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ForestEthics: West Coast Of U.S. Faces Onslaught Of New Proposals To Transport Toxic And Dangerous Oil By Rail

Environmental Advocates, ForestEthics Successfully Petition To Extend U.S. Dept. of Transportation's Comment Period On Dangerous Tank Cars

BELLINGHAM, Wash., Nov. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Friday's derailment and explosion of yet another oil train, this time in Alabama, highlights the extreme and all-but-unknown risks associated with shipping crude oil by rail, warn environmental advocates with ForestEthics, who are campaigning around the issue. The safety standards for railcars filled with oil are outdated, and the type of new and unconventional crude oil that they're carrying is prone to volatility, along with being difficult, if not impossible, to clean up. Until recently, shipping crude oil by rail was relatively uncommon; now, it is growing exponentially with more than 30 new oil-by-rail plans proposed across the country.

Washington, California, Texas, and the Northeast face an exponential increase in the number of proposals to ship oil by railcar, including the type of oil that exploded in July of this year killing 47 people during a derailment in Lac-Megantic, Canada. Washington State, which currently has two oil-by-rail terminals, has seen eight new proposals over the last year, with San Francisco and Los Angeles seeing another seven combined. The Washington proposals for new oil-by-rail terminals would have a total capacity roughly equal to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Nationally, over 30 new proposals are in the works.

"With declining domestic demand for oil, Canadian and US oil companies are desperate to get the land-locked oil and tar sands in the middle of our continent out to new markets in Asia and beyond," said Todd Paglia, Executive Director of ForestEthics. "The pipelines, tankers, and oil-by-rail proposals resulting from this new oil boom could forever change the face of rail communities around the country, yet the public knows little to nothing about them. We need time to understand these issues and have our voices heard before any plans are approved."

The boom of crude by rail proposals coincides with a long-overdue update of federal rules on rail car construction, with the US Department of Transportation inviting public comment on safety standards for railroad tank cars used to transport oil, tar sands, and other volatile substances. Railcars carrying oil today are often outdated and prone to punctures and explosions during accidents.

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