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I saw this when it first came out and as it is one of the better articles I've seen on the subject I went back and found it.

The thought that occurs is that while pipelines can be tied up for years going through a maze of route changes, reviews and political issues a railway company needs only load up the cars with oil and drive through cities, farmland, over bridges and whatever else is on their long established routes with nary a regulator of review in sight. Some locations (including BC) are having second thoughts on this lack of oversight particularly with the massive increase of trains heading over the rocky mountains.

Part of the problem with comparing statistics is that oil moved by rail was a very tiny percentage of the total until recently and the massive increase hasn't had time to show up in the accident statistics... yet.

Any <hoping to finish his taxes this weekend> mouse

With pipelines under attack, railways lead race to move oil

Nathan VanderKlippe

CALGARY — The Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, Jan. 12 2013, 8:00 AM EST

Last updated Friday, Jan. 18 2013, 12:27 PM EST

Pipelines built by companies such as Mr. Girling’s TransCanada Corp. carry the vast majority of the crude oil shipped around North America. This year, however, nearly 10 per cent of the volume of oil pulled from the ground in the U.S. will not flow through that massive network of buried steel. It will instead be loaded on to trains and race across the continent in a blur of tanker cars that is transforming the way North America’s energy moves.


Across North America, planned pipelines are running into an outpouring of public discontent largely around environmental concerns, allowing locomotives to increasingly step in as an alternative.

In 2008, fewer than 20,000 barrels a day of crude oil moved on trains in the U.S. By the end of 2012, that number had jumped above 500,000 – a more than 25-fold increase in five years.

Meanwhile, projects such as TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels a day to the U.S. Gulf Coast, languish even as existing pipelines out of Canada are stuffed to capacity.


...he is struck by a rich irony. If pipelines are being stopped on environmental grounds, the result has in some ways been the exact opposite.

“By denial of the pipeline, safety risk increases. Potential environmental risk increases. Greenhouse gases increase,”
... But in the short run, they haven’t achieved any of these safety or environmental objectives.”


But underlying the euphoria is a set of unpleasant statistics. Trains may deliver big new profits to oil companies and refineries alike. They also deliver the potential for problems. The industry itself acknowledges that trains have nearly three times the number of spills as pipelines. The U.S. State Department found that, when moving liquids, trains have a death rate three times higher than pipelines and a fire or explosion rate nine times higher. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says that over all, pipelines beat other modes of transportation on all facets of their safety record.


The spill comparison

Railways and pipelines speak different languages. Trains move commodities by the ton or carload. Pipelines move oil by the barrel. So comparing the two can be tough. But those who have tried – including the rail industry itself – have shown that trains are substantially more prone to hazardous materials accidents.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning New York City think tank, was among the first to assemble an in-depth look at the risks. Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. hazardous materials pipelines, she found, had 0.61 spills per billion barrel miles. Railways had 20.5 – a spill rate 34 times higher. (Trucks were far worse yet, at 651.)

“It’s very striking that pipelines are definitely the safest,” ...


...At CN’s Illinois derailment, for example, 13 cars filled with ethanol leaked; some caught fire. One person died. Seven others were injured. In an accident report, the National Transportation Safety Board pointed to “the inadequate design of the DOT-111 tank cars, which made the cars subject to damage and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials.”

Those DOT-111 tankers are some 69 per cent of the U.S. fleet. They are used in Canada as well, and have what the NTSB called a “high incidence of tank failure.” A new design of tanker car has been used since 2011. But the rail industry has resisted retro-fitting the tens of thousands of existing cars.

<<<much more at the whole article>>>
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