Oregon Safety Lags Huge Increase in Oil Trains Passing Through NW Towns

"When the Oregon state inspector got close enough to the hulking black rail car with the red placard warning about flammable liquids inside, he heard hissing."

"It was August. TILX 350519, a tank car that holds 30,000 gallons of crude oil, was waiting to be unloaded at an industrial park on the Columbia River near Clatskanie. The car had traveled 1,200 miles from Dore, North Dakota, a tiny town at the heart of a boom feeding a rapidly growing amount of oil into the country’s rail system – a new phenomenon raising safety concerns nationwide.

The inspector pinpointed the problem. Potentially flammable gas was escaping from a valve. Another car had a leak, too. Though unlikely, the leaks could’ve led to major fires if they were ignited.

The inspector checked 80 oil tank cars that day and found dozens of issues. A valve that would keep oil from leaking out in a derailment was open. Another wasn’t plugged. Others were loose, easily turned by hand."

Rob Davis reports a major investigative feature package for the Portland Oregonian February 20, 2014.


"Oil Train Safety Oversight Shortcomings at Oregon Department of Transportation: 6 Key Takeaways" (Oregonian)

"Voluntary Oil Train Safety Pact Struck Between Railroad Companies, U.S. Government" (Oregonian)

"Oil train accidents prompt BNSF to order tougher tank cars to reduce explosion risks" (AP)

Graphic: "Oil Trains to Oregon, Washington" (Oregonian)

"Feds Moved on Tank Car Safety Only After Quebec Disaster" (McClatchy)

Source: Oregonian, 02/25/2014