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Alan Stankevitz: Crude oil and ethanol should not be shipped by rail

From the 10 most-read letters to the editor in July at lacrossetribune.com series
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Today marks the third anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster in Canada, which killed 47 people in a fiery explosion. This train passed through La Crosse days before the accident.

Since this disaster, there have been additional oil and ethanol derailments that have resulted in spills and explosions. Most recently, the oil train derailment in Mosier, Ore., demonstrated once again that crude oil is simply too dangerous to transport by rail. Responding to this disaster, Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, wrote, “Carrying crude by rail is just not a good idea … We need to phase out rail shipments of crude oil.”

On June 26, a Federal Emergency Management Agency response training class was held in La Crescent, Minn., to train first responders on what to do in case of a rail accident. This class underscored how municipal fire departments are on the hook when an oil train derails and catches fire. The experience of 14 major oil train fires in the United States since Lac-Mégantic proves that there is no way to douse a crude oil train fire. The Washington State Council of Fire Fighters delivered a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on June 8 demanding an immediate halt to crude rail movement and citing that "these fires are exceedingly difficult to extinguish, even under ideal circumstances."

Citizens Acting for Rail Safety-La Crosse asks our political representatives to ban the transportation of all crude and ethanol along the Upper Mississippi until it can be proven safe.

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