July 2, 2014

Is Moving Oil By Train Safe?

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Last month railways that transport crude oil were put in the spotlight when the federal government issued an emergency order requiring that they report their routes. Now, it’s safety concerns.

Throughout the country, trains carrying crude oil traverse through numerous cities and often very populated areas. In June, Inside Energy reported on crude oil transport in Montana, revealing major through Glacier National Park, Billings and Missoula.

The concern is that trains transport hazardous materials – including crude oil – and that railroad companies aren’t giving the necessary attention to safety.

In a major investigative story, EarthFix reports on rail workers being punished for taking safety precautions.

But BNSF critics claim the railway has long prioritized speed and profits over safety, with a history of retaliating against workers who report accidents, injuries and safety concerns. Most current employees contacted for this report spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. These criticisms were echoed by railroad experts in their appraisals of the industry as a whole.

Using OSHA records, court documents and whistleblower data, EarthFix reports on a culture that discourages workers from reporting on accidents and safety lapses. The railway industry insists its spill and accident rate is still low, but with an increasing amount of volatile crude oil being transported across the country, even an accident rate of 1 percent or less can be deadly.