Oil Train Fire Adds Fuel to Pipeline Debate


by | Jan 3, 2014

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RailNo single, magic number exists to help companies quantify the effects of their oil consumption. For one thing, the impacts will vary depending on whether that oil is transported by pipeline or by rail. And the latest oil-by-rail fire will only add fuel to the debate.

The 106-car BNSF train collided with another train, derailed and caught fire on Monday, near the town of Casselton, N.D. Some of the oil tank cars exploded, and over 1,000 people were evacuated for about a day, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It appears the BNSF train used DOT-111 cars, the same type involved in last summer’s horrific crash in Quebec, which killed 47 people – although a different type of DOT-111, NPR reports.

The Association of American Railroads told NPR that tougher safety standards are needed.

Meanwhile oil trains have bucked the trend of improvements to rail safety, in part because the growth of oil development in North Dakota is outpacing pipeline construction, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Times).

Continued worries about the safety of oil-by-rail certainly won’t simplify President Obama’s task as he decides whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring crude from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

Takeaway: This week’s North Dakota train fire resurrects the question of which means of oil transportation is better – rail or pipeline.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: Corey Leopold via Flickr

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