More than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil was spilled from rail cars in 2013. That’s more oil than was spilled in the last four decades since the government started collected data on these spills.
From 1975 to 2012, railroads spilled a total of 800,000 gallons of crude oil, according to data analysis from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
The report includes two major spills in Alabama and North Dakota, but doesn’t include derailments in Canada, where oil was also spilled in 2013.
PHMSA does not have data from the North Dakota derailment that took place near Casselton on Dec. 30, but the lead investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that more than 400,000 gallons of oil were spilled.
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The Alabama train that derailed in November was carrying 2.7 million gallons of crude oil. It was spilled into wetlands near Aliceville and ignited.
The Association of American Railroads, an industry group, estimates that 11.5 billion gallons of oil rode the rails last year.
With 1.15 million gallons spilled, that means 99.99 percent of oil shipments arrived without incident.
In eight years between 1975 and 2009, no oil was spilled by trains at all. In five of those years only one gallon or less was spilled. What changed? Back then oil wasn’t being shipping in trains with 80 to 100 cars.
Now lawmakers and rail and oil industry representatives are meeting to discuss changes to shipping crude oil by rail.