By Karen Stokes
Since February, there have been four trains carrying crude oil that have crashed in the United States and Canada.
On March 5, after leaving Wisconsin, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company train derailed and caught fire in an Ill. town 10 miles south of the Wisconsin border.
Currently, the main transport option for delivering oil is by railroad.
According to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in 2013, U.S. railroads moved 11 times more crude oil than all the oil moved by train from 2005 to 2009. Railroads ship an estimated 425,000 rail carloads of crude oil, which is roughly 815,000 barrels, per day.
Senator Tammy Baldwin said in an email, “The danger facing Wisconsin residents living near rail lines has materialized quickly.
Today, more than 40 oil trains a week pass through Wisconsin, including densely populated urban areas like Milwaukee and surrounding communities.
As more and more volatile crude oil moves through Wisconsin by rail, it is critical that appropriate safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of deadly accidents and that our emergency personnel have the training and resources to respond in case of tragedy.
“That’s why I urged President Obama to take immediate action on these dangerous oil trains and finalize the Administration’s rules that will help protect cities and towns alike across Wisconsin,” Senator Baldwin said.
“We cannot wait for an accident to occur before taking action.”
The AAR, defending the safety record of freight railroads, said on their webpage that freight railroads have rigorous employee safety training requirements and strict operating procedures that govern the handling and movement of hazardous goods, including crude oil.
Federal regulation and self-imposed safety practices dictate train speeds, equipment and infrastructure inspections, and procedures for how to handle and secure trains carrying hazardous materials.
One alternative to shipping crude oil by railroad is through pipeline.
Presently there is a great deal of controversy about the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a system designed to carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to refineries on the gulf coast.
Environmentalists oppose the project because they fear a leak of the heavy tar sands petroleum from Canada through the middle of the United States to the Gulf of Mexico.
“The suggestion by some that the Keystone XL pipeline would eliminate the use of trains to transport oil is simply untrue,” Sen. Baldwin said.
Others in favor of the pipeline believe it will be a job creator and reduce gas prices.
“If constructed, Keystone XL oil would flow from Canada, through American communities and would be exported to other countries, potentially leading to increases in gas prices in the Midwest.
This would be a price Wisconsin families and businesses should not have to pay,” Sen. Baldwin said.
“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans rejected efforts I supported to ease this burden and ensure the American economy and consumers would benefit from the pipeline if it were built, while protecting our communities from dirty tar sand oils.”
President Obama said at his year-end news conference that the benefits that Republicans claim the pipeline will bring are inflated and it would only increase temporary jobs for American workers.
President Obama recently vetoed the bill.