The number of trains hauling crude oil, ethanol and coal through northern Idaho keeps growing. Here are the facts: Bakken crude oil is highly explosive. It easily bursts into fire that is resistant to water. Oil trains pollute the air, contributing to higher rates of cancer, heart attack and stroke. Oil trains are up to 1.5 miles long and often block street crossings for more than 10 minutes — irritating if you’re a driver, potentially deadly if you’re waiting for an ambulance. Each coal car loses 500 pounds of dust every 500 miles. That dust is laden with heavy metals including radioactive elements.
No one was prepared for all the problems connected to hauling large amounts of crude oil and coal through our cities and countryside. But now that the problems have been identified and publicized, it’s time for someone to stand up for the public. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s new safety requirements accomplish next to nothing. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s Crude-by-Rail Safety Act sets safety standards for trains hauling flammable crude oil and provides resources for first responders to fight disasters caused by train accidents. It’s a good start. Urge Idaho’s congressmen to support the Crude-by-Rail Safety Act.
Nancy J. Schmidt, Sandpoint