In North American rail towns, some try to stop oil trains
By Joshua Schneyer, Rory Carroll and Richard Valdmanis
May 25 (Reuters) - Albany, New York Sheriff Craig Apple assured a room of concerned citizens that county emergency crews were prepared to handle an oil-train accident involving three or four tank cars.
Firefighters have been training to combat railcar fires with foam, and evacuation plans are detailed in a 500-page emergency response plan, Apple told residents in a May 12 address.
But he was blunt about the potential impact of a larger derailment: "Look, let's face it, there's going to be mayhem."
Albany's tracks handle as much as a fourth of the oil pumped from North Dakota's booming Bakken Shale, or up to several 100-car trains per day, each carrying 70,000 barrels.
It is one of several spots along North America's new oil-by-rail corridors where residents and officials are restless, following six fiery derailments in the past 10 months. Some want to limit or halt the traffic, fearful that existing precautions will not prevent deadly blasts, air and waterway pollution, or nuisances including nasty odors.
Since trains play a growing role in getting oil from landlocked North Dakota and central Canada to mostly coastal refineries, efforts to stop them could boost shipping costs or slow the pace of North America's oil boom. This could hit the bottom line of drillers like Continental Resources or refiners like Phillips66.
The opposition extends beyond traditional hotbeds of environmental activism, to oil shipping or processing hubs like Albany, Philadelphia and St. John, New Brunswick in Canada, home to the country's largest refinery.
Efforts to stop oil trains are a new battle front for several major environmental groups that have campaigned to block the Keystone XL pipeline from bringing crude south from Canada's oil sands. With Keystone in limbo, U.S.-bound rail shipments of Canadian oil have risen 20-fold since 2011, the U.S. Congressional Research Service estimated. Continued...