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Opinion: Transport oil by rail through Mercer as safely as possible

The debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline project has highlighted the safety and environmental concerns opponents have over transporting oil by pipeline. These concerns are valid, but what has been lost in the discussion is the fact that vast amounts of oil are transported across the country daily. We should be equally concerned that oil that moves through our communities by rail and truck is transported as safely as possible with the least risk of damage to our environment.

Mercer County is home to a CSX freight rail line that passes through the West Trenton commuter rail station in Ewing and continues north through the Hopewell Valley. It has been reported by McClatchyDC (“Crude oil crosses paths with two Philadelphia commuter train lines,” Aug. 19) that an average of two trains bearing oil travel the West Trenton line every day. This amounts to more than 700 trains per year. That these trains transport oil in outmoded, single-hulled tanker cars should be deeply troubling to every resident of Mercer County.

The fact is, trains can and do have accidents, either by derailment or other means. When rail accidents involve oil tanker cars, there is the added hazard that the tanks may rupture and spill their contents, causing severe environmental damage, or worse, explode and put the lives of emergency responders at risk. This is why the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the oil transport industry replace the outdated, single-hulled DOT-111 tanker car with a double-hulled model with enhanced safety features that will better withstand accidents.

To address this concern, the Mercer County freeholders will consider a resolution Nov. 25 that calls upon the oil transport industry to immediately adopt the recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board and replace the older DOT-111s with safer, newer-model oil tankers. We owe it to our residents, our rail commuters, our emergency responders and our environment to support this needed investment in rail safety..

Andrew Koontz is chairman of the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The Nov. 25 meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 6 p.m. and will be held in the Freeholder Meeting Room at 640 South Broad Street in Trenton, 2nd floor..

The Times of Trenton
Published on:
November 24, 2014
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