Opinion

More needs to be done to ensure rail safety

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — If you were startled by our front page story on Monday, you had good reason to be.

“Fuel trains could derail at 10 a year” is a headline that can get your attention.

 The federal Department of Transportation estimates that trains carrying crude oil across the country will derail, on average, about 10 times a year over the next 20 years.

Such a scenario could mean $4 billion in damage and hundreds killed, according to the DOT.

The oil shale boom out West has resulted in mile-long trains with tankers each carrying 30,000 gallons of crude. The DOT said as many as 16 million Americans live within close proximity to rail lines.

In 2013, an oil train exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying much of the downtown.

Just last week, a train derailed and exploded near the West Virginia town of Boomer and resulted in the evacuation of hundreds. Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed.

To get the crude from North Dakota and Montana to refineries on the East and West coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, trains have to travel through more than 400 U.S. counties. And the type of crude being hauled from the Northern Plains is highly volatile.

The DOT is calling for stronger tanker cars, better braking systems and other improvements. And the federal government is seeking rules this year to prevent the spill of crude in derailments.

It should be pointed out, though, that the West Virginia catastrophe involved newer, stronger, allegedly safer tanker cars…

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