Philadelphia Skirts a Disaster

Train loaded with explosive shale oil derails downtown Philly over Schuylkill River near major university and hospital neighborhood
Train loaded with explosive shale oil derails downtown Philly over Schuylkill River near major university and hospital neighborhood

Philadelphia Near Disaster

by Randy Shannon

Philadelphia narrowly skirted a major disaster when a Bakken shale laden train derailed over the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill Expressway, which bisects the city. Five previous derailments of shale oil trains resulted in massive explosions with five mile radius evacuations. One derailment burned 15 acres of downtown Lac-Megantic, Canada and vaporized 42 people.

Safety issues presented by deteriorated track, such as the 100 year old railroad bridge in Philly, aging rolling stock, and insufficient maintenance, are the result of the takeover of the transportation system by finance capital. Railroad people no longer own the railroads…and profit becomes the only objective. The solution is public ownership and control of our transportation infrastructure. Instead of selling off control of highways and riverways, public ownership needs to be expanded.

The exploitation of shale oil is an irrational pursuit of ever higher oil profits. Shale fracking is energy intensive, consuming massive amounts of natural gas, and it destroys millions of gallons of water that cannot be replaced. America needs to tax the hell out of shale oil and fund a Marshall Plan sized project for building a solar energy infrastructure. Oil burning should be taxed so that only the most critical uses are affordable and so that profits are more easily found in renewable solar, wind, and geothermal energy investments.

Below is a press release on this incident by Protecting Our Waters.

Philadelphia Derailment of “Oil Bomb” Train Sparks Outrage;

Near-Miss from Disaster is Sixth Derailment of Bakken Shale Train Since June

Groups Press for Immediate Halt

Philadelphia, PA – Outrage is building among residents whose lives are put at risk by the mile-long oil and gas trains coming from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, Montana and Canada, in the aftermath of the oil train derailment yesterday in Philadelphia. The derailment occurred in a densely populated neighborhood, over a major highway, near several large universities, Children’s Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania medical complex. Rapid evacuation of a five-mile radius from any future oil train explosion and fire in the Philadelphia area, or any urban area, would be impossible. When a similar train exploded and burned on December 30th, 2013 in Casselton, North Dakota, evacuation was urged for a five-mile radius to avoid damaging inhalation of toxic smoke.

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