One of my fellow classmates at Metro State is a man who works in a Twin Cities office for the Department of Homeland Security. He is part of a team that creates evacuation plans, food and water supply chains, and envisions where and how many emergency shelters would be needed should a disaster occur in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. As he described his job, one thing that he said took me by surprise.
A scenario that we have been working overtime on, is crude oil derailment. Routes with crude roll right through parts of the Twin Cities.
From the day I learned about the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), I had an ever-growing list of environmental concerns for the procedure. It hadn’t occurred to me, however, that train loads of this extracted oil was shipped long distances through numerous populated areas. Nor did I know that oil extracted by fracking was more explosive than regular crude.
Add Explosions to the List
Since the 2013 deadly explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, my awareness surrounding issues of crude oil transport has been steadily increasing. With yesterday’s news of another explosion, this time in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, I have been evermore convinced that a crude oil disaster could easily happen here, because a large number of oil trains pass through the Twin Cities.
Concern in Como
Residents of St. Paul’s Como neighborhood have long been concerned. Recently, they heard from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT). The department conducted a study to evaluate the risks of crude oil transport by rail, and the results included a recommendation to build a bridge that would separate traffic from the rail tracks. At a cost of $25 million, the neighborhood gave their support, though they and legislators hope the cost is paid for by the railroad.
Inching Toward Responsibility
A number of explosive derailments within the past year happened despite tank cars that exceeded the newest federal minimum requirements. Many people have lost their lives in these explosions. Environmental contamination affects the area as well. I wonder what it will take before the oil and rail industries take greater responsibility for the deadly risks they impose by their activities. It would be appropriate for them to absorb all costs for upgrades. Much, much more should be done to prevent them.