1.5 Million Pennsylvanians Live Within Half-Mile Evacuation Zone of Rail Lines Carrying Volatile Crude Oil

Saturday, March 14, 2015
Wreckage of train carrying crude oil in neighboring West Virginia, Feb. 16 (photo: Chris Jackson, AP)

So many trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota pass through Pennsylvania that an estimated 1.5 million residents live in evacuation zones near rail lines.


The 1.5 million Pennsylvanians represent 11.5% of the state population. In addition, 550 K-12 schools, 37 hospitals and 61 nursing homes are in evacuation zones, according to PublicSource reporters Natasha Khan and Alexandra Kanik.


The issue of oil shipments and the risk of explosion from derailments were raised again when a train carrying toxic Bakken oil went up in flames in neighboring West Virginia on February 16. That fire continued for days, with firefighters opting to let it burn itself out.


 “If something catastrophic happens, there’s no municipality along the railroad that can handle it; the volume is too great,” Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Fire Chief Richard Lengel told the Pottstown Mercury. “We just have to hope that nothing happens, honestly.”


Between 60 and 70 crude-laden trains pass through Pennsylvania each week on their way to refineries in Philadelphia and other cities. PublicSource mapped the trains that carry more than 1 million gallons of crude; those carrying less don’t have to be reported to the state.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

1.5 Million at Risk in PA for Crude Oil Derailment (by Natasha Khan and Alexandra Kanik, PublicSource)

‘We Just Have To Hope That Nothing Happens’ (by Kaitlyn Foti, The Mercury)

Danger Around the Bend (PennEnvironment) (pdf)


YeOldeDave 9 years ago
Perhaps a more appropriate question would be why are so many folks against pipelines, which are FAR safer than oil trains? The oil's gonna be moved and used, why do folks try to stop the safest ways to do that? Oh, I forgot...... the Koch Bros. How about Warren Buffet, who owns rail lines charging $30/bbl to move oil on his trains and also pays thru the nose to lib causes and election campaigns? What's good for the goose SHOULD also be good for the gander. Money & PACS on either side should be your target, if hypocrite isn't a tag ya wanna wear?
isnamthere 9 years ago
These rural people of PA and WV have brought this situation on themselves. Ask any of them why they vote for the republicans and the blue dog dinos that they do. Ask any of them why they support the fossil fuel industries which bring them these disasters along with coal mine explosion, toxic stream runoff, mountain top removal, contaminated water supplies, etc. They'll ALL reply in unison: "The jobs!" Well there you have it, idiots. If you can't think beyond your nose and your little jobs, then this is the kind of outcomes you receive. I don't feel sorry for any of you. Now get back to work.

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