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Common Dreams

300 Foot Flames as Crude Oil Train Derails and Explodes in Rural Alabama

Green groups say accident, reminiscent of Lac Mégantic tragedy, highlights 'intolerable dangers of fossil fuels'

by
Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A train carrying 2.7 million gallons of crude oil derailed near Aliceville in rural Alabama on Friday in a fiery explosion that green groups say illustrates the danger of fossil fuels.

The accident, the cause of which is unknown, appears to be the most severe of its kind within the United States since transportation of crude oil by train increased three years ago with the U.S. fracking boom, Reuters reports.

Bill Jasper, president of the rail company Genesee & Wyoming, said each of the train's 90 cars was carrying 30,000 gallons of crude oil when approximately 25 cars and two locomotives derailed. The crash and explosion shot 300-foot flames into the sky, Reuters reports. No immediate injuries were reported, but the company still does not know how much oil has been spilled or what the long-term effects will be.

A local official told Reuters that the crude oil came from the North Dakota Bakken Shale where oil is extracted through the controversial process of fracking.

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This means it may have been carrying the same fracked oil transported by the train that sparked the Lac Mégantic tragedy this summer when it derailed in this Quebec town and killed nearly fifty people.

Green groups say this latest accident exposes the dangers of crude oil, whether transported by pipeline or rail.

"This train derailment will no doubt become part of the debate over pipelines. We can’t allow the oil industry to pose the choice as one between pipelines and rail," wrote 350 Maine in a statement emailed to Common Dreams.

"Scientists have determined that we must stop burning carbon if we are to end the climate crisis that threatens our very civilization," they added. "From its extraction, to its transportation, to its refining, and finally to its use; fossil fuel poses dangers we as a nation can no longer tolerate.

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