In the wake of this morning’s derailment of a CSX freight train in the Howard Street tunnel, activists are demanding that health and safety studies be conducted on oil trains passing through Baltimore.
A press conference at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) will call on the City Council to pass a bill requiring city agencies to conduct health impact and risk assessments for oil train shipments.
The event will take place at the southwest corner of Pearlstone Park, at Preston and Howard streets, which is located above today’s derailment. Speakers will include Jon Kenney from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Jennifer Kunze from Clean Water Action.
Today’s accident at 5:30 a.m. did not involve oil shipments but did involve a carload of hazardous material.
Although there were no leaks or injuries, the derailment incensed residents and environmentalists about the failure of the Council to hold a public hearing on the hazards of rail oil shipments.
A spokesman for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young told The Brew today that the Council is supportive of the bill, but has been too busy with other matters to conduct a hearing.
A staffer told activists last month that the matter will not be taken up until the new Council convenes in January. This evening spokesman Lester Davis said “this was a junior staffer who got a little ahead of his skis.” Davis told The Brew that the Council will take up the matter “as soon as we can.”
Since 2014, over 100 million gallons of Bakken crude oil have traveled through the city to a facility in South Baltimore that barges the oil to East Coast refineries.
Highly volatile Bakken crude was the cargo that derailed and exploded three years ago in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.
In an update, CSX’s Rob Doolittle provided more information on the Howard Street derailment:
“The Baltimore Fire Department has announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Baltimore Police Department have ruled out foul play as a potential cause of the derailment of a CSX freight train in Baltimore this morning.
With that investigation complete, teams of hazardous-materials specialists are now assessing the condition of the 13 or more rail cars that derailed in the Howard Street tunnel. Once the assessment is complete, it is expected that undamaged cars will be moved away from the derailment site and recovery operations will begin. The operation is not expected to begin before 6:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, after all necessary precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of the public, first responders and railroad employees.
All actions at the site are being coordinated with the Federal Railroad Administration as well as Baltimore city agencies.”