AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Tom Bateman
Cars on a Canadian National Railway freight train carrying crude oil and propane burn after a derailment and explosion on January 7, 2014.

New Brunswick Oil Train Wreck Draws More Rail-Transport Criticism


Another day, another fiery oil train wreck.

This time it happened in New Brunswick, Canada, and although no one was injured, the derailment caused several crude-oil-containing cars to burn and more than 150 people to be evacuated from nearby Plaster Rock. And far away on the U.S. West Coast, the Quinault Indian Nation once again drew attention to the dangers of the rail transport of oil, especially the extra-flammable kind that is mined from oil sands.

“After yet another oil train derailment has taken place in New Brunswisk, Canada, on the heels of the derailment in North Dakota, there is no possible way oil advocates can pass a straight face test regarding oil train safety,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, in a statement. “The writing is on the wall. Oil trains are not safe. And the track record is just as dismal for oil tankers and trucks.”

RELATED: Feds Call Bakken Crude Volatile as Quinault Warn Against Oil Rail Transport

Canadian transportation officials suspect a cracked wheel of derailing 19 cars and a locomotive in New Brunswick late on Tuesday January 7, the Associated Press reported. The crack loosened the wheel from the axel, which derailed that wheel set, Canada Transportation Board lead investigator Guy Laporte told AP. A broken rail was also found at the site, Laporte said. In all, the train contained 122 cars and four locomotives, AP reported.

A day and a half later, three cars, carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas, were still burning, the AP said. It was not clear whether any of the crude in this shipment had come from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. U.S. transportation safety officials have issued a warning about the flammability of that oil in the wake of two explosions, one of which killed 47 people in the town of Lac Mégantic, Quebec, last summer.

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Two of the New Brunswick cars were from Northern Alberta, and three had originated in Manitoba with oil from that province and Saskatchewan, said Canadian National Railway spokesman Mark Hallman to AP. Laporte “declined to say” whether any of the oil on the train had come from the Bakken fields, AP said.

As with the derailment last week in North Dakota, there were no injuries or fatalities. This accident occurred in a lightly populated region about 20 miles from northern Maine, Laporte told AP. But the Quinault reiterated that it could have been otherwise, and said loss of life is not the only thing to consider. 

“While no one was hurt in either of the two latest crashes, the potential for human mortality was there, especially if the wrecks had been in more populated areas,” Sharp said. “Let there be no mistake. As oil transport increases, so do the mishaps. There were eighty-eight of them in the U.S. last year, and the increased oil traffic is just beginning, along with the surge in U.S. oil production. People need to know that even when humans aren’t killed, habitat is destroyed. Fish and wildlife are killed. Treaty rights are brushed aside, and the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification are ignored, and augmented.”