Yesterday afternoon, a freight train carrying 103 cars of crude oil derailed and caught fire near the town of Galena in Northern Illinois, the Associated Press reported. BNSF Railway officials have not yet determined what caused the eight cars to leave the track but said that once the accident site was contained, they would be “conducting a thorough investigation.”
Firefighters were only able to reach the scene via a heavily-wooded bike path and had to pull back for safety reasons after they were unable to extinguish the flames. The fire burned into Thursday night, but luckily there were no injuries reported.
A statement from BNSF released last night said:
“Protection of the communities we serve, the safety of our employees and protection of the environment are our highest priorities. We are guided by these priorities as we respond to this situation. We continue to be unaware of any injuries. Local officials have announced a voluntary evacuation of an area that is within one mile of the incident. We are grateful for the efforts of the first responders at this incident and sincerely regret the inconvenience this event has caused to the community.
BNSF will establish a claims center at the site of the incident to help and assist local residents who may have incurred damage to their property or are in need of temporary relocation. The tank cars involved in the incident were the CPC-1232 model that were unjacketed with half-height head shields. BNSF is also taking precautionary measures to protect the waterways in the area and will conduct air quality monitoring.”
Neither local law enforcement nor the railroad said if oil was leaking into the nearby Mississippi River, as happened last month when another derailment resulted in multiple train cars carrying ethanol sliding into the the river near Dubuque.
Last night’s accident is the second derailment involving trains carrying crude oil in just under three weeks. On February 17, approximately 14 of a train’s 100 cars left the track and exploded near Mount Carbon, West Virginia. Hundreds of nearby families were evacuated as oil leaked into the Kanawha River.
These recent disasters rightfully raise concerns about the safety of transporting oil and other highly-flammable fuels by train, especially as rail becomes an increasingly popular means of transport.
The Association of American Railroads reported that “oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana…”
The current barrage of spills, explosion, and water contamination as a result of the transport of crude oil proves just how dangerous America’s dependence on the fossil fuel actually is. There are cleaner, safer forms of energy, and the sooner we can increase our use of them, the better.