Boom: North America’s Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem


December 2014 | InsideClimate News | Marcus Stern and Sebastian Jones

InsideClimate News reports that a year and a half after a deadly explosion in Canada, the transportation of crude oil on railroads is still weakly regulated. Problems with Federal Railroad Administration oversight include the low number of inspectors, the lax oversight of railroad bridges, the high level of secrecy, and the lack of major penalties for infractions, according to the investigation, which was done in partnership with The Weather Channel and The Investigative Fund.

Inside Energy has been covering the crude-by-rail story for several months. Check out our work on including North Dakota’s debate over making oil trains safer, the public release of oil train routes, an analysis of where trains travel using industry receipts and an examination of oil trains’ safety record. ICN’s work puts what we’ve found into the context of regulation’s slow crawl. Although safety measures were promised publicly, InsideClimate News writes that industry maintains control:

“Idling oil trains are still left unattended in highly populated areas. The effort to draft new safety regulations has been bogged down in disputes between the railroads and the oil industry over who will bear the brunt of the costs. The oil industry is balking at some of the tanker upgrades, and the railroads are lobbying against further speed restrictions.”