One of the benefits of serving as a local church pastor is that I get to work with a variety of people from many walks of life. One of the active members of my church is married to someone who drives trains (I'm not sure what his exact title is, so I won't fake it). I've shared my concerns about oil trains, especially trains carrying Bakken crude and Tar Sands oils (these oils are particularly volatile). This church member shared with me the recent edition of the Railroad Workers United newsletter, The Highball.
This edition (Winter 2016) has three significant articles on Oil Trains, two of them exploring the disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July, 2013. While train engineer Tom Harding and his Dispatcher face the possibility of life in prison because of charges relating to this disaster, "no officials at the Montreal, Maine, & Atlantic--the railroad on which the wreck took place—nor the company itself have faced criminal charges," one article notes.
Again and again, in these articles and in others, the RWU pushes the need for working conditions that increase worker and public safety and the need for better governmental oversight of the industry.
In the article on the "Crude Awakenings" conference held in Pittsburg, PA (November 13-15, 2015), Fritz Edler writes about how the railroad workers and their unions needs to work cooperatively with activists to increase train safety. The thing that the unions seem to miss (at least, based on this newsletter) is that we need to simply leave fossil fuels in the ground. Yes, oil is transported by many methods (pipeline, truck, rail, ship) and all pose dangers to the environment because of spills and explosion. And it could well be that some methods are less dangerous for some types of oils than others. But that doesn't change the fact that we need to leave over 80% of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground so we don't raise average global temperatures by more than two degrees C. The safest course of action—in the short-term and the long-term—is to stop shipping it.
You can download a copy of the newsletter by going here and clicking the link for "Highball 2016 Winter."