canadian pipeline company giant Enbridge landed a sweetheart deal: a provision in the 2015 Wisconsin Budget that will serve to expedite permitting for its controversial proposed Line 61 tar sands pipeline expansion project.

Line 61 cuts diagonally across Wisconsin and goes into north-central Illinois, beginning in Superior, Wisconsin and terminating in Flanagan, Illinois. The Wisconsin Gazette refers to the pipeline as the “XXL” pipeline because it is bigger in size and has higher carrying capacity than the more well known tar sands pipeline cousin, TransCanada's Keystone XL, and is “buried beneath every major waterway” in the state.

How Many Voluntary Easements Has Energy Transfer Partners Signed With Iowa Landowners For The Bakken Oil Pipeline?

By David Goodner

Texas-based Fortune 500 company Energy Transfer Partners claims to have signed voluntary easement agreements with nearly 60 percent of Iowa landowners in the path of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline which would transport Bakken crude through the state. But a DeSmog investigation into publicly accessible information has verified less than half that number, casting doubt on Energy Transfer’s claims.

Energy Transfer Partners owns the proposed Dakota Access pipeline, set to carry up to 575,000 barrels of oil per day obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin through North and South Dakota and Iowa and into the southern Illinois town of Patoka. The proposed project has faced stiff resistance from environmentalists, farmers and other Iowans along the proposed route and across the state.

North Dakota Town Evacuated After Oil Train Derailment, Explosion

An oil train derailment and subsequent fire early this morning near Heimdal, a rural town in central North Dakota, has led to the evacuation of nearby residents. The Associated Press reports that the accident occurred at 7:30am and that ten tanker cars of a BNSF Railway train were burning, “creating thick black smoke.” There are no reports at this time of anyone having been hurt in the explosion or its aftermath.

Firefighters and hazardous materials teams have been sent to the scene, and a team of investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is expected to arrive by mid-day, while the Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly sending someone to monitor nearby waterways for contamination, per the AP.

BNSF Challenges Lawsuit From Engineer Who Ran For His Life From Exploding Oil "Bomb Train"

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) has responded defensively to the oil-by-rail lawsuit filed by former BNSF locomotive engineer Bryan Thompson, a case recently reported on by DeSmogBlog.

BNSF — the top rail carrier of oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin — denied all charges. The company also argued that some federal laws protect the company from liability for injuries allegedly suffered by Thompson. 

The  Answer to the Complaint signals the likelihood of a protracted legal battle ahead. Lee A. Miller, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based attorney representing BNSF against Thompson, filed the company's response in Cass County, North Dakota. 

Miller argued that the damages allegedly suffered by Thompson — which include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from living through and running away from the December 2013 Casselton, North Dakota oil train explosion — were “caused or contributed to by Plaintiff's own contributory or sole fault.”

He also argued that the explosion occurred due to “unknown causes for which BNSF is not responsible” and “are the result of acts or omissions of persons, entities, or corporations other than BNSF…over whom” they have “no control or right to control at the time of the alleged incident.”

BNSF Responds to Former Engineer Lawsuit
Image Credit: State of North Dakota District Court; East Central Judicial District

BNSF Engineer Who Manned Exploding North Dakota "Bomb Train" Sues Former Employer

A Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) employee who worked as a locomotive engineer on the company's oil-by-rail train that exploded in rural Casselton, North Dakota in December 2013 has sued his former employer

Filed in Cass County, the plaintiff Bryan Thompson alleges he “was caused to suffer and continues to suffer severe and permanent injuries and damages,” including but not limited to ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) issues.

Thompson's attorney, Thomas Flaskamp, told DeSmogBlog he “delayed filing [the lawsuit until now] primarily to get an indication as to the direction of where Mr. Thompson's care and treatment for his PTSD arising out of the incident was heading,” which he says is still being treated by a psychiatrist.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the oil-by-rail world, the only time to date that someone working on an exploding oil train has taken legal action against his employer using the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

BNSF Engineer Casselton Lawsuit

Image Credit: State of North Dakota District Court; East Central Judicial District

Purposeful Distraction? Unpacking the Oil Refiners' "Bomb Trains" Lawsuit vs. Warren Buffett's BNSF

On March 13, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) — the oil refiners' trade association — sued oil-by-rail carrying giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) for allegedly violating its common carrier obligation under federal law. A DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed there may be more to the lawsuit than initially meets the eye.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, AFPM sued BNSF “for violating its common carrier obligation by imposing a financial penalty” for those carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin and other hazardous petroleum products in explosion-prone DOT-111 rail cars.

AFPM's beef centers around the fact that BNSF began imposing a $1,000 surcharge for companies carrying explosive Bakken fracked oil in DOT-111 cars, as opposed to “safer” CPC-1232 cars, at the beginning of 2015.

The Warren Buffett-owned BNSF did so, argues AFPM, illegally and without the authority of the federal government.

“This $1,000 surcharge on certain PHMSA-authorized rail cars breaches BNSF’s common carrier duty to ship hazardous materials under the auspices of PHMSA’s comprehensive regime governing hazardous materials transportation,” wrote AFPM's legal team, featuring a crew of Hogan Lovells attorneys. “Allowing railroads to penalize companies that ship crude oil in federally-authorized rail cars would circumvent PHMSA’s statutory and regulatory process for setting rail car standards for hazardous materials shipments.”

Upon a quick glance, it seems like a fairly straight-forward case of federal law and an intriguing example of an intra-industry dispute. But as recent history has proven, the devil is in the details.

Calls to Ban Bomb Trains Ramp Up While Communities Await New Regulations

ban bomb trains

Earthjustice has challenged the Department of Transportation’s denial of a petition by Sierra Club and Forest Ethics to ban the transportation of Bakken crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars.

Most of the explosive crude oil on U.S. rails is moving in tanker cars that are almost guaranteed to fail in an accident,” explained Patti Goldman of Earthjustice.

The risks are too great to keep shipping explosive Bakken crude in defective DOT-111s. The National Transportation Safety Board called them unsafe two decades ago, and by the Department of Transportation’s own estimates, the U.S. could see 15 rail accidents every year involving these cars until we get them off the tracks.” 

At the same time Earthjustice was bringing this challenge, the Canadian government was announcing that it will ban 3,000 of the riskiest DOT-111s from carrying materials like Bakken crude.

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