Train cars carrying crude oil and sand derailed on a bridge over the Schuylkill River this morning. The cars are intact, according to StateImpact Pennsylvania, but are leaning over the river.
Increased domestic oil production — made possible by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — has led to a major boost in oil being moved by rail through the city to a South Philadelphia refinery. This raises economic promise but also potential safety peril. Last year, an oil-train derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.
Both StateImpact and the Daily News have covered the issue.
"I think the main point here is that environmentally harmful and potentially dangerous sites such as these do not belong anywhere near population centers," PennEnvironment staffer Erika Staaf told the Daily News. "We've seen time and again the risks involved with fossil-fuel extraction — from drilling and mining to transport to waste disposal — and the closer these operations are to population centers such as South Philadelphia, the higher the risk to nearby residents."
The New York Times reports that "the United States Transportation Department had warned that shippers were failing to follow basic precautions, like determining the temperature at which oil will turn into a gas and burn or explode, and selecting appropriate tank cars to transport the material." Such cars "are prone to puncture and burn in derailments."
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