Of the train accidents worldwide reported in 2014, 23 of 49 (47 percent) took place in the United States. The Casselton, North Dakota
accident that occurred December 30, 2013 resulted in 400,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from 18 of the 21 rail cars that derailed. An
ensuing explosion sent a massive mushroom cloud of fire above the prairie and forced the evacuation of 1400 residents. We eventually
learned that Bakken crude being hauled by the BNSF train was more flammable than expected.
Train transport of crude oil has increased 50 fold since 2009. Arguments
are made that rail transport is safer than moving crude oil by truck on
our highways. This fallacy assumes we must pick one or the other. The
Sierra Club does not take a position on which kind of horse and cart we
use. Our goal is to free our dependency on fossil fuel that includes crude
oil and coal.
As crude shipments are increasing in number and crossing the nation on rail, communities need to be aware of the significant, potential dangers
towards our citizens. San Joaquin County is a pathway for the major rail lines. In an article on "Crude oil transport danger for Stockton?",
Alex Breitler of The Record wrote of that the quantity of crude "sent by train has skyrocketed from 1 million barrels in 2012 to 6.3 million
barrels last year, and experts say the number could climb as high as 150 million barrels by 2016, according to a report by a working group
convened by Governor Jerry Brown."
Come hear two short presentations by Tom Block who has been speaking to
the Stockton City Council on this issue.
1. "Significant and Unavoidable" targets the facade of a Culture of Safety that the rail industry has constructed.
2. "There Goes the Neighborhood" looks at what happens in the Bakken. Corruption, both covert and overt, is evident in both the oil and
rail industries without sufficient oversight. The two industries only fear a sudden catastrophe like the tragedy in Lac-Megantic. Smaller
cumulative incidents don't worry them since the public seems to remain disinterested.
Tom Block was an occasional adjunct professor of Anthropology at Youngstown State University and taught at the Cleveland Museum of
Natural History. He is presently a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee and he volunteers at the San Joaquin Historical
Society and museum.