Tag: transportation

Rail Transport of Oil Safe. So Says the Oil Industry

go Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

With the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline continuing, another important issue has arisen, transportation of crude oil by rail. Recent derailments and explosions have also brought into question safety considerations and the transport of Bakken crude, which is more dangerous to ship than other crude oil due to its flammability. This is not a new problem, in fact, it has been going on for decades and has been focused on the railroad tank car used, the DOT-111-A, as this McClathcy article reported in January:

Federal regulators might be weeks away from issuing new safety guidelines for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, after a series of frightening rail accidents over the past six months.

But the type of general-service tank car involved in recent incidents with crude oil trains in Quebec, Alabama and North Dakota – the DOT-111-A – has a poor safety record with hazardous cargoes that goes back decades, raising questions about why it took so long for the railroad industry and its federal regulators to address a problem they knew how to fix.

Other, more specialized types of tank cars received safety upgrades in the 1980s, and the industry’s own research shows they were effective at reducing the severity of accidents.

Tank car manufacturers have built new DOT-111A cars to a higher standard since 2011, but the improvements haven’t caught up to tens of thousands of older cars.

To be sure, improper railroad operations or defective track cause many accidents involving tank cars. But the National Transportation Safety Board, which makes recommendations but has no regulatory authority, has cited the DOT-111A’s deficiencies many times over the years for making accidents worse than they could have been.

In a segment on her show just last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow illustrated the safety shortcomings of those rail tank cars used to transport this volatile crude oil, pointing to accidents, explosions, and toothless warnings going back over decades.

In April, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) has called on regulators to tighten standards and in early May, the Transportation Department issued a safety advisory pleading with companies that transport crude oil by train to discontinue old railcars

The advisory is non-binding, meaning it does not require companies to follow it, as an emergency order would. Yet it does apply to approximately 20,000 old tanker cars that companies rely on to carry Bakken crude from oil fields in North Dakota throughout the continent. The Transportation Department (DOT) recommended that only the sturdiest cars available are put to use, and that cars that cannot be destroyed should be updated.

Wednesday’s advisory came on the same day that the Transportation Department issued an emergency order forcing companies to provide communities alongside the rail routes with more information about the problems that are created when a spill or explosion takes place.  [..]

The DOT itself admitted crude shipments present “an imminent hazard” in an emergency order forcing companies to be more transparent with the areas they go through. Trains carrying oil generally include at least 100 cars. The emergency order requires all carloads with more than one million gallons of Bakken crude, equivalent to approximately 35 cars, to give local lawmakers notice that a train will be making its way through. [..]

Companies shipping oil by rail have never been forced to notify communities regarding hazardous material on board until this week.

An estimated 715,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil are shipped by rail every day.

It appears the oil industry is not going to lie down and take it.

American Petroleum Institute said it’s important to “separate fact from fiction” when it comes to shipping crude oil from North Dakota by rail.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council published a study Tuesday that shows crude oil taken from the Bakken reserve area in the state is similar to other grades of oil from North America. It does not, as the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests, pose a greater risk when transported by rail, the council said.

Rachel Maddow exposed the bias of that report

It is past time that the Department of Transportation stopped issuing toothless warnings and cracked down with inspections and heavy fines.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Capitalism causes cancer by bigjacbigjacbigjac

Capitalism causes cancer,

both the kind you’re thinking of,

and another kind:

cities.

Cities are tumors on the Earth,

our precious home planet.

Holiday Wishes from the TSA

The police arrest you for reading the Constitution in a public space during an Occupy demonstration. Later, you get a letter saying that reading the Constitution in a loud voice, in that place, at that time, broke a small statute of the law, and therefore you will be fined $1,500. If you disagree with this assessment, you can plead your case in a letter to the Chief of Police at the station where the arresting officer works. If they don’t hear from you in, oh, I don’t know, 20 days, then they will assume you agree with the fine.

Oh, and by the way, everything in their letter is top secret and you have to get the Chief of Police’s permission to share it with your lawyer, your husband or your…well let’s say readers.

What? You have a problem with that?

So do I…

Tales from The Edge of a Revolution #3: The Goddess of Travel

The hotel shuttle pulls up to San Francisco’s airport half an hour late. I push a dollar into the driver’s hand and grab my bag. Less than an hour remains to negotiate San Francisco’s ever present chaos to make my flight. I join the line snaking back and forth through an infinite channel of nylon belts and down the backs of airline ticket booths, tapping my finger impatiently on the handle of my bag. There are no other flights to Albuquerque until late tonight and that would mean missing work.

I make it past the first ID screening and still the line crisscrosses for a mile in front of me. Then, the Goddess of Travel intercedes. Right in front of me, a TSA officer unclips the nylon belt holding us at bay and announces they are opening a new screening area. I thank the Goddess, and follow the woman beckoning with her hand.



Like a pied piper she leads us past the rows of ticketing desks and into a lonely corridor. We walk forever and I wonder if I actually saved any time.

“Can we get to United’s gates from back here?” a man asks, mirroring my own growing unease as we travel well past the last ticketing booth.

“Yes, all gates from here,” our guide replies with confidence.

Finally, we round a bend in the deserted hall and stop. I suck my breath in and curse the Goddess of Travel.  That witch, she’s tricked me again. The Rape-U scans have finally come to San Francisco.

The Constitution Breaks Bad in Albuquerque

Oct. 17, 2011

Albuquerque International Sunport Security Checkpoint:

I pass a camera crew filming the ticket counter. I stop and consider telling them what I am about to do, but decide against it. They probably won’t care. Instead, I wheel my baggage to the security area.

I can feel my heart beat in my chest. I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve always said “Yes sir,” even when I didn’t agree. Even this simple act fills me with conflicting emotions.

New Mexico is far warmer than my native Pacific Northwest. I’m sweating by the time I reach the first inspection of my ID. I’m sure I already look like a terrorist. The TSA agent, perched on his stool, takes no notice. I look enough like my driver’s license and I have a valid airline ticket. He black lights my ID and lets me pass with hardly a glance.

I’ve come here to moonlight from my real job. My daughter had an operation, and I had to come up with thousands in deductible. She’s in college and, so far, I’ve managed to keep her from becoming a debt slave, like her mother. I took eight extra weekends of work in the Land of Enchantment to cover the cost. I’m lucky, I guess, I can do that. Others, with fewer job opportunities, have no choice but to go bankrupt.

My heart kicks it up another notch when I get to the conveyor belt. Shouldn’t have had that coffee this morning but thank God I didn’t eat anything, or I’d be hugging the trash can right now.

Come on, I tell myself, what are they going to do? Confiscate your toothpaste? Say something mean to you? So what. Relax. You can do this. You should do this. You have to do this.

I take off my shoes and strip my backpack of computer and the baggie of incidentals. I stand in line while my armpits grow embarrassingly moist and I feel my heart race. I think, Get a hold of yourself. You’re being a drama queen.

When it is my turn, I decline to go through the monitor that scans under your clothes, as I always do. The TSA agent starts his spiel about how safe it is. I’ve done my research. His statements are questionable, but that is not why I am doing this. I start my own spiel.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution reads: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, an particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Sunday Train: Chairman Mica to Cities ~ Screw You

get link Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Populism

Chairman Mica says:

this proposal maximizes the value of our available infrastructure funding through better leveraging, streamlining the project approval process, attracting private sector investment, and cutting the federal bureaucracy, … Most importantly, this six-year proposal provides the stability states need to plan major transportation improvements and create long-term jobs.

Decoding that, Chairman Mica is saying: “Screw You, Cities”.

And of course, a bit of “screw you countryside” too, since those votes can be taken for granted.

Sunday Train: Making a ‘national HSR plan’ into a National Network

follow site Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Way back before the Super Bowl, the White House had a series of exciting announcements, covered at The Transport Politic under the heading The White House Stakes Its Political Capital on a Massive Intercity Rail Plan.

That article is accompanied by the map reproduced here ~ and I stress that the map if Yonah Freemark’s work, not a map presented by the White House ~ of what a HSR system that rises to the “80% of Americans” target would look like.

And one reaction to that map is the same as the reaction to the designated DoT HSR corridors: how is that a national network? Its just bits and pieces.

How to fix this image problem, while also providing a see substantial upgrade to the program, below the fold.

On Hole Cards, Or, “Drill, Baby, Drill”? Why? Is Canada Out Of Sand?

In America, today, there are three kinds of drivers: those who look at the other gas pumps down at the ol’ gas station and think: “Oh my God, I can’t believe how much that guy’s spending on gas”, those who look at their own pump down at the ol’ gas station and think: “Oh my God, I can’t believe how much I’m spending on gas” – and those who are doing both at the same time.

Naturally, this has brought the Sarah Palins of the world back out in public, and once again the mantra of “Drill, Baby, Drill” can be heard all the way from the Florida coast to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But what if those folks have it exactly backwards?

What if, in a world of depleting oil resources, the last thing you want to do is use yours up?

To put it another way: why isn’t all our oil part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

Sunday Train: West Virginia River Runner Rail and the Steel Interstates

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The flashy rail projects are the very HSR projects to build bullet trains serving urban areas with millions of people.

But the role of rail in supporting sustainable extends beyond the bullet train system alone. It may not be critical to the financial success of these bullet trains to provide service to people living in urban areas of 50,000 to 200,000 ~ but its critical to these people to have access to some form of sustainable intercity transport.

Indeed, if we are going to be harvesting wind power, solar power, sustainably coppiced biocoal, geothermal, run of river hydro, and other sustainable resources … we are going to be creating incomes in areas away from the 1m+ cities. We best look after the needs of the people who come to those areas looking for work.

Sunday Train: Conventional Rail and the Steel Interstates ~ Best Friends Forever

see url Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I’ve written several times about the direct potential of the Steel Interstate project to cut our oil imports by 10% by getting long haul freight trucking off the road. It would at the same time relieve the crushing burden imposed by long haul trucking on our over-worked, under-maintained Interstate, National and State highways, help get renewable energy resources from places that they are to places people need electricity, and of course support long distance Rapid Passenger Rail offering dramatically improved reliability and transit speed, supporting operating surpluses with multiple services per day.

I don’t recollect that I have written very much about the benefit that the Steel Interstates offer to source link passenger rail elsewhere. So that’s what I aim to do. Today I will look at one rail transport ideas I have talked about previously ~ Northeast Ohio Regional Rail ~ and what help it would receive from the Steel Interstates. Then sometime in the next week or two, I will look at the Columbus / WV / Atlantic Coast “RidgeRunner”, and the benefit it would receive from the Steel Interstates.

The Fix We’re in For: Bridges and our Infrastructure

Yesterday I watch put up a post about a report that was to be released today, the report is now public and it isn’t a pretty picture as noted by those who put it together.

And this report is only on the Bridges around this Country and broken down by States.

This is well known by many, especially us who work in the construction industry and understand what is built needs constant maintenance, even our military understands that with preventive maintenance programs

This has been ignored for way too long. With tens of thousands of construction workers laid off or on spotty contract jobs wondering what’s next. Thousand of contractors scrapping the bottom trying to inject projects. Engineers and architects, along with other construction white collar personal doing likewise, out of work or just hanging on.

Here’s the report:  

Sunday Train: American Greatness and High Speed Rail

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I believe that America can be greater than it ever was before.

That does not mean that its get link destined to be. Destiny makes us lazy. Destiny is like those post-Tour de France cycling criteriums where the top three places were guaranteed to the three big TdF heroes taking part ~ if you are in shape and need to keep going, maybe Destiny can keep the momentum going ~ but its no way to build up to race fitness.

Indeed, it does not mean that its at all likely. It may well be massively unlikely. But whether an outcome is likely or unlikely is an issue for passive spectators, watching from the sidelines. The issue for participants is whether the game is worth the candle ~ whether the prize substantial enough to make it worthwhile playing to win.

Our modern mess media trains us to the passive observer role, with their habitual “trackside race call” coverage of public affairs. However, if we participate, that trains us in the active player role, and the real life experience is a deeper lesson than the color and noise on the noise box.

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