Rail Safety

With domestic oil booming, more and more crude oil is being shipped throughout the country via rail, oftentimes directly though residential areas. Our investigation explores how a lack of regulation makes this a profitable and dangerous venture.

Loopholes in national railroad policy take communities by surprise

Around the country, in towns as small as Grafton and as large as Philadelphia and Chicago, communities are beginning to ask the same question as the domestic energy boom makes the expansion of railway infrastructure — to host trains carrying crude oil, propane and ethanol — a profitable venture indeed.

Small derailment fuels bigger fears around Grafton propane facility

A train run by the Grafton and Upton Railroad derailed in the town of Grafton, Mass. on Tuesday night while crossing through the town’s center. The derailment came just minutes before a town meeting in which the railroad’s owner, Jon Delli Priscoli, was scheduled to address a public audience over concerns related to the expansion in recent years of the railroad’s activity. No one was injured, the train remained fully upright and Doug Pizzi, a spokesman for the railroad, says the incident was a minor one and caused no damage to the track. (It did damage at least some public roadway). But the incident loomed much larger than its component facts for many of Grafton’s residents.

Rail safety fact check: Fires, spills up despite industry claims

Despite the terrible derailment of an Amtrak train last week and a spate of other fiery accidents involving trains carrying flammable crude oil — five so far this year — railroad industry and government officials have taken pains to reassure the public of rail transportation safety. But do their claims hold up under scrutiny?

New rules for ‘oil trains’ fall short of recommendations

The Department of Transportation announced today a long-awaited set of new regulations for trains carrying petroleum crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids in the United States. But the rules, the first of which go into effect this October, fall short – significantly short, in some cases – of calls for greater safety measures by environmental and watchdog groups, as well as other agencies within the government. They also, in some cases, fail to address design flaws in train components linked to spills and leaks in major accidents as well as hundreds of minor incidents reviewed by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and WGBH-News.