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Another Train Derailment, Evacuation Highlights Ongoing Bomb Train Threat

Fiery Wreck in North Dakota Forces Local Evacuations


Less than a week after federal regulators announced that major new safety rules for oil trains will take several years to be phased in, yet another oil train has derailed and caught fire, forcing the evacuation of a small North Dakota town. The wreck reaffirms the immediate dangers crude oil trains pose to people and the environment.

The BNSF train derailed Wednesday morning near Heimdal, N.D., setting up to 10 oil tank cars on fire, blackening the sky with dense smoke and prompting local authorities to evacuate residents in the vicinity. The accident comes on the heels of four other major oil train derailments just this year, including several explosive spills.

"We will continue to see these fiery derailments even with the new regulations in place, because they fail to take sufficient actions to prevent oil trains wrecks," said Jared Margolis, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity who focuses on the impacts of energy development on endangered species. "As this accident demonstrates, people, wildlife, rivers and lakes will continue to pay the price for the government's failure to take steps to adequately protect us from these dangerous oil trains."

The new federal regulations fail to protect the public by allowing dangerous, puncture-prone tank cars to remain in service for up to 10 years, allowing oil trains to move at speeds well in excess of the puncture resistance of even the newer tank cars, and fail to limit the weight and length of oil trains to prevent derailments.

"The best thing the Obama administration could and should do is immediately implement a moratorium on these oil trains," Margolis said. "It's dangerous and irresponsible to allow these trains -- which have shown a propensity for going off the rails -- to come through our communities and across some our most pristine landscapes."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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