A BNSF train shipping Bakken crude oil derailed in a rural area near Galena, Illinois Thursday afternoon. Six of the 103 train cars derailed, and two caught fire, which firefighters were unable to extinguish, the Associated Press reports.
Fire officials, citing safety concerns, said they are letting the blaze burn out on its own.
According to reports, no one was hurt due to the derailment, which occurred near the Galena and Mississippi Rivers. Officials issued a 1-mile evacuation suggestion.
An investigation into the cause of the Thursday's derailment -- one among a number of similar oil-train derailments that have occurred recently, including one last month in West Virginia -- is being launched by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The public interest group Illinois PIRG said the oil-train derailment near Galena further makes the case for urgent safeguards against such accidents. Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr issued the following statement:
As the images from Galena attest, the increasingly common practice of transporting crude oil by rail poses a significant risk to the health, well-being, and safety of our communities. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently predicted 10 crude oil train derailments per year for the next twenty years, leading to possible damages in the billions and deaths in the hundreds. With an estimated 40 crude oil trains traveling through the Chicago area each week and more through countless smaller communities around Illinois, the time for reform is now.
No more oil trains should travel through Illinois until increased safety measure are in place and there is an approved emergency response plan for the entire route. At a very minimum, information including oil train routes, timing, and number of cars should be more readily available to local community leaders and the public. While energy and rail companies have said that sharing this information poses a security threat, the U.S. Department of Transportation has stated that they found "no basis to conclude that the public disclosure of the information [about oil train routes] is detrimental to transportation safety.
Henry Henderson, midwest director for the Natural Resources Defense Council and former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago, says the incident should be of particular concern for officials in the Windy City.
The fiery mess in Galena is one more wake up call for Americans. It should have particular reverberations for Chicago--the nation's rail hub--underscoring that we have to get a grip on the looming threat of oil trains moving through our communities. The derailed train in Illinois was likely on its way to Chicago, where it would have been just one of the 40-plus potential oil train disasters snaking through town every week. We have seen these trains idling, switching and moving through the South Loop and near South Side on a daily basis, near parks, schools and through dense communities. The threat must be addressed. Immediately.
Every time we see one of these oil train infernos, industry voices call for 'more pipelines!'... like Keystone XL. That reflects a cynical, false choice. The oil industry is not looking for either more pipelines OR larger oil trains; they are looking for more of both. The oil producers in the Bakken, the source of the oil from the derailed train, have shown little interest in building pipelines in recent years. Multiple major proposals for new pipelines in the Dakotas have failed to come to be due to a lack of interest from producers.
If we want to address the danger of these derailment disasters and protect our communities, let's address our aging freight infrastructure, and the safety needs of the trains themselves, rather than pushing for disruptive projects like Keystone XL, which would do nothing to limit the risk of increasing Bakken oil train shipments. The freight infrastructure needs to be modernized for a flexible, reliable 21st Century rail system, and the trains need to be shorter and slower and safer. These efforts would produce good, solid jobs, and improve the safety of our communities.
If are serious about reducing the risk of moving oil through our communities--we need to focus on using a lot less of it.