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The irony isn’t lost on me — a CSX train derails with tankers full of 3,000,000 gallons of volatile Bakken crude oil which exploded multiple times — near Mount Carbon (!) and Boomer (!), West Virginia. Carbon-based resources (coal, oil and gas) have been the root of too many disasters in this state. As the tanks went boom, flames shot hundreds of feet in the air. Twenty-seven out of 109 tankers went off the tracks and 19 were involved in fires. Earlier reports about the disaster were incorrect, so I continue to update this blog as new information is made public.
According to WV Public Radio:
“Environmental protective and monitoring measures on land, air, the Kanawha River and Armstrong Creek. Gillenwater said response crews vacuumed about 5,000 gallons of an oil-water mixture on Wednesday. CSX contractors, overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard and DEP, were able to deploy about 500 feet of containment boom as a precautionary measure to limit potential impact on the environment.”
Sometimes I have to wonder if our state has some strange magnetic force that attracts tragedy, death and destruction. But then, I realize many of the catastrophes are neither fated nor accidents. While some may be classified as accidents, in my lifetime the lion’s share have happened due to negligence and lack of oversight — on the part of politicians, regulators and others who are supposed to be watching out for the general well-being of the citizens of this state.
This CSX calamitous derailment which destroyed one home, forced evacuation of 2,500 citizens in the midst of a dangerous winter storm, and shut off tap water for at least 2,000 citizens, may have been an accident. However, the contents of those tankers — that was no accident. That’s commerce, it’s calculated, and above all — business as usual — dirty fossil fuels crisscrossing the country to feed our global energy addiction.
At least now we know that the highly volatile Bakken crude (from North Dakota) is being shipped by rail through our communities, including Charleston and Huntington. Last year, Ken Ward, Jr., from the Charleston Gazette, filed a Freedom of Information request to make public more detailed information provided by CSX Corp. about the company’s shipments of crude oil through communities in the state. As Ken’s article stated...’The state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management deleted key details — the amounts, routes and frequency of crude oil shipments…In a letter to the newspaper, Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato said those details contain “trade secrets or confidential locations” agency officials believes are exempt from public disclosure under the state FOIA.’
While I suppose that there can be a security risk by making such information public, I wonder how secure the folks in Mount Carbon and Boomer feel right about now?
During NBC’s Nightly News reporting of the derailment, while scenes of the fiery explosions were the lead, the primary concern mentioned was WATER. Water? How synchronous that exactly during a time when our state legislature is considering a number of bills to weaken or gut protections for our states waters, people’s tap water and the Kanawha River takes another hit.
Not only does our state need to keep Category A status for all of West Virginia’s rivers and streams, including portions of the Kanawha, for times like these when people need alternative water sources, but also we need to keep strong protections for all the above ground storage tanks passed into law last session after the contamination of 300,000 people’s water supply.
Additionally, our state needs to consider stricter regulations of mobile sources — whether trains or trucks. Last Thursday, a MarkWest tanker truck filled with propane overturned on Interstate 64 between Charleston and Huntington, shutting down the highway on both sides for 12 hours. About a week before that, the town of Lewisburg was without water for several days because of an overturned tanker truck which spilled diesel fuel into the river.
West Virginia’s over-reliance on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels guarantees more disasters, more toxic pollution of our precious, vital water resources, increases to on-going threats to public health and safety, and threatens the very future of planet Earth due to climate disruption. This is beyond common sense when clean, renewable solar and wind energy are off-the-shelf technology becoming increasingly more competitive with coal, gas and oil with the added benefits of thousands of new jobs along with greater safety for the public.
After all, when there’s a solar or wind energy “spill,” it’s a great day to take your kids outdoors to fly a kite.
You may want to take a moment to sign this petition: Enforce Railroad Health and Safety Law.