In the early hours of Monday morning, a train traveling from Chicago derailed over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.
Six of the seven derailed cars carried crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, a substance that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said is more dangerous than other types of crude oil.
While Monday’s derailment didn’t lead to any leaks or explosions, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hanger called the accident a “near miss.”
“We came within probably a hair’s breadth of a calamity in Philadelphia just yesterday,” Hanger said. “We’ve seen a calamity in Canada, and we’ve seen three other very serious accidents with fireballs.”
The former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary is referring to a July 2013 train derailment in Quebec, which killed more than 40 people. That train was also carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota.
Hanger is calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to make major changes in the way oil and gas transport is regulated. On his blog, Hanger put forth a four point plan that he says will increase public safety.
“The governor should insist that railroads that transport Bakken crude through Pennsylvania use the modern puncture-resistant tankers to transport that oil, and do not these old tankers that are susceptible to leaks and punctures,” Hanger said.
He is also pushing for slower speed limits on trains carrying oil and gas in the state and emergency inspection on the rail lines they use, along with more frequent and effective safety inspections afterwards.
Hanger said recent accidents involving trains carrying Bakken crude have demonstrated that first responders are ill-equipped to deal with these types of emergencies.
“A fee ought to be assessed by Pennsylvania on tankers that carry North Dakota or Bakken crude, and monies raised dedicated to emergency prevention, emergency preparedness, and emergency response,” Hanger said.
The oil and gas industry itself has raised a red flag with regard to lax regulations of trains carrying highly combustible Bakken crude. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the railroad and petroleum industry will voluntarily beef up safety regulations for trains carrying the substance.
“The risks a mass casualty disaster are way too high, and we can’t count on luck creating near misses,” Hanger said. “We have to, in fact, have strong actions taken now to protect the public safety.”