Oil train derails in Montana

Officials say cargo was to pass through Sandpoint

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Yet another oil train derailment—this one in northeastern Montana—has Sandpoint officials on edge even as they continue working on a local oil derailment emergency response plan.

The Associated Press reports that the BNSF Railway train spilled 35,000 gallons of crude oil in the Thursday accident, prompting authorities to evacuate some homes in the largely rural area. Only two cars stayed upright of the 21 that derailed, but no fires or explosions were reported on the scene.

Although it occurred far away from the Idaho-Montana border, every oil train derailment causes concern among local officials, who worry a similar fate could befall Sandpoint. According to Mayor Carrie Logan, this derailment is doubly worrisome, since it was intended to pass through Sandpoint later in its route.

Local firefighter and emergency personnel have been preparing for a variety of derailment scenarios, from spills or fires in the sparsely populated rural stretches of the county to the residential areas in town to the surface of Lake Pend Oreille itself. According to Sandpoint Fire Chief Ron Stocking, BNSF has funded several training scenarios to better prepare local firefighters.

Stocking and other officials, as well as Eric de Place of Seattle-based sustainability nonprofit the Sightline Institute, detailed the dangers of oil or coal derailment in a June forum. According to de Place, the full consequences of a worst-case-scenario oil train derailment is best exemplified by the 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster in Quebec, which killed 47 people, destroyed 30 downtown buildings and made another 36 uninhabitable. It’s a picture of the extensive costs to human life, the environment and economies that such accidents pose—damages that can’t be adequately covered through liability insurance alone.

“There is not currently enough available coverage in the commercial insurance market anywhere in the world to cover the worst-case scenario,” James Beardsley, global rail practice leader for Marsh & McLennan Cos.’ Marsh Inc. insurance brokerage unit, told the Wall Street Journal.

To read more about the Montana train derailment this week, check out the Associated Press‘ coverage at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/7183244bdf5346489e4af513434131a6/crude-oil-train-derails-rural-northeastern-montana

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