A seriously scary happening is coming down our tracks.
Oil and coal trains are coming down our tracks now. If oil companies get their way ― and they usually do ― in the next two years we could have two 100-car trains per day. We can have a say in whether they are approved for Benicia and San Luis Obispo County.
Have you read of what happened in Canada’s Quebec Province one year ago on July 6? An oil-laden train derailed, exploded, became a wall of fire and incinerated 47 people in the town of Lac-Megantic. It leveled half their downtown. Heat was felt a mile away. Asphalt streets caught fire. If not for rain, the whole town would have been destroyed.
Last year in the United States, more oil was spilled in rail accidents than in the previous 35 years combined.
Regulations? The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration is able to inspect only two-tenths of 1 percent of our rail operations yearly. Oil cars resemble a Pepsi can on wheels with a thin shell, one-quarter to one-half-inch thick. They travel through cities, national parks and over precious waterways. Newer cars are being made, however, new tankers in Alabama exploded in November 2013, on a straight stretch, under the speed limit. If it had happened a few miles up, another town would have been destroyed.
Sixty percent of oil from North Dakota is being shipped by rail. Bakken crude is made up of 30 to 40 percent of toxic and explosive gases. Oil cars are transported through dangerous temperatures, vibrating tracks and indeterminate conditions.
First responders are ill-equipped and untrained to deal with the inevitable spills and mega-explosions of oil cars.
Attend a workshop on Tuesday, July 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Blanchard Room at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. Become informed and learn how to comment on the draft environmental impact report for the proposed Valero rail project in Benicia. See online: www.beniciaindependent.com to read articles and the draft EIR.
Let’s change the ways we live. During World War II, we did that as a nation. We can do it again because we need to leave the oil in the ground.