UPDATE 1-Without Keystone, oil trains may cause 6 deaths per year -US State Dept report

Mon Feb 3, 2014 9:28pm EST
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Feb 3 (Reuters) - Replacing the Keystone XL pipeline with oil-laden freight trains from Canada may result in an average of six additional rail-related deaths per year, according to a U.S. State Department report that is adding to pressure for President Barack Obama to approve the line.

The long-awaited study, released on Friday, focused on the environmental impact of TransCanada's $5.4 billion pipeline, but also spent several pages analyzing the potential human impact of various ways to transport oil, using historical injury and fatality statistics for railways and oil pipelines.

Although it excluded the runaway oil train derailment that killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec, last summer, the tragedy that first shone a critical light on the rapidly expanding trend in shipping crude by rail, the findings highlight the risks or railway transport versus pipes.

Shipping another 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude "would result in an estimated 49 additional injuries and six additional fatalities for the No Action rail scenarios compared to one additional injury and no fatalities" per year if Keystone XL is built, according to the report.

Keystone XL would carry 830,000 bpd from Alberta's oil sands U.S. refiners, but has been awaiting a presidential permit for more than five years. The "No Action" options refer to the likely alternative outcomes if Obama rejects the permit or the project is not built for some other reason.

The Association of American Railroads suggested that the report had painted an unfair comparison.

"Unfortunately, the (report) factored in casualties that are predominantly those of trespassers on railroad rights of way, unrelated to the hazardous commodities being transported, while limiting pipeline casualties to those who are killed or injured in hazardous liquid spill incidents," AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger said in a statement.

"We believe both rail and pipelines are safe and play an important role in our energy economy."   Continued...