Mel Arnold, a federal Conservative candidate from the North Okanagan-Shuswap...
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Justin Mikulka is a freelance writer, audio and video producer living in Albany, NY.
Justin has a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.
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.
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.”
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.’”
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.
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.
As documented on DeSmog, the new oil-by-rail regulations contain major concessions to the oil and rail industries as the result of relentless lobbying during the rulemaking process. One logical safety measure that the rail industry failed to block from the new rules was a requirement for modern braking systems know as electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.
However, the rail industry has a Plan B to avoid modernizing their braking systems and so far it is working quite well.
The oil industry and the government regulators in charge of regulating the industry don’t understand the basic science of oil. This is the core of the argument used to justify why they continue to run dangerous trains filled with Bakken oil through communities across North America. Do you believe them?
Despite the audacity of this position, it is being used to delay any new regulations and to support the idea that the mystery of why Bakken crude oil explodes must be studied for years before it would be possible to make any regulatory decisions.
What is happening is that the tactic of creating doubt about basic science is being used to allow the continued transportation of dangerous Bakken crude oil by rail.
It’s an approach the industry learned quite well during several decades of climate change denial efforts.
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?
“It’s corporate greed versus the common good, whether it’s rail safety or climate change.”
Those were the words of Lowen Berman, a Portland activist involved in a blockade of oil train tracks to mark the second anniversary of the Lac-Megantic oil train disaster.
Berman and 60 other activists protested in Portland today as part of a national Oil Train Week of Protests led by 350.org and ForestEthics.