Today the citizens group ForestEthics launched www.Blast-Zone.org, a website that allows users to see the routes of trains carrying millions of gallons of crude oil and assess the threat of accidents to specific locations. The group estimates that more than 25 million Americans live in the potential oil train blast zone.
For the first time ForestEthics has brought Google mapping capabilities together with railroad industry data on oil train routes across the US and Canada. The tool uses US Department of Transportation guidance for emergency response, identifying the one mile evacuation zone in the case of an oil train fire or a half mile in the case of a spill. The group used census data to estimate the number of Americans living in the one mile blast zone, but the map also shows schools, sports stadiums, town halls, and landmarks across the country within the danger zone.
Oil train traffic has increased by more than 4,000 percent in the past five years, from 9,500 tank cars in 2008 to more than 400,000 in 2013, mostly Bakken crude from North Dakota and tar sands from Alberta, Canada. Derailments, spills, and fires are also on the rise.
“Millions of North Americans live in the blast zone, do you?” asks Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director. “Citizens understand the danger, it's time for policy makers to catch up and step up."
ForestEthics launched the Blast Zone web tool in coordination with a Week of Action on oil trains with coordinated events in more than 50 cities in the US and Canada. The actions coincide with the anniversary of the deadly oil derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where a memorial and demonstration was held on Sunday. Citizens in Lac-Mégantic are currently fighting to prevent oil trains from resuming shipments through the town.
“These oil trains are an unacceptable threat, especially because we don't even need this extreme oil,” says Paglia. “Oil use in the US and Canada is down, climate risks are up, and when you put these things together the only sane thing to do is ban these exploding trains.”
ForestEthics is asking that regulators ban dangerous DOT-111 tanker cars, alert communities to the presence of oil trains, prepare and equip emergency responders, and reroute trains around cities and away from water supplies. The group is also asking that new rail safety rules, under development by the Obama Administration, give citizens the power to say no to oil trains.
The Blast Zone mapping tool is available at: www.Blast-Zone.org
ForestEthics is a citizen action group that protects citizens, the environment, and the climate from the threats posed by Canada’s tar sands and other extreme oil. ForestEthics has convinced 23 major US corporations to move away from tar sands oil and stopped dangerous new oil train infrastructure. ForestEthics leads the effort to stop new crude oil pipelines to North America’s west coast.