Oil Trains Hide in Plain Sight

BN-FV863_1203se_J_20141203165045

BN-FV863_1203se_J_20141203165045

By Russell Gold

NEWARK, Del.—Early last year, a new kind of pipeline full of volatile oil appeared in this college town, halfway between Philadelphia and Baltimore.

If it had been a traditional pipeline, there would have been government hearings and environmental reviews. There would be markers or signs along the line’s route and instructions for nearby residents on how to react in an emergency. A detailed plan for responding to a spill would be on file with the federal government.

None of that happened here in Newark. In fact, nobody initially notified the city’s fire chief about the new line, which can carry more than a hundred thousand barrels of oil a day along Amtrak’s busiest passenger-rail corridor.

This was possible because the oil here is transported by a virtual pipeline: mile-long strings of railroad tanker cars that travel from North Dakota to a refinery in Delaware. In Newark, the cars are especially easy to spot as they often sit for hours on tracks 10 feet away from passing passenger trains, waiting for an opening at the nearby PBF Energy Inc. plant.


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