Big cities scramble to be prepared for an oil train disaster

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — They rumble past schools, homes and businesses in dozens of cities around the country — 100-car trains loaded with crude oil from the Upper Midwest.

While railroads have long carried hazardous materials through congested urban areas, cities are now scrambling to formulate emergency plans and to train firefighters amid the latest safety threat: a fiftyfold increase in crude shipments that critics say has put millions of people living or working near the tracks at heightened risk of derailment, fire and explosion.


AP survey: How cities are handling surge in oil trains

Mile-long trains carrying millions of gallons of crude have become a common sight in cities around the U.S., raising concern about the possibility of a catastrophic derailment near crowded neighborhoods or critical infrastructure.

In the wake of a half-dozen fiery crashes this year, The Associated Press surveyed nearly a dozen cities with populations of more than 250,000 to gauge how prepared they are to respond to an oil-train derailment.

Nuclear regulators boost oversight of Massachusetts plant

BOSTON (AP) — Federal inspectors said Wednesday they're increasing their oversight of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in the wake of a shutdown during a winter storm.

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say the decision to ramp up inspections at the Entergy-owned plant in Plymouth follows the shutdown in January and involves the facility's safety relief valves.

Washington sues feds over safety of nuclear waste tanks

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state is suing the federal government again over cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation — this time over the danger posed to workers by vapor releases from underground waste-storage tanks.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Spokane on Wednesday, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the U.S. Department of Energy has known about vapors sickening workers at the site since at least the late 1980s, but hasn't fixed it — even though agencies have issued 19 reports on the problem. Hanford, on the Columbia River in eastern Washington, produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1943 to 1987.

US offers $10 million in grants for railroad crossing fixes

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. transportation officials will offer $10 million in grants for states to upgrade highway-rail crossings and tracks in response to a recent surge in flammable fuel shipments.

Wednesday's planned announcement from the Department of Transportation comes as rail crossing collisions have increased over the past several years, following more than three decades of steady declines.


Texas regulator clears oil and gas company of causing quakes

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The regulatory agency overseeing Texas' oil and gas industry has determined that a series of small earthquakes in North Texas likely wasn't caused by drilling operations by an Exxon Mobil subsidiary.

The preliminary findings mark the first decision by the Texas Railroad Commission since it was authorized last year to consider whether seismological activity was caused by injection wells, which store briny wastewater from hydraulic fracturing.

Local officials blame feds for delay in nuke dump reopening

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Making claims that have been drawing sharp criticism, the federal government said this week that an underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico can't reopen because of safety concerns and equipment setbacks.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's opening has been postponed indefinitely so officials can make sure all is secure following last year's fire and radiation leak, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But local watchdog groups say errors made by the contractor at the Carlsbad, New Mexico, site and inadequate Department of Energy oversight are behind the delays.

Fire chief criticizes CSX over 2014 Virginia derailment

The fire official who led the response to a 2014 oil train derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia, criticized CSX Transportation, saying it took two hours for the company's representative to arrive at a command post after the wreck.

With fire and smoke billowing along the James River in Lynchburg, city fire battalion chief Robert E. Lipscomb said the sooner he could get answers about the train from the company, the better.

China blast site owner on state firm's board

SHANGHAI (AP) — The man unveiled as principal owner of the warehouses at the center of deadly blasts in Tianjin also is on the board of a state-owned company that is ultimately controlled by the same powerful entity investigating the explosions, an Associated Press review of public documents found.

Corporate filings show that Yu Xuewei, the silent majority shareholder of Ruihai International Logistics, sits on the board of directors of a subsidiary of China Sinochem, one of the country's most influential conglomerates. Like other large state companies, Sinochem is controlled by the State Council, the central authority overseeing the investigation into last week's explosions at Ruihai's chemical warehouses that killed at least 114 people and displaced thousands.

Tianjin's deadly blasts expose China's work safety woes

BEIJING (AP) — By official data, China is becoming safer from accidents year after year. But the explosions over the Tianjin port last week are a stark reminder that it has far to go in preventing workplace disasters — from blasts on factory floors to leaks of oil pipes and warehouse fires.

The blasts that started at a hazardous material warehouse in the eastern city of Tianjin and killed at least 114 people in one of China's worst industrial accidents in years came despite countless pledges by authorities to strictly enforce workplace safety regulations. There have been numerous campaigns — always one after each fatal accident — to eliminate safety risks, and local officials are routinely fired over fatal workplace incidents.


Subscribe to Safety