Crude Oil

Railway Whistleblowers
7:43 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Workers Question Safety Culture Of Railroad Hauling Volatile Crude Oil

BNSF Railway, the second-largest freight network in the U.S., is at the center of the boom in crude by rail. The railroad touts its commitment to safety. Current and former workers question the safety culture on the ground.
Credit Michael Werner / EarthFix

Crude oil shipments by rail increased by more than 80 percent, nationally, last year.

Most of it is coming from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That crude is more flammable than other types of oil, and has been shown to catch fire and explode when trains derail.

More than 15 trains of Bakken oil move through some parts of the Northwest each week, en route to refineries and terminals in Washington and Oregon.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway transports the majority of that oil.

The company regularly touts its commitment to safety.

But an EarthFix investigation reveals some troubling patterns in the way BNSF Railway deals with whistleblowers – particularly those who voice concerns about safety.

Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix. EarthFix’s Tony Schick contributed to the reporting for this story.

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Oil Train Regulation
4:58 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

BNSF Won’t Stop Release Of Oil Train Info By Seeking Injunction

Today is the deadline for railroads to try to stop Washington state from sharing oil train delivery information with the public.
Credit Raymond D. Woods Jr. / Flickr

The federal Department of Transportation has required railroads to notify states when they're shipping more than 1 million gallons of North Dakota crude oil by rail.

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Oil Train Regulation
4:45 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Despite Confidentiality Concerns, BNSF Will Report Oil Shipments To States

A BNSF locomotive pulling a shipment of crude oil.
Credit Raymond D. Woods Jr. / Flickr

BNSF Railway said it will comply with a Saturday federal deadline to provide states with information about the frequency and routes of oil trains from North Dakota and Montana.

The railroad made that announcement Friday even though Washington, Oregon and Idaho have balked at signing confidentiality agreements about the crude oil shipments.

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Oil Trains
6:49 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Crude Oil Train Oversight Divides Washington Legislature

File photo of a BNSF train from March 16, 2013.
Raymond D. Woods Jr. Flickr

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 9:50 pm

In Olympia, state lawmakers are going down divergent tracks in how to respond to the rapid increase of crude oil trains crossing the region.

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NW Oil Spill Response
6:14 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Inland NW Needs More Spill Response Capacity For Oil Trains

Environmental regulators heard from BNSF Railway that mile-long crude oil trains from North Dakota could cross the Northwest around five times a day in coming years.
Credit Russ Allison Loar

The rapid rise in crude oil shipping by rail means Northwest states need to bulk up their oil spill response capacity. That's according to members of a task force of Pacific states and British Columbia which met in Seattle Wednesday.

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Crude Oil Terminal
5:51 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Planned Crude-by-Rail Terminal In Tacoma Scrapped

Walter Siegmund Wikimedia

Originally published on Fri September 6, 2013 5:00 pm

A fuel terminal developer has unexpectedly scrapped a project at the Port of Tacoma that was intended to receive crude oil by rail.

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Cleaning Oil from Trains
9:04 am
Thu May 9, 2013

How To Clean Up A Crude Oil Spill From Trains

Pacific Northwest refineries have been getting their crude oil for years from tankers and pipelines. Last September, trains began shipping crude oil into the region by rail. EarthFix reporter Courtney Flatt explains what that means for emergency crews.

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Crude Oil Exports
6:33 am
Thu January 31, 2013

Northwest On Verge Of Becoming Pacific Crude Oil Gateway

Westway Terminals VP Robbie Johnson and regional manager Ken Shoemake discuss the proposed expansion of this Aberdeen facility to receive crude oil by rail and transfer it to oil tankers or barges.
Credit Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The Northwest is on the verge of becoming a gateway for crude oil. Three different developers have plans to use docks on Grays Harbor, Washington to transfer crude oil from trains to ships. Other projects are getting off the ground in Tacoma, Vancouver, BC and on the lower Columbia River. There was a huge turnout Wednesday night at an introductory public workshop in Aberdeen, Washington. Correspondent Tom Banse reports the response indicates crude-by-rail may be the region’s next big environmental controversy.

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