A CSX train carrying Bakken oil derailed and erupted into flames in West Virginia on Monday, adding to the growing debate about the safety of transporting crude on America's railroads. The crash is the second in 10 months involving a CSX train, carrying oil from North Dakota.
"It is not safe to transport oil by train, full stop, period," said Eric de Place, policy director for Sightline Institute, a sustainability-focused research firm in Seattle.
Monday's train derailment affected two counties, and forced some West Virginia residents to flee their homes in winter weather as power cut out and drinking water was threatened.
In a statement, CSX said it was working with first responders and federal, state and local officials on the oil train derailment near Mount Carbon, West Virginia. One person was being treated for possible respiratory problems, but no other injuries were reported.
The cause of the derailment is under investigation. But CSX said all of the oil cars were newer CPC 1232 models—not older model tank cars criticized for being prone to puncture.
But Sightline's de Place said most oil cars have design gaps, including walls that are too thin. "They're riddled with design flaws," de Place said. Oil cars also travel too fast, he added.
The Association of American Railroads, the trade group, said freight railroads have employee training and operating procedures that govern handling and movement of crude oil. Federal rules and self-imposed safety practices dictate train speeds, according to the association's website.
Despite the industry's efforts, the explosion of oil production in the Bakken formation—and America's appetite for cheap energy—are pushing up against America's rail system. Some portions of that infrastructure date back decades, when builders had no idea the rails would one day transport hundreds of thousands of crude oil a day.