2013 Was Historically Awful For U.S. Oil Train Disasters

Train carrying crude oil from ND wrecks & spills into wetlands in AL, Nov. 2013 (Flickr: Public Herald/John Wathen)
Train carrying crude oil from ND wrecks & spills into wetlands in AL, Nov. 2013 (Flickr: Public Herald/John Wathen)
How much crude oil did trains spill across America in 2013? More than had been spilled in TOTAL in the nearly four decades since the federal government began collecting data on such spills, reports McClatchy’s Curtis Tate:

Including major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota, more than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil was spilled from rail cars in 2013, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

By comparison, from 1975 to 2012, U.S. railroads spilled a combined 800,000 gallons of crude oil. The spike underscores new concerns about the safety of such shipments as rail has become the preferred mode for oil producers amid a North American energy boom.

The federal data does not include incidents in Canada where oil spilled from trains. Canadian authorities estimate that more than 1.5 million gallons of crude oil spilled in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, when a runaway train derailed and exploded, killing 47 people. The cargo originated in North Dakota.

In other words, if all the oil train spills from 2013 had happened in one spill, it would’ve been the 6th-largest oil disaster in American history.

Big Oil likes to say that data like this just shows why we need to ship more crude oil by pipeline. But just off the top of my head, I can give you a list of 2013 oil pipeline ruptures that nearly tops the rail spill total:

And just last week, there was a 5,000 gallon leak in Saskatchewan on the Alberta Clipper tar sands oil pipeline, which further down the pipeline runs under the Great Lakes.

But the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be TOTALLY different, you guys! Safety first this time!

Take Action ButtonWe’ve handed over far too much control of our critical wildlife habitats, clean water and stable climate to Big Oil – it’s time to draw the line. Ask President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

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Published: January 21, 2014