For decades Americans have worried about our dependence on foreign oil and gas. By 2005 we were importing 60% of our energy, but in 2008 a new technology called horizontal hydrologic fracturing or “fracking” raised the promise of energy independence.
U.S. crude production is up 50% and imports have fallen 35%. But getting oil from a massive shale deposit in North Dakota to refineries is raising serious concerns about public safety.
Within hours of a rail crash in Lynchburg on April 30, inspectors for the state and federal governments and CSX were on the scene – trying to figure out why 17 cars derailed and one ruptured – producing flames, smoke and a significant oil spill.
Getting official answers could take 18 months, but there are clues that suggest a cause for the accident and a future course of action to improve rail safety.
In just over a year, North America has seen a dozen serious accidents involving trains that derailed while carrying flammable crude oil. One of those accidents, in Lynchburg, caused a massive fire and oil spill. In most cases, fire departments didn’t know what they were dealing with, since railroads have kept that information secret, but the federal government is now requiring them to inform states when trains of 35 cars or more, carrying oil from North Dakota or Montana, are coming through.
Interstate 73 was first proposed in 1979 by two businessmen from Bluefield, West Virginia looking to expand an existing highway used to transport coal to the Ohio River – and after decades, the project appears to be moving forward.
The route is now slated to run through six states, from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – winding into Virginia through Bluefield, passing through Roanoke and down to Martinsville.