Western NY, Finger Lakes, & the Southern Tier

A Deeper Look - Bakken Oil Trains


  • Exploration and fracking of the Bakken shale began in 2006 and there is no infrastructure in place to transport it to refineries, so it has been moving by train. No one knew how explosive it was until the accidents began happening, and regulations have lagged far behind.

  • Towns and emergency responders have limited access to train timetables, or to information on the actual number of trains moving through their communities.

  • Rail infrastructure is decaying. Many bridges are over 100 years old. Citizen inspectors identified deficiencies (defined as cracks or pieces missing, significant rusting, and/or deterioration or rotting of the foundation) in 46 percent of the bridges inspected.

  • The U.S Department of Transportation concluded that its own department, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), has done an inadequate job of keeping railroad operations safe. The FRA can only monitor less than 1% of the rail system per year.

  • Railroad Workers United (labor union), has concerns with the safety of Bakken train operations and regulations. Rail workers were the ones who coined the term “Bomb Trains”.

  • Recent laws to address this problem don’t go far enough. It will take too long to retire the weakest cars, which were built to 1970 standards and designed to carry non-flammable liquids (known as DOT-111s). Speed limit reductions don’t go far enough.

  • Low income communities are disproportionately affected.

  • Due to interstate commerce laws, communities have little to no control over these trains. These “pass-through” communities receive no economic or any other benefit, yet they assume all the risk. Towns and cities with proposed or actual terminals have more power to fight those facilities.

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