Deteriorating infastructure plus crude oil could lead to tragedy, activists say

Posted: July 11, 2014

A YEAR AGO, 47 lives were lost in Quebec during a fiery explosion caused by a derailed oil train, and yesterday, about 50 activists demonstrated in Center City to make sure that same kind of tragedy doesn't happen here in Philly.

"The only way to truly halt oil trains is to keep it in the ground and turn away from the self-destructive development of fossil fuels," said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and one of the speakers. "We have to move towards investment on a national scale of renewable, sustainable energy sources and energy efficiency that will support clean and healthy communities."

In January, a CSX train derailed, leaving an oil-tank car and a boxcar dangling over the Schuylkill for about a week before they were safely removed.

CSX transports 190,000 barrels of crude oil every day through Philadelphia's aging infrastructure, activists said. With a population of 1.5 million, the city could face disaster if a train accident occurred.

The first step during yesterday's demonstration, on Locust Street near 25th, was to sign a petition attempting to ban DOT-111 tank cars, nicknamed "Pepsi cans on wheels" because of their tendency to puncture easily.

The demonstration attracted Councilman Curtis Jones and activists from environmental groups such as Clean Water Action, Protecting Our Waters and Philly Rising Tide. They carried signs that read, "Oil Trains = Bombs on Wheels" and "No Exploding Oil Trains." Activists also held up names of each of the people who died last year in Canada.

They passed around a list of chants including, "Oil trains are not safe, fracked oil is a big mistake" and "fossil fuels - on tracks - is wack."

Activists said the long-term goal is to do away with crude oil and replace it with cleaner alternatives. But for now, they're looking for railways and carts to be improved to ensure safer travel.

"There's one good way to prevent : that's by being extra cautious, by investing in our infrastructure to have safeguards," Jones said.

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