Thursday, November 12, 2015

3rd WI train derailment; where's the oversight?

[Update:] There's been another tanker car derailment in Watertown, and it better be the watershed event for freight train safety in Wisconsin.

Just a reminder that twenty months ago, as oil tanker shipping and accidents elsewhere were on the increase, I wrote this:
Wisconsin Should Move To Ensure Oil Shipping Safety
This new Watertown event took place this morning just 400 feet from an earlier derailment last weekend - - one of two Saturday-Sunday freight rail accidents in the Badger State.

As of this reporting, five tanker cars ran off the track, but remained upright and have not leaked cargo.

Unlike what happened in the first Watertown derailment, where something like 1,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilled. Mercifully, the community did not go up in flames.

Both Watertown incidents involved Canadian Pacific railroad equipment.

These Wisconsin derailments - - a third involved a Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad freight train which spilled about 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River north of Alma - -  within a few days of each other have got to spur better oversight of rail operations in Wisconsin.

Are these events caused by operator error? Poor management? Bad track? Faulty equipment, or a combination?

Are they unrelated to one another, or systemic?

We're past the freight rail 'accident waiting to happen' phase in Wisconsin, where the government seems satisfied with rail safety being assisted by only only one full-time railroad inspector working out of state government's smallest office but responsible the safe condition of 3,000 miles of track and 4,500 grade crossings.

Details, data and earlier links, here.

Does "catastrophe underway' have to gruesomely replace 'accident waiting to happen' before elected officials and railroad companies get serious and act immediately on the public's behalf?

If legislators can schedule self-interested special meetings on campaign oversight they can spend that kind of time and energy improving freight rail oversight in the state, especially since they know that hazardous Bakken crude oil tanker shipments through the state have increased dramatically in recent years.

Watertown is represented in the State Senate by its Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald, (R).

The time for action was yesterday.

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