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Damage from the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, oil-train derailment last July, which killed 47 people and destroyed 30 major buildings in the town center, has been variously estimated, with some analysts putting the figure at $2.5 billion or more. But the railroad company hauling the oil in that train only carried $25 million in insurance coverage. It went bankrupt.

Most railroad insurance policies don't come close to covering the potential damages of a major oil-train accident and, if adopted in its current form, a newly proposed U.S. Department of Transportation rule governing the carrying of crude oil by rail won't include any help on that score.

Kathryn A. Wolfe reports:

Those conclusions come from a DOT analysis of its own rule proposed to address the series of troubling derailments across North America as shipments of oil by rail surge.

The department issued the analysis Aug. 1, the same day it published its proposed oil train safety rule that is meant to create what Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx calls a “New World Order” in oil trains regulations, including by requiring sturdier tank cars, tightened speed limits and improved brakes for the trains carrying an ever-greater amount of crude oil through communities from Southern California to Albany, N.Y. [...]

DOT’s analysis says most of the largest railroads commonly carry around $25 million in insurance, though that can rise to as much as $50 million for trains hauling certain kinds of hazardous chemicals. Smaller railroads—such as the one in the Lac-Mégantic disaster — often carry much less than that.

Even if they could, the most insurance coverage available for such accidents tops out at $1 billion per incident. So, who ultimately pays? Taxpayers.

More about this subject can be found below the fold.

DOT's new rule doesn't deal with the insurance issue, but rather proposes to make oil trains safer. This would be accomplished by requiring a two-year phase-out of older tank cars, better brakes and slower speeds, at least in densely populated areas. It also proposes a testing and evaluation regime of all mined gases and liquids.

The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic was carrying crude oil from wells in the Bakken formation in North Dakota. Some experts say crude oil from that formation contains a higher quantity of volatile components than traditional crude. Consequently, it is more likely than conventional crude to explode if it comes into contact with a flame or even a spark. But other experts, such as this industry group and these private consultants, disagree. The crude oil carried by the Lac-Mégantic train was classified in the least dangerous category once it was loaded onto the train. Canada's Transportation Safety Board later said that classification was in error.

Before the oil was loaded, court documents in a class-action suit show that several companies had categorized that oil as "unusually volatile." Part of the problem is that drillers do little-to-no wellhead testing for volatile components. And it appears that trucking companies don't do much testing either. As Kim Mackrael reports, this illustrates the drawback of loose regulations governing this burgeoning traffic:

A PowerPoint presentation by Irving Oil, dated one month before the accident, indicated that a source sampling program to test the crude was “almost non-existent.” However, the Transportation Safety Board said last year that information it was provided by suppliers referenced a range of different classifications, from Packing Group I (the most dangerous) to Packing Group III (the least dangerous).
Requiring standardized testing of crude at the wellhead as well as when the oil is loaded onto trucks and subsequent carriers, as well as requiring better tank cars, better braking and slower train speeds would no doubt improve the chances of avoiding the worst accidents. But, even with the best rules, accidents occur. In the long term, for the sake of the climate, eliminating oil trains should be our goal. But, for now, railroads profiting from the huge surge in oil-by-rail ought to be required to put a lot more insurance coverage on trains carrying more volatile crude.

Who should pay the extra costs of higher premiums? Should it it be oil companies paying a surcharge to the railroads? Or should coverage be totally up to the railroads? You can be pretty certain what the American Petroleum Institute has to say on the matter given its demonstrated interest in the new DOT rule.

Whatever the case, it should not be taxpayers who get stuck with the bill when these inevitable accidents occur.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:29 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Slightly O/T - (12+ / 0-)

    What I'd dearly love to see is a massive effort to update our nation's rail infrastructure. I wonder if I'll live long enough.

    Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

    by VirginiaJeff on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:36:15 AM PDT

    •  Railroads are privately owned . (4+ / 0-)

      There are improvements being made all the time .

      "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

      by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:41:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Railroads are still benefiting from the... (28+ / 0-)

        ...gifts the taxpayers gave them when they were first built and when they were upgraded in World War I after decades of neglect.

        What's needed now is mandated green-sourced electrification, upgraded better roadbeds to handle higher speeds and projects like the Steel Interstate. That will require significant government effort with a payback (unlike the giveaways of the 1850s-1870s).

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:48:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And of course, they are for-profit entities. So (24+ / 0-)

          wherever they can cut costs - like pesky safety and staffing issues - they will pursue with zeal.

          Leading to more accidents that 1) no one could have foreseen and 2) public tax-payers get to eventually pay to clean up.

          Certainly, requiring them to carry more liability insurance for their profit-generating activity would be a great first step.

          "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition /= GTFO" Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon + JVolvo

          by JVolvo on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:55:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That picture says it all... (14+ / 0-)

            ...you're looking at the tail end of a train, where a caboose used to be. Now, it's a flashing rear-end device (FRED).

            Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

            by JeffW on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:09:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Awesome! Thanks for that link! (nt) (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rashaverak, hbk

            Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

            by VirginiaJeff on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:15:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  (Oops. Meant to attach to comment further up.) nt (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rashaverak, hbk, Just Bob

            Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

            by VirginiaJeff on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:18:16 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  That's not really true . (0+ / 0-)
            And of course, they are for-profit entities. So
            wherever they can cut costs - like pesky safety and staffing issues - they will pursue with zeal.

            https://www.aar.org/...

            POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL

            PTC: Advanced Rail Safety Technology

            Positive train control (PTC) is advanced technology designed to automatically stop or slow a train before certain accidents occur. In particular, PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed and unauthorized movement of trains onto sections of track where repairs are being made or as a result of a misaligned track switch.

            "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

            by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:38:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Behind schedule - 2015 goal will not be met (7+ / 0-)

              The article was a nice bit of industry "yay us" till you follow the link to the progress chart and read the last paragraph.

              Only half the locomotives have been fully OR PARTIALLY equipped with PTC (and what does that even mean?).  Only 1/3 of the wayside units and antennas deployed, 1/5 of the radio units.  And they won't meet the 2015 deadline for full deployment - don't give an estimate for when they will have PTC fully functioning.

              Not actually that comforting since the trains are rolling now.

              •  And then there are the DOT-111 tanker cars... (7+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                hbk, JeffW, JVolvo, Eric Nelson, BYw, Rashaverak, jbsoul

                ...still on the lines. Not safe. Tens of thousands of them. The proposal is to replace them. But that will take a long time. Meanwhile, the unsafe ones will continuing rolling.

                Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:58:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Canada (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BYw, Rashaverak

                  has started to phase out the old style tankers.  The worst are or will be gone from their rails shortly.  Then over the next 2-3 years the next poorest will be banned.  So what does this mean for the U.S.?  If we don't update our regs, the RRs will send their stock of newer tankers to the north and all the crap tankers no longer legal in Canada will all end up on U.S. rails.

                  •  Most tank cars are not the railroad's property. (0+ / 0-)

                    The railroads generally don't own most, if not all, of the tank cars used in the oil trade. There are very large leasing companies that buy, maintain, and lease those oil cars to the shippers who load them. The railroads are essentially providing the crews, locomotives, and the right of way (infrastructure) to move the oil.

                    All of the freight car building companies are going flat out right now, building all types of new freight cars for their customers, not just new tank cars. Freight cars have been ordered in terms of 1000's of cars of one type for just one customer, and the builders all have multiple orders stacked up. This is true for US, Canadian, and Mexican builders.

                    Everyone wants the old tank cars to go away, and I'm all for that, no question. But the car building industry doesn't have the capacity to change the situation over night, nor could taking all the 111's off the rails immediately fix much. Canada can do it because their captive fleets are considerably smaller than the ones used here in the US. We two nations really share the entire fleet of all freight cars for North America, with most cars able to go to and fro across the border in their lifetimes more than a few times. We do share this fleet with Mexico to a degree, but it is much smaller than the US/CAN pool.

                    Oil trains are a massive problem with no quick and easy fix. Like heroin, we simply need to kick oil.

                    And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

                    by itzadryheat on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 08:22:15 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  They are doing improvements . (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Rashaverak

                Its not a case of them not doing improvements .

                And of course, they are for-profit entities. So
                wherever they can cut costs - like pesky safety and staffing issues - they will pursue with zeal.
                vs
                Behind schedule

                "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:59:35 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Not sure I agree with you, MB. (4+ / 0-)

          It's hard for me to understand why we treat rail infrastructure so differently from other forms of infrastructure.  Yes, rail companies are (mostly) privately owned, and they also own their tracks and rail beds.  This accident of history has led us to demand that railroads pay for the maintenance and upgrading of that infrastructure.

          In contrast, trucking companies do not pay for highway upkeep, airlines don't pay for airports, and carriers of waterborne freight don't pay for seaports.  (Obviously, they do pay something, usually through user fees.)  The vast bulk of the cost of that infrastructure is borne by the taxpayers.  Rail is the only transportation mode responsible for maintaining the infrastructure it uses to move passengers and freight.

          I think we'd do far better if we recognized that railways, like highways, are simply public services.  Passenger rail in particular may not be able to turn a profit if it has to pay the costs of upkeep of tracks and rail beds.  In my opinion, transportation infrastructure needs to be largely a public responsibility.

          "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

          by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:59:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  we missed the opportunity in the 70's (7+ / 0-)

            when PennRail was going bankrupt to
            have the railroads taken over, make the rail ROW's public again,  and then the feds own the trackage, and rent rail time.

            Then you get a standard signalling system, standard
            for usage, standard rates and the railroads just own their
            rolling stock and yards.

            •  The railroads have REALLY performed (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak, VirginiaJeff

              well since that 70s.   The government did the right thing by privatizing them.   They're now essentially a super-oligopoly that pounds the trucking industry to and fro.   While I'm not normally a fan of near monopolies, the presence of a transportation competitor to highway trucks is worth the market distortion.  

              Government ownership would just give 'pubs reasons to starve them of resources, so everything would be worse.

              I love Amtrak.  They need about 30 billion in maintenance money.  Good luck finding that!!

              From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

              by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:21:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  sorry a monopoly is still bad. (0+ / 0-)

                it would have been better to create an open rail system,
                and let the freight railroads bid for rail time every year,
                and build their own yards and rolling stock.

                treat the rail lines like interstates, and have the states
                maintain them but the feds pay the bulk of the construction.

            •  They did take them over. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak, VirginiaJeff, Just Bob

              The Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 basically amounted to a huge bankruptcy proceeding for the northeastern and midwestern passenger and freight carriers.  The federal government paid billions for the liquidated railroads' "rail properties," and then transferred the freight lines to Conrail and the passenger lines to Amtrak.  (N.B.: This is a gross oversimplification of the process.)

              But yeah, Congress didn't take over ownership of the actual trackage and rail beds, so now the railroads are stuck trying to maintain them.  Those costs are one of the reasons Amtrak is unable to turn a profit.  If it didn't have to pay for upkeep, it'd have a lot more money.

              "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

              by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:23:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I don't disagree with the theory. But ... (6+ / 0-)

            ...what we're talking about here is nationalizing the railroads (or at least the rails themselves if not the rolling stock). That happened temporarily in World War I and World War II, and briefly again in the Korean War. And the screams then, when more people favored it, were gigantic.

            How we can we make that happen?

            Don't get me wrong. I would love to see it.

            Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

            by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:53:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I only mean the rails and beds. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak

              I also don't think you'd necessarily need to place them into government ownership.  What you would have to do, though, is get the government to agree to pay a share of their upkeep.  It does this now (albeit in inadequate fashion) with Amtrak.

              As you point out, however, this is probably a politically impossible task.  People don't think of rail in the same way they think of other transportation infrastructure.  (It's kind of like the way Americans happily pay taxes to keep pouring asphalt but insist that public transit pay for itself.)  

              In general, we need to work on getting people to accept the idea that publicly operated services can be a good thing.  It's admittedly very tough our current "government-can-do-no-right" political environment.

              "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

              by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:57:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Trucking companies, along with every single person (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hbk, JeffW, Rashaverak

            who buys gasoline or diesel fuel DO "pay for highway upkeep".

            There are both Federal and State Motor Fuel taxes on every gallon sold, and those tax dollars fund the Federal Highway Bills which expand and maintain the Federal Interstate Highway system.

            They also help fund roads projects in the various states.

            Large (commercial) trucks alone pay an additional 3.5 cents gas tax, per gallon.

            "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

            by Angie in WA State on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:54:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  As I said, they pay something. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak

              But the vast bulk of the money comes from the ordinary taxpayer.  Moreover, the highways themselves are public property and their maintenance is the responsibility of the federal government.

              "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

              by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:50:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Fuel excise taxes pay only about (0+ / 0-)

              1/3rd of direct road costs in the U.S.  In most states highway fuel is exempt from or incurs reduced levels of sales tax, meaning it is actually subsidized rather than paying its way.  Heavy trucks cause the majority of road damage by traffic.  

              Federal fuel taxes haven't been raised since 1993, are not indexed for inflation, and are about 1/3rd what they were per mile driven in 1960.

              Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

              by benamery21 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:58:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  You want to electrify all the railroad system (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          satrap

          in the USA ?
          You want to make to make what % of the overall rail in the USA high speed ?

          Railroads are still benefiting from the...
          ...gifts the taxpayers gave them when they were first built and when they were upgraded in World War I after decades of neglect.
          How so ? If you or I buy a railroad that is down / beat up , today and try to fix it up , make it pay , how would we be benefiting from something that happened so very long ago ?

          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

          by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:19:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, it's just impossible to try to (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            indycam

            Europeanize our rail system at this point.  By that I mean electrify it.  It would be good, but the VAST size of our network makes diesel the only option.

            We're ok.

            From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

            by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:23:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  How are they benefiting? Free right of way... (7+ / 0-)

            ...provided by the federal government.

            In addition, the land that went with that. When Union Pacific Corporation spun off into rail and non-rail operations in the late 1990s, it owned 7.5 million acres of land in Western states that had been part of the giveaway in the 19th Century. From these it continues to make money from natural resources, including vast reserves of coal, oil, gas (and uranium).

            When the 10-mile-long Alameda Corridor to connect the ports to the rail hub near downtown Los Angeles in the late '90s, the right-of-way that had been given by government to Southern Pacific was sold to the Alameda Corridor Project for $235 million.

            Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

            by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:47:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  So all the railroads got free right of ways /land (0+ / 0-)

              or just some ?
              Once again , if you or I buy a railroad today , how are we benefiting from something done so long ago ?
              50 miles of track , connecting not much to not much .
              We are not buying a major railroad .
              Do you think the selling price is going to reflect that someone got it for less or for free long long ago ?

              http://news.google.com/...

              http://www.railwayage.com/...

              DeVries not only runs a railroad —he outright owns one (Rogue Valley Terminal Railroad, formerly White City Terminal Railroad), putting him in the rarified environment of Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway investment fund outright owns BNSF. As the cliché goes, DeVries' 13-mile railroad may not be as long Buffett's BNSF, but it's just as wide in track gauge.

              "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

              by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:35:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's not a matter of buying a railroad... (3+ / 0-)

                ...My bank account wouldn't even handle an upscale "e" gauge model railroad.

                In terms of the big boys who are the ones hauling 400,000+ carloads of crude oil, almost all of it from the Bakken formation (and a little from the tar sands), their new operations are still benefiting from the giveaways. Otherwise, they wouldn't own their own rights-of-way now. The two biggest chose to spin off their coal, gas, oil, uranium, gold, timber rights on millions of acres of land GIVEN to them by the taxpayers into subsidiaries with overlapping boards of directors in the '90s.

                Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:01:55 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Are you going to make two or more sets of rules ? (0+ / 0-)

                  Some for the big and some for the small ?

                  Some or a few , Railroads are still benefiting from the...
                  ...gifts the taxpayers gave them when they were first built and when they were upgraded in World War I after decades of neglect.
                  Lets not lump them in altogether .

                  "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                  by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:15:28 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Any railroad, big or small, that carries... (3+ / 0-)

                    ...highly volatile liquids ought to do so safely, don't you agree? Having adequate insurance to cover accidents, good safety equipment and good rules of the road should apply to them all. Right now, they don't.

                    As for the benefits, I think I've made my points on that subject. It was an aside based on your comment that privately owned railroads are always making improvements. Yes. But many of those are mandated and deadlines for those are often missed.

                    I don't agree that the entire U.S. rail system can't be electrified. It can't be done tomorrow, to be sure. But it can be done, starting with the nation's seven Class I railroads.  

                    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                    by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:33:33 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Always ? (0+ / 0-)
                      your comment that privately owned railroads are always making improvements.
                      There are improvements being made all the time .
                      If you change the word slightly you change the meaning slightly.

                      All the time railroads are fixing and upgrading .
                      They are not always fixing and upgrading .

                      But it can be done,
                      You might run some people out of business , people who own small railroads . The freight they haul may go by truck in the future , and that would be a backward step .
                      Any railroad, big or small, that carries...
                      ...highly volatile liquids ought to do so safely, don't you agree?
                      I accept that there will be accidents , with railroads , trucks and pipelines . I hope to reduce them as much as possible within reason .

                      http://freightrailworks.org/...
                      95,264 miles of class 1 .
                      If you don't do them all at one go you will have a mixed fleet ?

                      "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                      by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:11:13 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I am not going to get into a semantics... (3+ / 0-)

                        ...discussion with you about the supposedly slight difference in meaning between "all the time" and "always." If your point is that they are they aren't continuously engaged in this practice but only continually, fine, I'll accept that.

                        Yes. Accidents occur. That is what insurance is for. If your argument is that the taxpayers should pick up the the tab when there is no insurance or inadequate insurance by a private, profit-making operation, then what should taxpayers get in return? We don't allow even poor people (in my state) to drive without car insurance. Why should we let railroads do so?

                        We had a mixed fleet of locomotives in this country until the mid-1960s. If you're saying we permanently must have diesel locomotives, you and I just don't agree.

                        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                        by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:36:19 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  "If your argument is" (0+ / 0-)

                          That is not what I said or meant .

                          I made a comment to you ,
                          http://www.dailykos.com/...

                          The oil companies , the railroaders and the insurance people should get together and work out the oil train insurance problem , but I doubt they will unless forced .
                          If you're saying we permanently must have diesel locomotives, you and I just don't agree.
                          I accept that there will be diesel powered locomotives , boats , cars , trucks and airplanes for a great deal longer .
                          "fake" diesel from renewable sources ...

                          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                          by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:56:38 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  ... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Rashaverak

                          http://www.railway-technology.com/...

                          The rail industry looks set to invest heavily in natural gas as a next-generation locomotive fuel, but is that short-sighted? According to hydrail advocate Stan Thompson, investing in a system that is also compatible with hydrogen is a better and more responsible investment in the long-term.

                          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                          by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 05:02:23 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  An example (0+ / 0-)

                          http://www.ncbr.com/...

                          Union Pacific plans safety improvements after oil spills

                          LOVELAND - Union Pacific Railroad (NYSE: UNP) has taken steps to improve railroad safety, chief executive Jack Koraleski said Wednesday, as concerns mount over crude oil spills from rail cars.

                          Koraleski made the comments in an interview with BizWest during his visit to Colorado on Wednesday. The company said this week that it is investing $11 million in the next few months in rail line improvements in Colorado and Wyoming. Funded by Union Pacific without taxpayer dollars, the project began July 9 and will be completed by mid-December.

                          Union Pacific will replace 43,300 railroad ties and install 12,800 tons of rock ballast on its lines. Crews also will renew surfaces at 43 railroad crossings. The effort is one of multiple projects that Union Pacific plans to complete this year to improve safety and operating efficiency as well as reduce motorist wait times at crossings.

                          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                          by indycam on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 08:57:15 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                •  "e" gauge? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  itzadryheat

                  Not familiar with that one.

                  Google suggests this may be O-Scale (or 0).

                  I assume that you are not referring to these.

                  Me, I favor three-rail H0 (Maerklin).

                  N Scale gives you more bang for the buck, space-wise, if your eyesight can deal with smaller trains.

            •  Check this one . (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BYw, Rashaverak

              http://globegazette.com/...

              Union Pacific intended to abandon the line.

              The purchase means businesses along the line will have more access to rail shipping and farmers will have access to more agriculture markets, representatives of the project said.

              The FCED and two other economic development organizations formed North Central Iowa Rail Corridor LLC to buy the line.

              The LLC also signed a 10-year lease-to-own agreement with Iowa Northern Railway to operate the rail line. Iowa Northern and the rail group have an agreement with Canadian Pacific to access that company’s east and west lines.

              Dan Sabin of Iowa Northern said trains should starting running at the end of the month.

              The Union Pacific was reluctant to operate trains with fewer than 100 cars,  which made it difficult for businesses along the 28 miles of track to use it, project representatives said.

              Iowa Northern operates smaller trains, including some with five or 10 cars, Bilyeu said.

              "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

              by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:00:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, the new line didn't benefit from... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Rashaverak

                ...giveaways except for the right of way. Before that, Union Pacific had stripped off its free land (and the mineral resources that accompanied it) into Union Pacific Corp., the parent company, leaving the Union Pacific Railroad able to sell lines it wants to abandon without giving up the land. But UPR remains the principal operating company of UPC. Slick trick.

                Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:32:19 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  A lot of people know we gave land to the railroads (0+ / 0-)

              Most don't realize it amounted to more than 10% of the area of the lower 48.  It wasn't just ROW, it included land up to 40 miles on either side of the tracks to sell to help finance construction.

              In total 180 million acres was given away in this manner, and extensive fixed interest federal loans were also provided.

              Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

              by benamery21 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 10:13:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I want to electrify as much of the railroad system (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eric Nelson

            as possible.

            Just look at what happened to the Milwaukee Road.

            The track bed was, in many cases, beginning to fail, and car shortages brought on by financing schemes scared off some of the new business. The line wanted to improve its books and looked at some of the assets it had, including a copper wire running for 656 miles. It was worth about $10m. The railroad could finance diesel engines, sell off the copper, and come away, in the short term, with their balance sheets in good shape. Oil was cheap in 1971, so the operational efficiencies of electrics were not dramatic, especially since the old parts for the motors were becoming harder to find. Of course, for the same $39m it cost to finance these diesels, the remaining gap could have been electrified and the diesels there transferred east. This would have been far better in the long run, but less so in the very short term.

            This decision was justified by saying that the infrastructure had passed the end of its useful lifespan, although this was, generally, not the case. The supporting poles were wearing out. The caternary wasn't, and the engines had plenty of life left (electric motors tend to last a very long time). The power sources needed some updating, but with mostly-free hydroelectricity, they could provide power for time to come. The track was in worsening shape, but that had nothing to do with the energy source for the trains operating. The Milwaukee was a bit desperate but more shortsighted and narrow-minded, and chose to abandon the electrification.

            The timing could not have been worse. Copper prices dropped, and the railroad only received $5m from the scrap. At the same time, oil prices quadrupled, and suddenly electricity would have been significantly cheaper. The track condition hobbled the line more, and travel times slowed considerably. By 1977, the line filed for bankruptcy, and asked the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the line. They did so in 1980.

            Had the chips fallen slightly differently (had there been slightly more foresight in the management) the Milwaukee could have linked its electrification in to a nearly 900-mile long system from Seattle to Montana. With slightly better maintenance, the line could have thrived during the oil crises, with dramatic operational advantages based on electricity, and may have considered spreading the wire east. But they didn't and instead the railroad is now abandoned, the only transcontinental line to be completely abandoned in the history of American railroads. Since then, oil prices decreased significantly, and no one has built a significant electric freight line (the only major electrification has been the Northeast Corridor from New Haven to Boston, built almost exclusively for passenger use).

            Of course, diesel hit $5 a gallon last year, and may only go higher. In the 1970s, electrification would have had a four-to-ten year payback time for the Milwaukee Road. It's a long-range investment—one which might be doable with some foresight and an ownership which looks far down the road. Or track, as it may be.

            Link

            Steel Interstate

        •  Like the millions of acres the Federal Gov't ceded (4+ / 0-)

          to them for the grand gesture of building the railroad tracks across the nation, which they've made fortunes off ever since.

          "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

          by Angie in WA State on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:45:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  You're right. I kind of oversimplified (6+ / 0-)

        something that's a bit more complex.

        Original railroad infrastructure -- including commercial track -- was built by companies using direct or indirect government subsidies, through such things as public/private partnerships, federal backing of bonds, tax breaks, etc. Companies also benefited by receiving monopoly rights to certain corridors.

        Although commercial tracks are maintained by their respective companies, I don't think their have been any major technological improvements made in quite some time.

        It should be noted that Amtrak passenger trains relies on commercially owned tracks and pay fees to the railway owners.

        Thus, I think a renewed public investment in the nation's interstate rail system would be a win-win: expanding the rail network and improving the safety and effectiveness of commercial transport of freight; and doing the same for Amtrak's passenger service.

        Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

        by VirginiaJeff on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:13:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Uh no. Have you seen a railroad viaduct (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak, JeffW

        lately? They are a mess.

      •  On some railroads. (6+ / 0-)

        Others, like the Montreal, Maine, and Atlantic,, now known as the Central Maine and Quebec, are shoestring operations that use duct tape and chewing gum to keep running.  They use cast-off trackage formerly owned by bigger railways.

        Look at the degree of maintenance of the right-of-way in this photo:

        This was taken right after the Lac Mégantic disaster.  The locomotive was part of the runaway train.

        If you want to really wretch, visit the CM&Q’s home page.

        “Safe. Reliable. Secure."

        •  I'm not so certain that picture (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak

          you're showing is part of the trains 'main line track'.  You could be looking at a photo of a little used part of track used for parking trains, etc.

          The MMandQ main line was well maintained.  It really wasn't lack of maintenance that led to the accident.  It was a series of Three-Mile-Island-like rare events that combined to lead to epic disaster.

          From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

          by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:14:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The photo was taken on the line through L-M. (3+ / 0-)

            See:

            Here.

            Investigators and police officers (SQ and RCMP) on train tracks in Lac-Mégantic where a series of locomotives came to a stop after some of their cargo, oil tanker cars derailed Saturday in downtown Lac-Mégantic. A fire and explosions followed causing many deaths and loss of property.
            Link.

            As to MMA maintenance practices…

            MMA's service and business practices had been subject to ongoing complaints from Fraser Papers Inc. and its successor Twin Rivers Paper Co. about missed pickup and delivery deadlines as well as poor track maintenance.
            2012 Sainte-Rosalie abandonment
            MMA suspended freight service on July 16, 2012 over the Ste Rosalie Subdivision without prior notice to its customers. This 38 kilometres (24 mi) rail line connecting the MMA main line at Farnham, Quebec north to Sainte-Rosalie in the Montérégie region of Québec was inspected in May 2012 by Transport Canada and was deemed to be non-compliant with recently updated "Rules Respecting Track Safety"[32] implemented by Transport Canada. The non-compliance was due to ongoing cost-cutting by MMA which resulted in deferred maintenance to the track between 2002 and 2012. MMA claimed the new "Rules Respecting Track Safety" was a force majeure and sufficient reason to terminate train operations[33] without first complying with Section 140 of the Canada Transportation Act[34] detailing requirements for "Transferring and Discontinuing the Operation of Railway Lines". The CTA legislation states that railway companies must give one year advance notice.[35]

            Two local clients affected by MMA's suspension of service, F. Ménard Inc. and Meunerie Côté-Paquet, have since initiated lawsuits against the railway.

            In 2013 MMA attempted to abandon the right of way and sell it to local municipalities. Because of the poor condition of the tracks on this section, if the sale were successful, the rails would likely be removed and the property converted to a rail trail.[36]

            (I realize the selection immediately above relates to the Ste.-Rosalie spur, but still.)
            Burkhardt refused to publicly disclose the amount of liability insurance[47] but acknowledged in mid-July “Whether we can survive is a complex question. We’re trying to analyze that right now.”[48] Questions were also raised about the condition of the line; on July 11 a Magog newspaper reported one in ten railroad ties to be rotten with many spikes loose enough to be removed by hand.[49]
            On September 12, Transport Canada shut down part of the MMA line[75] after an inspection of six track segments found substandard rail conditions which included a concentration of defective ties on a section near a propane storage facility.
            On December 18, 2013, the rail line from Sherbrooke was reopened through Lac-Mégantic with numerous restrictions, such as a prohibition on transport of dangerous cargo; a train's manifest being released no less than four hours ahead; no parking on tracks within 4 km (2 mi) of the town centre; a conductor and engineer must both be on board; and a train's speed must not exceed 16 km/h (10 mph).
            Link

            10 mph!

    •  For example (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VirginiaJeff, satrap, Rashaverak

      new engines that pollute less are hauling those coal and oil trains .

      "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

      by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:48:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Truish. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak, patbahn, VirginiaJeff

        The diesel trains were the first to develop hybrid technology. But they still spew a nasty cloud of exhaust - just hang out at a railyard for an hour and you won't want to eat for a few hours.

        •  Do you see the humor ? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak, VirginiaJeff

          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

          by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:08:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The new diesel tier 4 engines (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak, VirginiaJeff

          do not "spew" .

          https://www.dieselnet.com/...

          Tier 4 Standards. On May 11, 2004, EPA signed the final rule introducing Tier 4 emission standards, which are phased-in over the period of 2008-2015 [2786]. The Tier 4 standards require that emissions of PM and NOx be further reduced by about 90%. Such emission reductions can be achieved through the use of control technologies—including advanced exhaust gas aftertreatment—similar to those required by the 2007-2010 standards for highway engines.
          The joke is hooking up a new tier 4 clean motor to a trail full of coal or oil .

          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

          by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:29:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well the railroads need to replace the spewers. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rashaverak
          •  But tier 4 is relatively new. (0+ / 0-)

            I do not think that tier 4 applies to locomotive engines built prior to the enactment.  I think that those are grandfathered.  Or am I wrong about that?

              •  The way that I read that, rebuilds are subject to (0+ / 0-)

                some limits, but limits not as strict as Tier 4.

              •  Correct about rebuilding. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Rashaverak

                If the engine exists now (the Diesel engine within the locomotive that is), it is grandfathered for essentially the rest of it's life at the level (Tier 1, 2, 3) at which it was built.

                So, a Tier 3 loco built now could have a lifespan measured in decades, and it could still be hauling freight in 40 years as is.

                However, I will admit I am not up to full speed on what the manufacturers are actually doing at this moment. Both EMD and GE are road testing Tier 4 units now, and have tried Tier 3.5's as well. They have been actively researching new Diesel technologies for several years to be able to meet Tier 4 for all time, and, I believe (but do not know conclusively) that that research could be applied retroactively to existing Tier 2 and Tier 3 locos as those engines require rebuilding. It's already been tried, but not as economically or as simply as anyone would like, so the research and engineering continue. The rebuilds will probably never quite meet Tier 4 spec without real breakthroughs, but they will be way cleaner than they were originally. If a fix that costs $200,000 can be applied to make the loco better, that sure beats spending a million plus on a new one.

                New, smaller companies are already successfully re-building existing locomotives with Tier 4 engines from MTU and Caterpillar.

                As big a Diesel fan that I am, I would love to see electrics come back in a big way, perhaps on the denser corridors other than the Northeast. The planned expansion and electric upgrade to the Peninsula commuter system in the Bay Area is a great first step, as well as any new High Speed Rail.

                And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

                by itzadryheat on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 08:53:08 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Irony. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak

        "Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense." - Rupert Giles

        by CelticOm on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:42:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Oil by rail up more than 900% (9+ / 0-)

    From The Globe and Mail (Canada):

    New National Energy Board figures show that oil-by-rail exports have risen more than 900 per cent in less than two years, but that’s still far behind what’s moving by pipeline – and by what the stalled Keystone XL alone aims to carry.

    The Canadian energy regulator’s numbers, released Monday, show that more than 146,000 barrels a day were exported on trains to the United States in the past three months of 2013, compared with just under 16,000 in the first three months of 2012.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/...

    Is it a ploy to create more accidents, thereby making the argument in support of the KXL pipeline? That would be my guess.

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:45:12 AM PDT

  •  I think you might mean burn . (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Rashaverak, doingbusinessas
    Consequently, it is more likely than conventional crude to explode if it comes into contact with a flame or even a spark.

    The oil companies , the railroaders and the insurance people should get together and work out the oil train insurance problem , but I doubt they will unless forced .

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:00:02 PM PDT

    •  And we came close the other day in Seattle (3+ / 0-)

      When we had a several oil cars jump track in the Magnolia section of Seattle under the Magnolia Bridge.  The track was damaged, two of the cars were just uprighted on to the track, the third was leaning over and had to have new wheels/pivots (I have no idea what they are called) put under the car to send it on it's way to the Anacordes refinery.

      "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

      by doingbusinessas on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:26:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The tank cars in the Lac-Mégantic derailment... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak

      ...exploded and the subsequent fire burned for two days.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:05:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The difference between Burning and Exploding (0+ / 0-)

        http://www.physicsforums.com/...

        The difference between burning (deflagration) and explosion (detonation) has to do with the reaction rate, or rate of energy release, and whether the combustion reaction occurs subsonically or supersonically.
        Another difference between burning and exploding is that burning uses the oxygen in the air as the oxidant, while explosives contain their own oxidant.
        Consequently, it is more likely than conventional crude to explode if it comes into contact with a flame or even a spark.
        If you took a gallon bucket with no lid and filled it with this "crude" then lit it on fire , it would burn . It would burn till there was no more to burn , it might take an hour .
        To get it to explode as in a diesel motor , takes more than just "a flame or even a spark."

        "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

        by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 05:37:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  An explosion of that bucket full of crude (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak

          would mean that the flame front would travel down from the surface at an incredible speed and the whole bucket would go off within a blink .

          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

          by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 05:44:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not all of the tank cars at L-M exploded, (0+ / 0-)

            but there definitely was an explosion, and a prolonged burning of spilled crude oil.


            •  The comment was (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak
              Consequently, it is more likely than conventional crude to explode if it comes into contact with a flame or even a spark.
              What you see in the video is the oil burning .
              The oil is able to burn well when it comes into contact with a flame or even a spark . It is much more like gasoline than diesel .

              "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

              by indycam on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 08:47:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Actually, there were a couple of explosions (0+ / 0-)

                if one watches the entire clip.  Initially, there was speculation that one or more propane-laden tank cars on a siding near the point of derailment had exploded.  Someone had seen a couple of propane cars parked on the siding the day before the derailment, or earlier in the day.  I believe that propane was subsequently ruled out.

                The contents of the tank cars was probably a mix of hydrocarbons, some lighter and more volatile, others heavier and less volatile.

                Gasoline as a liquid is not really explosive.  It's possible to drop a lit match into a freshly poured bucket of gasoline, and have the flame extinguish itself.  Gasoline vapor, on the other hand, is definitely explosive.  Drop a lit match into a gasoline can that has practically no liquid gasoline but a good bit of gasoline vapor, and you will get a vigorous explosion.

                The tank cars that became engulfed in flames must have experienced a significant increase in temperature, along with their contents.  If there was any gaseous component in the tank cars (and there probably was), the pressure would have increased.  Whether the elevated pressure was enough to rupture the tank cars, at which point there likely would have been a fiery explosion, I do not know.  But there are at least two or three explosions captured on that video.

                •  Will you say that the fuel in that fire (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Rashaverak

                  did not explode ,
                  or will you say the fuel exploded ?

                  An explosion during the burning
                  doesn't make it an explosion of the fuel .

                  An air fill balloon will "explode"
                  but the air inside does not explode .

                  A tank car will "explode"
                  without the fuel inside exploding .

                   

                  "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                  by indycam on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 03:36:38 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  There were at least a couple of explosions. (0+ / 0-)

                    The combustible material that exploded may well have been fuel from tank cars that ruptured, but it might have been some other material.

                    An explosion is a sudden increase in pressure, usually as the result of a rapid and significant exothermal chemical reaction.  But not always.  A sealed vessel containing a flammable or nonflammable material can explode as the result of heating.  The heating increases the pressure of the gas within the vessel.  PV = nRT.  If the pressure exceeds the strength of the material of which the vessel is made, the vessel ruptures or explodes.  The air surrounding the vessel then experiences a rapid increase in pressure, and the resulting shock wave propagates away from the source, along a spherical wavefront.

                    If a natural-gas line develops a leak, and a significant amount of gas seeps or escapes from the line, and then a spark ignites the gas, there will be an explosion.  The natural gas does not carry its own oxidant.

                    Usually, solid materials that are used as explosives contain their own oxidants, to allow for a significant exothermic reaction in a small space and in a short amount of time.

                    A hot air balloon does not really explode, it expands.  It might expand relatively quickly, but not explosively.

                    I think that we have beaten this to death, so this will be my last post on the subject.  If you want the last word, be my guest.

  •  I shudder every time I see one of these pipelines (8+ / 0-)

    on wheels rolling by.  Even if the rail cars are beefed up & get better brakes, there are so many other things that can go wrong.  Crossing accidents, aging bridges, storm debris, heat buckled or sinkhole shifted tracks, and tons of other things.

    We are all made of star stuff, so please be kind to dust bunnies.

    by jwinIL14 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:05:06 PM PDT

  •  i'm a huge fan of railroads, so i'm biased (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak

    but shouldn't communities be responsible for some/much of this insurance????

    The railroads were there long before most of the buildings, if not all of them in many places.

    From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

    by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:47:42 PM PDT

  •  We get a lot of these trains through (7+ / 0-)

    our neighborhood. The big question I have is with the demand for all of these trains, are they propperly labeled. I ask because one seemed out of place the other day because it was marked "sulfur dioxide."

    Worth keeping track of.

    •  Look for the Hazard Placard. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak

      It should be a red diamond shape, with a red/white flame at the top of the diamond, and the black number "1267" across the middle. It will be posted on both sides of the train, towards one end or the other. Against the normal black color of a tank car, it will stand out. I guessing here, but I think they are about 10" square, perhaps a foot, but no more than that.

      That number specifically indicates crude oil, period. It does not indicate the level of volatility, the origin, or any other data point. Those issues will not be visible to the casual observer in any shape or form.

      And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

      by itzadryheat on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:04:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Railroading is like the one (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, Rashaverak, CWinebrinner

    big industry with powerful unions.  It's a very good industry for labor.

    From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

    by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:51:02 PM PDT

    •  Once were. Just like the coal unions. Now... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson

      ...they rarely win a major fight with management. Plus, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers thinks it's better than all the other railroad unions and often negotiates separately, as has been the case with LIRR. They've been operating without a contract there for four years.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:15:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No problem. They'll just get a all Street style (4+ / 0-)

    government bailout. As Homer Simpson said when covering up his car's flashing "check engine" warning with tape: "Problem solved."

  •  Conrail just spilled one tanker (5+ / 0-)

    and the cleanup cost was more than their insurance.

  •  Socialize the costs, (3+ / 0-)

    Privatize the profits.

    It's the 'murican way!

    Oh my god, it's full of cheese! - 2001 first draft

    by sizzzzlerz on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:04:09 PM PDT

  •  Maybe they'll lobby for Price-Anderson coverage (5+ / 0-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    Nuclear power plants don't have near enough insurance either. So they just made it a law that they didn't have to have enough.

  •  Socializing risk (7+ / 0-)

    This diary is yet another example of the ways in which private corporations socialize risk while keeping profits private.  The amount of insurance the rail carriers maintain is clearly inadequate to cover the potential losses stemming from an oil train accident.  After policy limits and the railroad's assets are exhausted, the individuals and governmental entities damaged are basically left holding the bag.

    As this diary points out, the damages can often vastly exceed the amount of insurance coverage.  But why should taxpayers foot this particular bill?  If the product is a dangerous one, then its owner (the oil company) should acquire insurance sufficient to cover what actuaries determine to be a reasonable estimate of the possible personal injuries and property damages that might result from an accident.

    The railroads probably don't have the money to afford the premiums for policies that would cover such huge potential losses, but there's no reason oil companies shouldn't be asked to chip in.  They certainly have far greater financial resources, and they could greatly increase the amount of insurance coverage that would be available in these circumstances.  This would protect taxpayers from having to pay for the mistakes that private for-profit entities make.

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:09:31 PM PDT

  •  figure out who owned the oil (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak, satrap, JeffW

    go after them.

    they owned a dangerous product that exploded,
    sue them.

  •  A few thoughts (7+ / 0-)

    Are the oil's owners also liable for damages from spills and releases?

    the cited amounts of rail insurance are laughably low considering the dangers of derailments.

    I doubt that the drillers aren't testing the crude. They need to know the precise components and their percentages in order to market it for a price.

    The industry journals routinely publish the contents of various crudes.  Whether the railroad gets those test results is another matter.

    In the long term, for the sake of the climate, eliminating oil trains should be our goal.
    I don't believe that eliminating oil trains will reduce climate change. Only reducing oil usage will protect the climate.

    As long as there are 254 million motor vehicles in the US, hundreds of millions of people are going to be screaming for oil products and it's going to be delivered to them one way or another.  Eliminating oil trains won't change that scene for the better.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:09:48 PM PDT

    •  Of course, you're right about reducing... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, CWinebrinner, 6412093

      ...oil usage. And that can only happen by reducing demand. When I was writing that, I was short-handing, not meaning to say that we should eliminate oil trains without doing anything about demand. Obviously, I should have been clearer.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:10:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, ok, I see what you mean. (0+ / 0-)

        Didn't mean to jump on your case.

        “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

        by 6412093 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:05:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  That was the original purpose of corporations! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    satrap, Rashaverak

    To privatize the upside, while socializing the downside by putting all risk on the fictive person (the corporation).  That fictive person would, of course, always have the ready recourse of bankruptcy, leaving government or (more likely) the victims themselves to pick up the pieces.  If companies had to carry insurance for the full value of the harm they could plausibly do, there would be no reason for corporations.  Put another way, all corporations are shell corporations.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:29:06 PM PDT

  •  One more entry in the #PrivateProfits but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak

    #PublicSubsidy nature of our American version of Capitalism.

    If only we had a News Media which found the telling of such stories as worthy as the latest pop media star and their travails.

    I often wonder what it will take to once again have an Informed Electorate in These United States. Then again, I often wonder how much longer they'll remain United...

    We're living in such an odd era, where if one merely looks around, the evidence that our society has reached it's #RomanEmpire moment has already arrived.

    We only have 2 political horses to ride and both of them now come from the same stable. One of them is a hackneyed old gelding, and fairly stable, but it's still fairly old and hasn't got a lot of energy left anymore. The other one? It's an untamed mess, with a lot of energy but no one is riding it and it's stomping and bucking around like there's a phantom on it's back. It could kill you as easy as take you from here to there...

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:44:06 PM PDT

  •  The oil industry contends there's no special risk (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, Rashaverak

    from Bakken crude:

    http://www.ogj.com/...

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:02:05 PM PDT

    •  That meshes with a previous study... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, Rashaverak

      ...done by Turner, Mason & Co. This presumably means further digging into why this particular derailment ended in an explosion and fire. It still doesn't answer why Canada's Transportation Safety Board said the train's crude oil cargo was miscategorized.

      Thanks for the link. I have added a line to the diary.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:49:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't understand either, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak, Meteor Blades

        given what the Canadian Board said.  The oil industry studies also claim the old DOT-111 tanker cars are fine, but those cars busted open and caused big fires a dozen times during the ethanol boom a few years ago, not to mention their current shoddy record.

        “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

        by 6412093 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 05:55:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  But Big Business likes it when the taxpayers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, Rashaverak

    pick up the tab, so it's likely to be us on the hook when the worst happens.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:08:44 PM PDT

  •  Not only tax payers stuck with bill with Dot 111A (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, Rashaverak

    ..bomb trains that aren't (with a link to Rachel Maddow video) up to the latest safety (pdf) requirements
    ..but overcrowding is raising the price on other commodities like grain.
    Increase in oil shipments crowds grain off the rails - July 27, 2014

    In the Northern Plains, the trouble began last winter, when many grain shippers saw freight rates skyrocket and rail cars arrive weeks late.

    “The sheer gravity, magnitude and scope of rail service disruptions now being experienced are unprecedented, and have rippled through all sectors of grain-based agriculture,” said Cargill executive Kevin Thompson on behalf of the National Grain and Feed Association in testimony to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the U.S. agency that oversees rail freight.

    Which is why these ideas  from the North American Steel Interstate coalition makes so much sense today for the future
    The Steel Interstate System (SIS) is a core national network of high capacity, grade separated, electrified railroad mainlines.  It would realize for railroads what the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System achieved for roads, and would become the backbone for movement of both goods and people in the 21st Century. Many more trains of all kinds could be accommodated and they could move much faster, providing truck-competitive speeds for movement of freight, and auto-competitive speeds for movement of passengers.
    Not just HSR, but somehow incorporating a modern national grid for future wind, solar, geo-thermal and biomass energy distribution. (With individual homeowners as energy producers as the higher priority in the infrastructure development - imo - dispersing energy sources rather than centralized)

    Thx MB - great links too

  •  Crude oil tank cars (0+ / 0-)

    For God sake build the Keystone XL pipeline.

    More dangerous than what?

    Remember King Canute?

  •  If the rail company went bankrupt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, Rashaverak

    due to the wreck, the equipment should have all been auctioned off to ameliorate the debts.

    I wonder what type of bankruptcy it was; whether a reorganization or a complete dissolution.

    Either way, you are correct; they need to carry more insurance.  

    I don't like the idea of shipping the oil via any other method though; pipelines may move more, but when they blow, they create MUCH larger spills!  When a rail line derails, there's a finite number of tanks that blow, and then that's it.
    In the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010, workers ignored the warning sirens for hours, and actually increased the pressure on the line, thinking it was a stoppage caused by an air bubble in the line, rather than a blowout.  It dumped 877,000 gallons of oil in the river.

    To the left, to the left....

    by CWinebrinner on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:10:13 PM PDT

    •  The MMA was Auctioned. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CWinebrinner
      MMA's assets were sold at auction to Railroad Acquisition Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group, LLC on January 21, 2014.[6] Fifteen locomotives worth $1.6 million were excluded from the deal and will be sold separately.[7] The sale was approved by bankruptcy judges on January 23, with the transfer of assets expected to occur on or before March 31, 2014.[8] Railroad Acquisition Holdings, LLC has established a new railroad named Central Maine and Quebec Railway (reporting mark CMQ)[9] to operate the former MMA rail lines.
      Link
    •  A dissolution, and an auction. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CWinebrinner, Rashaverak

      Some of the equipment assets were purchased by the new owners, but most are under the auctioneer's gavel right now in fact. The lead locomotive of the Lac Megantic disaster has been seized by the RCMP as evidence.

      It was already in the US, so the RCMP basically had to ask for extradition and/or seizure by the US for them. We complied.

      Thankfully, this is not a case of the new boss being the same as the old boss either, it is in fact a different corporation that already owns several smaller railroads in North America.

      And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

      by itzadryheat on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:15:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why should they (0+ / 0-)

    They know they will get away with everything.  The wealthy are only interested in profit,not people.  Safety is far from their concern as long as they live far from the danger.  Ever see a rich person living near a railroad or have one run through their property?  They built a protective shell around themselves and said "Hell with the poor and we will destroy the middle class."  

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