The explosive dangers of North America's oil-by-rail

Casselton fireball
A fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment Monday, Dec 30, 2013, in Casselton, N.D. Several explosions were reported as some cars on the mile-long train caught fire.
Bruce Crummy/AP

Transportation of shale oil by rail has increased in tandem with ramped up U.S. production. This year, railway explosions have exposed safety issues within this practice.

Journalist Marcus Stern has been following the changes to the regulations closely for his investigation titled "Boom: North America's Explosive Oil-By-Rail Problem."

From their project:

Idling oil trains are still left unattended in highly populated areas. The effort to draft new safety regulations has been bogged down in disputes between the railroads and the oil industry over who will bear the brunt of the costs. The oil industry is balking at some of the tanker upgrades, and the railroads are lobbying against further speed restrictions...

We found that regulators don't have the resources to catch up with--let alone, get ahead of--the risks posed by exploding oil trains. That has left the FRA politically outgunned by the railroad industry, leaving it largely to police itself.

Stern joins The Daily Circuit to talk about what he found during his investigation.

His article is part of a project supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the George Polk Award program at Long Island University, the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Society of Environmental Journalists' Fund for Environmental Journalism. It was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

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