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Oil trains threaten our communities and first responders

In 2016 the United States continues to produce oil hydraulically fractured from shale at a booming rate – averaging around 4.9 million barrels per day.1 Pipeline infrastructure has not kept up with production volume, so producers have turned to railroads to move around this glut of oil. 50 million people live within 2 miles of tracks carrying these oil trains, placing them in danger of derailings, explosions, fires, and the loss of human lives.

The center of increased oil production in the United States is the Bakken Shale Formation, which extends for about 200,000 square miles under parts of Montana and North Dakota, and into Canada. Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale is the second largest producer of shale oil crude, and although it shares many physical characteristics with Bakken crude, it is much closer to refineries and pipelines, and so the oil itself travels fewer rail miles in the production and distribution process.

How significant a threat are oil trains to our communities and first responders? If a train transporting shale oil derails, it carries significantly greater risk to surrounding communities than other trains because:

  1. Shale oil is volatile;
  2. Shale oil is highly toxic;
  3. Shale oil, particularly from the Bakken region, is radioactive;
  4. The train cars and rails are not safe.