The oil boom is a great thing for the United States and Canada, but the danger to railroad workers and residents is increasing. That is because the odds that a railroad worker or a resident living near a railroad track will be the victim of a FELA railroad accident are also increasing. Just this week, a train carrying crude oil derailed in a West Virginia neighborhood and exploded several times. These incidents are often due to someone’s negligence, so those who have been injured must hire train accident lawyers to file a claim against the guilty parties.
A Joint Venture
Last year, serious train derailments in the U.S. and Canada led officials from both countries to suggest that regulators develop new laws to prevent further mishaps. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB stated that people’s lives are endangered because safety regulations are behind the times. The NTSB’s Chairman Deborah Hersman also stated that people who live close to railroad tracks deserve to be protected.
In July of 2014, 47 people died when a train derailed and burst into flames in the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec. This accident also destroyed the town’s center. Safety agencies from Canada and the United States issued a joint statement recommending that regulators create a new set of rules to govern the transportation of crude oil.
Why Railroad Accidents Occur
According to officials with the NTSB, the amount of crude oil shipped by rail has increased by 400 percent in the past 10 years. In that time, companies began to drill at an ever-increasing rate in Canada, Montana and the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota.
As of today, Canadian officials have not stated the specific reason for the train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic. After examining the documents, they did discover that the train’s extremely flammable cargo was mischaracterized as something less dangerous. According to investigators, someone classified the oil as a “Packing Group III” product when it was actually a more perilous “Class 3, Packing Group II” product. This explains how the fuel could ignite so rapidly after the derailment occurred.
Changes in Procedures
The Canadians made changes in their procedures after the Lac-Megantic incident. Among them was the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration’s plans to begin conducting surprise inspections and performing tests on crude oil that arrives by train.
Although an effort is being made to improve the situation, officials with the NTSB are concerned that dangerous crude oil shipments will continue to be misidentified as safer than they are. This will allow these companies to skirt the new safety regulations. Therefore, the NTSB suggests that hazardous safety agencies and the railroads plan to ship petroleum on tracks that do not travel through populated locations.
The Latest Train Derailment
The need for increased security regulations for trains carrying crude oil became clear this week in West Virginia. The latest train derailment contaminated the area’s water supply and forced approximately 1,000 residents to evacuate their homes. It also caused the Kanawha River to catch fire. Fortunately, only one person was injured in this catastrophe, but one family’s home was irreparably damaged. It was also stated that this shipment was being transported in the newer CPC 1232 tanker cars which are supposed to be safer than the older DOT-111 cars..
Unites States and Canadian officials are doing what they can to improve this matter, but they do not always have everyone’s cooperation. Investigators have not yet said whether or not the Lac-Megantic tragedy was due to intentional mislabeling, but officials worry that this type of behavior could occur as new regulations go into effect. If so, more train derailments are possible, and FELA attorneys will be ready to serve workers and residents who are hurt in the future.