As more and more oil is extracted from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and shipped by rail to Oregon and Washington, concerns are growing that a major derailment could impact a populated area in the Pacific Northwest. The oil coming from the Bakken region is more flammable than traditional crude and shipments are sometimes mislabeled.
The railroad industry maintains that transporting hazardous materials by rail is safe, but along with a boom in oil-by-rail shipments has come a rise in the number of derailments and spills. In fact, U.S. trains spilled more oil in 2013 than in every year between 1975 and 2012 combined.
One of the most notable accidents came in July 2013 when a train derailed in the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, releasing an estimated 1.58 million gallons of oil and killing 47 people.
"The explosion in Quebec should be seen as a cautionary tale, really, for other communities," the Sightline Institute's Eric de Place says in the video above from Columbia Riverkeeper and Forest Ethics. The organizations recently launched a petition calling on the governors of Oregon and Washington to enact a moratorium on new oil-by-rail permits.
Spokane, Washington City Council president Ben Stuckart recently compared oil trains to "traveling bombs."
“They are highly explosive and the tank cars were designed in 1964," he said, according to ClimateProgress. "They blow up if there is a crash.”