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

Sunday, March 15, 2015
Wreckage of trains carrying crude oil, in West Virginia, February 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)


Leave a comment