A series of fiery, and at times deadly, oil train derailments and explosions—from Virginia to North Dakota to Quebec—has sparked concerns about the ever-increasing use of rail to transport crude through North America.
Reporting by Reuters released Monday reveals that, despite this alarm, “tens of millions” of public U.S. tax dollars are directly financing the expansion of oil-by-rail transport in a number of places across the country.
According to journalist Jarrett Renshaw, Reuters “identified 10 federal and state grants either approved or pending approval, totaling $84.2 million, that helped boost the number of rail cars carrying crude oil across the nation.”
“The public assistance in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon comes as railroads are posting record profits, and as state and federal authorities press for safety overhauls that the oil and rail industries have opposed, following several explosive derailments,” the article continues.
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This assistance comprises just a “fraction of total public funding for railroads each year, and look[s] small compared to the $24 billion railroads themselves are spending annually on infrastructure,” Renshaw clarifies.
Rail transportation of oil is playing a role in driving the fracked shale oil boom across North America.
According to an analysis by ForestEthics, approximately 25 million people in the U.S. live in the one-mile potential blast zone in the event of an oil train derailement.