Friday, December 19, 2014

Rail bridge conditions secret, Oil trains too long and too heavy

Railroad Bridge

BNSF Railway workers reinforced this railroad bridge south of Stoddard with cribbing last June.

A matter of faith: Rail bridge conditions hidden from public view

December 14, 2014 6:00 am  • 

....Local officials and the general public are largely in the dark about the nation’s freight railroads, which carry growing volumes of flammable crude oil, while state and federal governments have limited authority and oversight.

And when it comes to rail bridge safety, the industry is generally left to police itself.

Concerned citizens have documented cracked and crumbling rail bridges along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River that engineers say are troubling and that prompted federal authorities to take a closer look. BNSF assures the public the bridges are safe, but the government does not have structural engineers to independently verify their claims. And unlike highway bridges, inspection reports are secret, unavailable to the public and local officials.

There isn’t even an inventory of bridges.

“What makes me nervous is the responsibility of safety for railroad bridges rests with the owner of the track. You’d like to think they use good faith and safety and upkeep of the bridges … but it only takes some poor owners that don’t take it as seriously,” said Pat Salvi, a Chicago attorney who handles rail accidents. “The consequences are so potentially dramatic.”...  read more here


Oil trains are too long and too heavy: Guest opinion

By Jared Margolis     The Oregonian    Dec. 11, 2014

Even to the most reasonable among us here in the Northwest, the lonely cry of the train whistle in the night is no longer a very comforting sound. You can't help but wonder if it's announcing the arrival of one of the 20 or so trains of up to 100 tanker cars that pass through the region in an average week, each one carrying up to 3 million gallons of explosive crude oil.....

PHMSA's own analysis has determined oil trains "are longer, heavier in total, more challenging to control ... [and] can be more prone to derailments when put in emergency braking." That's why I co-authored a legal petition, filed with PHMSA last month, asking the agency to establish rules limiting trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous liquids to 4,000 tons — the weight that the American Association of Railroads has determined to be a "no problem" train, considered much less likely to derail. This safety guideline is currently exceeded threefold by the 100-car crude oil trains rumbling through Oregon.....   read more here

New Bakken volatility standards are pointless

LISA WESTBERG PETERS   Dec 15, 2014   Star Tribune

The explosion risk still exists, which emboldens pipeline supporters — but why must our choices be so dismal?


Bay Area Air Quality Management District approves plan to cut pollution at oil refineries

By Denis Cuff  Contra Costa Times  12/18/14

SAN FRANCISCO -- Regional air pollution regulators on Wednesday approved a far-reaching blueprint to cut Bay Area oil refinery emissions by 20 percent.
Under the plan, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board will consider a package of air pollution rules in 2015 to reduce emissions from five refineries.

More rigorous monitoring of refinery emissions will be required. To assure continued clean air improvements, refiners will be required periodically to assess their pollution and ways to reduce it.......     read more here

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