Report calls for changes to crude oil transport

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Governor Tom Wolf released an 84-page report looking at ways that the transportation of Bakken crude across Pennsylvania can be as safe as possible.

But the report stops short of requiring the railroads to re-route around highly populated areas, like the center of Philadelphia.

The report, completed by Dr. Allan Zarrembski of the University of Delaware, provided 27 recommendations aimed at reducing the risk of a derailment and minimizing the consequences should a catastrophic accident occur.

A crude oil explosions in Canada in 2013 killed 47 people.

There have been similar, but non-fatal accidents in North Dakota and Virginia, and two partial train derailments in Philadelphia: one over the Schuylkill and one inside the CSX rail yard that fortunately did not explode.

The assessment released Monday calls on the state and the railroads to work together to lower the risk of a derailment by testing the train tracks used by crude oil trains three times a year and says the speed crude oil trains travel should be reduced to 35 mile per hour.

In addition, to minimize the impact of a derailment, the report suggests

-State inspectors should inspect tankers and the tracks.
-Tankers, railroads and bridges must meet federal safety guidelines
-Railroads should work with local emergency response teams
-Railroads should analyze the routes they use to transport high-hazard flammable cargo

But the report does not require the railroads, which run right through the middle of Philadelphia, along the Schuylkill and into oil refineries in Southwest Philadelphia and neighboring New Jersey, to reroute through less populated areas.

The reason, Zarrembski tells us, is because rerouting can be complex, if not impossible, when the train's destination, the oil refineries, are inside Philadelphia.

In a statement CSX tells us, "We have made significant investments in the routes we use to transport crude oil, [and] we have advocated for stronger tank-car designs... Safety is CSX's highest priority, and we are committed to continuously improving the safety of rail transportation."

Critics say these recommendations are just a continuation of the status quo and fail to hold the railroads accountable on a larger scale.

Critics say the railroads should pay a fee to transport this hazardous, but highly lucrative cargo, to help pay for education, cleanup, and emergency planning.
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