Source:Weather Channel/InsideClimate News/The Investigative Fund
Date:March 5, 2014; March 7, 2014; Dec. 8, 2014
Emergency orders, safety alerts and sweeping regulatory proposals gave the public the sense that Washington responded appropriately after a train filled with North Dakota oil killed 47 and destroyed the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic in July 2013—but the report shows that 18 months later little has changed and the regulatory process has failed. The story documents the extent to which the regulation of train cars is left almost entirely to the industry. And it matters now because of the massive increase in explosive cargo from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That fuel is rich in volatile natural gas liquids. If a railcar ruptures—and if some of the gas comes into contact with the outside air and a spark occurs—the railcar will explode and act as a blow torch on the car next to it. With each car carrying roughly 30,000 gallons of oil, a single, 100-car train can haul as much as 3 million gallons of oil. Among the key findings about the lack of federal regulation: not enough government inspectors; little oversight of railroad bridges; state and local governments can't independently assess the condition of local rail infrastructure; and meager penalties.