Fracking Transportation Risks: Now It’s Trains, Too

Fracking Transportation Risks: Now It’s Trains, Too

In mid-January 2014, a CSX Corp. freight train derailed on the Schuylkill Arsenal Railroad Bridge near downtown Philadelphia. Train derailments aren’t especially common, but they do occur on a fairly routine basis, so there seemed at first to be no special reason for alarm over this one. The train had dual locomotives and 101 freight cars, and only seven cars fell off the tracks in the incident. The accident happened shortly after midnight, so first responders ordered the Schuylkill Expressway closed and hazardous material teams ordered to the site. However, after crews examined the damaged cars, they found nothing leaking.

Nobody reported any injuries, and none of the cargo leaked.

Nothing to worry about, right? No, exactly wrong. Six of the seven derailed cars were carrying crude oil from fracking sites out of state, and it would have been an environmental disaster if those containers had leaked into the Schuylkill River.

Fracking transportation risks: a dangerous—sometimes lethal—mix

We have become used to hearing about fracking truck traffic accidents in Pennsylvania. Collisions have occurred with vehicles carrying equipment to wells or carting away fracking wastewater. The problem is compounded because fracking truck drivers are largely exempt from the federal rules that keep fatigued truckers off the road.

These transportation accidents explain why 2012 (the latest year for which statistics are available) was a record year for fatal accidents in the energy industry.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have learned to equate fracking with natural gas production. But, while the Marcellus Shale traps an extraordinary amount of methane gas, fracking produces crude oil as well. Trains as well as trucks transport crude oil. The safety record for trains like these should not give us comfort. As the Huffington Post reports, over the past several month trains hauling crude oil have derailed to cause a deadly explosion in Quebec, a fireball in rural Alabama, and a mass evacuation of a North Dakota town.

Newer rules require a safety standard for all future train tank cars. However, older cars may remain in service. Today, over 85 percent of the tank cars in use are still these old-style DOT-111 tankers that the National Transportation Safety Board considers hazardous. The safety record definitely shows it, because 1.15 million gallons of crude oil were spilled in U.S. railroad accidents in 2013, the highest total since federal record keeping began.

Clarifying the hazards from fracking crude oil spills

Shale oil is poisonous. It contains toxic volatile chemicals that also are explosively flammable. Moreover, the origin from hydrofracturing wells can further contaminate the oil with the dangerous chemicals used in fracking.

Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers seeks justice for Pennsylvania citizens. We stand up to energy companies, the transportation industry, and their employees. Jon Ostroff and his trial attorney team are looking out for you.

Call us toll-free. You can schedule a FREE, confidential, no-obligation meeting with one of our experienced fracking injury attorneys.