Train derailment could affect 183,000 in Pittsburgh, study says

Michael Henninger-Post-Gazette

Michael Henninger-Post-Gazette
Crews work to clean up the derailed CSX train Feb. 18 in Mount Carbon.

Power Source

By Daniel Moore

More than 183,000 Pittsburgh residents — and 3.9 million Pennsylvanians — could be forced to leave their homes if a train carrying crude oil derailed nearby, according to a statewide study released Monday by a partnership of environmental nonprofits.

The report coincides with a second report from a local investigative journalism outlet also analyzing the number of Pennsylvanians that could be at risk in the event of an oil train accident.

“Unbeknownst to residents, community leaders and first responders, these trains are rumbling through our neighborhoods, putting thousands of Pennsylvanians at risk for death, injury and destruction,” said Stephen Riccardi, Western Pennsylvania Field Associate for PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, one of the groups involved in the research.

Mr. Riccardi stood beneath the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge that spans the Allegheny River Downtown near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Despite the biting cold, the news conference to discuss the report was held there to highlight a place where crude oil-bearing trains travel through Pittsburgh.

The report’s findings come amid growing pressure on the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue more stringent federal regulations aimed at replacing tens of thousands of outdated tank cars. They also come about two weeks after a crude oil train on its way from North Dakota to a shipping depot derailed and exploded in West Virginia.

The study analyzed U.S. Census population data along railroad routes that could potentially carry crude oil, said Matt Kelso, manager of data and technology at FracTracker Alliance, an nonprofit based in Camp Hill that performed the data analysis. The groups counted people who lived within a half-mile of the passing trains — the distance at which an evacuation is typically recommended in the event of a disaster.

The interactive map, available on FracTracker’s website, allows users to zoom in on municipalities and ZIP codes in Pittsburgh to see how many residents live in that zone. The groups hoped the map would illuminate the potential hazards for those who live there. The report by PennEnvironment and FracTracker can be found at http://​ow.ly/​JQAC3

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