WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

In return for increasing U.S. energy independence, will exploding trains become the norm?

Iraq probably cements it.

More than ever, a substantial number of Americans will seek energy independence, just so we can disengage from unpleasant places -- like much of the Middle-East.

And if fracking leads to ground pollution and mini-earthquakes, so be it.

But are we prepared to accept periodic explosions of trains carrying petroleum products as the unfortunate cost of this quest for energy independence?



Posted at 8:02am on June 18, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Wed, Jun 18, 2014 8:40am
"...the trains face less onerous regulations than other ways of moving oil, including pipelines like TransCanada’s Keystone XL project.

Keystone, which would carry oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, has waited more than five years for a permit from the Obama administration while provoking a national debate about climate change. But no White House approval was needed for all the trains carrying Canadian oil into the United States. In fact, freight railroads in the U.S. are considered “common carriers” for hazardous materials, meaning they can’t refuse to ship it as long as it meets federal guidelines."

Keystone XL will not solve all the problems (rail cars are still needed in parts of the country mentioned in the article), but it would greatly reduce the number of rail cars needed/used to transport oil which would promote better safety/better environmental impact to transport needed oil to the refineries.

I wonder if the rail cars involved in these accidents were double-walled construction...if not they should be.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 18, 2014 10:16am
Drive down Route 1 heading south just before the Route 72 exit on the left, you'll see many tanker-cars sitting, waiting to deposit their crude to the Delaware City refinery. Those rail cars come from North Dakota. From what I read somewhere, the Del City refinery, being older, is better suited or configured to more easily refine that crude than the newer refineries. So that's "job security" for the Del City refinery. However, exploding rail cars could be a reality right there along Route 1, just north of the Route 72 exit.

Are those railcars too close to the expressway so that automobiles too would be affected? With so many rail cars sitting there, if one went, would it cause a "chain reaction"? Seems like questions that should be asked.

Maybe a possible midday interview for Allan.

Thu, Jun 19, 2014 2:53am
Build the pipeline, Mr. President!

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jun 19, 2014 7:59am
Mrpizza: Well said.

Thu, Jun 19, 2014 11:02am
re: Keystone pipeline: Ignoring the usual debate between "I want my cheap gas" and "Pipeline spills will ruin the environment", there is the problem of eminent domain.

The company wanting to build the pipeline is TransCanada. It is a Canadian firm. It wants the right to eminent domain over American property holders.

When the City of Wilmington seized land along Vandever Avenue a few years ago for a Delmarva Power substation, that was (arguably) in the public interest. When the council and mayor wanted to seize land along A Street to hand over to their favorite contributors, Buccini and Pollan, that was obviously in the private interest and was stopped (Thank you, Ed Osborne).

Now, we have a foreign company demanding to seize property from our citizens.

See a recent article in Forbes


Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jun 19, 2014 1:39pm
Dunmore: That is a part of the story I had not heard before. Is that Obama's reason for not allowing it? He should say that, because that is a very good reason.

TransCanada should have to buy the land, at fair market price, not demand the seizure of American property. But then the question becomes if a Canadian company owned that land, does that make that strip of land in the U.S. a part of Canada? That doesn't sound like a good idea, not so fast. So maybe a U.S. firm should be involved so that the land is owned by Americans, not Canadians [as much as I like Canada and their people, still this is our land, they've got their land.]

How did the Alaskan pipeline get done as that passed through both U.S. and Canadian territory? Was that eminent domain?

For the first time, I see a real reason why this pipeline isn't getting done. Maybe Obama is doing the correct thing, as far as we can tell on this issue. I just wish he'd have told all of us about this problem. Thanks Dunmore for the link.

Allan Loudell
Thu, Jun 19, 2014 6:59pm
To Mike...

Just to partially answer your question, sure, various jurisdictions will use eminent domain to ramrod the pipeline through.

TransCanada (or any other company) can't force the use of eminent domain UNLESS IT CAN PERSUADE STATES and OTHER JURISDICTIONS to AGREE!

For example, take Nebraska: A legal battle looms in the Cornhusker State over legislation from Nebraska lawmakers that gave the Nebraska governor the power to determine whether the greater good of the pumpline trumps the property rights of state residents whose property lies along the projected path of the pipeline. (The legislation stripped such power from the Nebraska Public Service Commission.)

TransCanada can't do a damn thing on its own. An attorney representing aggrieved property owners argued that LB1161 - The Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act - was and is unconstitutional, because the Nebraska governor simply doesn't have that power, no matter what the legislation says. (By the way, many of these aggrieved property-owners are Republicans themselves who take exception to their party's "the-ends-justify-the-means" approach to enabling the Keystone pipeline construction to proceed -- in the name of U.S. energy independence.)

But, just because the pipeline benefits a foreign company - or even if the foreign company happens to own it - it doesn't become the territory of that foreign country. It remains U.S. soil, and the soil of that particular state.

Same principle if a Canadian buys a summer home in Florida; that Canadian may "own" that property tract, but it's still Florida soil and it's still U.S. soil. The same if a U.S. citizen purchased a residence in Canada. In that case, it would still be Canadian soil.

Maybe Obama COULD use the eminent domain argument, but I suspect he doesn't for two reasons: (1). Other examples might occur where the Obama Administration wants land assigned for a "higher" purpose, using eminent domain, and especially (2). This is about Obama's environmental legacy and placating the environmentalist wing of the Democratic Party, especially at a time when environmentalists have lost battles in the name of "jobs, jobs, jobs" and the goal of U.S. energy independence!

Fri, Jun 20, 2014 1:55am
Keep in mind too, the oil for Keystone is not for America's consumption. It is all strictly for export. It gets piped to Texas to be cracked and put on ships then sent to the Third World....

If Keystone were ever approved... Delaware could be trading oil from spilled tank cars for oil spilled from barges coming up Delaware's bay.

Keystone does not come to Delaware. It goes from Athabasca to Texas.... Either it will not affect train traffic to East Coast refineries, or it will make the barge approach cheaper, and cause that to happen to the demise of the rail carriers...

Spills are easier to clean on top of land. The spills that pipelines cause underground, don't get in the news for fiery explosions, but yet create far more damage deep underground by contaminating aquifers sometimes covering half a state....

The Keystone is a very bad project from the get-go. It does nothing but hurt the U.S., and should not be built...

The real overall solution is all-electric cars...

Fri, Jun 20, 2014 1:57am
And Mike... Rail cars don't explode just sitting. They have to wreak first, spill oil, which catches on fire, and then, only if the fire reaches the tanker car will an explosion occur... Those cars driving past the refinery are safe...

It is along tracks with oil trains moving on them, that one must worry.

Mike from Delaware
Fri, Jun 20, 2014 8:45am
Allan and Kavips: Thank you, good points, excellent answers.

Sat, Jun 21, 2014 11:42pm
I just heard we don't even need a Keystone. That oil is already flowing from Alberta to Superior, then to Chicago, then to Cushing, and on to Port Arther Texas...

It's company Endridge just quietly asked for an increased permitted volume from its current 400,000 up to 547,000 barrels per day. (It's full capacity is 800,000 barrels per day...)

So it appears the Keystone is not necessary. We now see it to be nothing but a battle between titans over whether Koch or someone else should control the flow of oil out of Alberta... Remember the personal vendettas of the 70's portrayed in the TV show "Dallas"? Between JR and Cliff Barnes? That is what this is... We don't need aquifers for two states disturbed over inflated egos....

We don't need Keystone. The refineries in Port Arther which are 100% export only, are already at full capacity with dilbit, what Tar Sand oil is now called....

Incidentally, I just learned from the Guardian that a ship of dilbit docked in Spain, marking the first that dilbit to be refined in Europe....

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