Oil trains pose a significant threat to Pennsylvanians 

Transporting crude oil by rail from the Bakken formation in North Dakota is inherently unsafe. The U.S. Department of Transportation has stated that crude oil fracked from the Bakken is incredibly volatile and explosive. Punctures or leaks caused by train derailments can easily lead to explosions or fires, which can be catastrophic for local communities, impossible for firefighters to manage, and take days to burn out.
In recent years, there have been dozens of major oil train disasters— the most recent oil train crash happened on Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge which sparked a large fire. The most disastrous of these explosions took place in Quebec, Canada in July of 2013, when an oil train derailed and exploded into a massive fireball, killing 47 local residents and leveling a quarter of the town.
Oil train accidents have also happened closer to home. Pennsylvania had three near misses in recent years—one outside of Pittsburgh and two in Philadelphia. In all three cases, trains carrying this highly volatile Bakken crude derailed in densely populated areas. Disaster was averted since these oil train accidents did not lead to explosions or fires.

We must protect Pennsylvanians from oil trains

Since these trains frequently travel through our cities and communities, nearly 4 million Pennsylvanians currently live within the possible evacuation zone of an oil train crash. Our elected officials must implement commonsense policies to protect Pennsylvanians’ health and safety from the growing threat of oil trains.

Of course, the only real way to ensure that we protect the public is to get America off of dirty, dangerous oil and halt the disastrous process of fracking for this oil.

In the meantime, there are much-needed steps to protect communities from the threat of oil trains.

First and foremost, we must ban the use of dangerous oil trains until the industry and experts have shown that they pose no threat to our communities and meet air-tight protection measures.

Moreover, we must stop the practice of oil trains traveling through highly populated areas in Pennsylvania, ending the practice of withholding information from local residents about oil trains traveling through their communities, , and creating emergency response plans in the case of a disaster.

The solution is clear. We need to get these dangerous oil trains out of our communities and out of Pennsylvania before they cause a catastrophic accident in the Keystone State. 

Issue updates

Report | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Danger Around the Bend: the threat of oil trains in Pennsylvania

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Report | PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, Action United and ForestEthics

Environmental Justice and Oil Trains in Pennsylvania

This report by ForestEthics, ACTION United and PennEnvironment reveals that Philadelphia’s communities of color and low-income communities face disproportionate threats from oil train explosions and pollution when compared with white and higher-income communities.

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