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More Crude Spilled in 2013 Than Previous Four Decades Combined

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D., Dec. 30, 2013 (Associated Press/Bruce Crummy)More crude oil spilled from train accidents in 2013 alone than in the previous four decades combined—an alarming number reported by McClatchy News on Monday that points towards a drastic shift in the highly toxic, yet growing, crude oil business to rail transport.

According to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in the four decades that such records have been taken between 1975 to 2012, U.S. rail spilled a combined 800,000 gallons of crude oil. This pales in comparison to the damage done in the 12 months of 2013, in which 1.15 million gallons of crude oil was spilled.

In total, U.S. railroads shipped 400,000 carloads of crude oil in 2013, or over 11.5 billion gallons.

"The spike underscores new concerns about the safety of such shipments as rail has become the preferred mode for oil producers amid a North American energy boom," McClatchy reports.

The report does not include, however, derailments in Canada of trains that originated in from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota, such as one incident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, when a runaway train derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and spilling more than 1.5 million gallons of crude oil alone.

Also not included in the report is a derailment near Casselton, N.D. on Dec. 30 in which an estimated 400,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled and the town of Casselton was forced to evacuate.

In lieu of a recent series of these explosive train derailments originating from the Bakken shale fields, the federal government issued a warning this month saying that Bakken crude is "more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil."

In the latest in the series of crude derailments, on Monday a freight train carrying crude oil derailed on a bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. No leaks or injuries were reported in the derailment, which occurred near the Schuylkill River.

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