Pipeline video touts economic benefits of expansion

Kinder Morgan’s slick new video on YouTube touting the economic benefits of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion claims the taxes it pays could be a boon for Burnaby taxpayers.

But Burnaby’s mayor and the councillor who heads the city’s finance committee aren’t convinced.

Against tranquil music, the video’s voiceover states that the $5.4-billion project cost and $3 billion in operating costs over 20 years will bring economic benefits including billions in tax revenues.

“Every time a tanker docks at Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, it brings $310,000 in value to the local economy,” it says. At this point, the graphic notes that will mean $126 million a year, which by those figures would translate to 406 tanker ships annually.

The project, which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, would almost triple the pipeline’s capacity, from the current 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day, to 890,000 barrels a day, to allow for the increased export of oil sands crude to overseas markets.

“It means $2.1 billion in additional federal taxes and $1.7 billion in additional provincial taxes,” of which $1 billion would be to B.C., according to the figures shown on the video.

It says Kinder Morgan will pay $500 million in additional municipal taxes over 20 years.

“In Burnaby, in one year alone, tax revenues could be used to hire 132 extra firefighters or more than cover the annual garbage collection costs.”

Kinder Morgan spokesperson Lisa Clement said by email that the company’s figures were calculated by an “independent economist.”

Kinder Morgan currently pays $7 million a year in property taxes to Burnaby and expects that to increase by $6.2 million as a result of the expansion project increasing the value of the pipeline right-of-ways, its Burnaby storage terminal and Westridge Marine Terminal, Clement said.

The firefighter figures are “purely conceptual” to help people understand the economic impact of the pipeline and were calculated using the total $13.2 million in taxes divided by the approximate $100,000 annual salary of a Burnaby firefighter.

While the pipeline is federally regulated, it is not exempt from municipal taxes, Clement said.

“As we expand assets of the pipeline and facilities, the value of the property increase, and thus more tax paid on the new assets.”

In areas where the pipeline will be twinned along the existing right-of-way, “the property tax will almost double in those communities, as the asset doubles,” she said. “In areas where the expanded route may divert from the existing right of way, the property tax may increase even more than double if there is more km or inches of pipe laid.”

About one quarter of all the municipal taxes the company will pay over 20 years will be to Burnaby because of the location of its terminals there, she said.

But Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, on record as opposing the project, isn’t buying it.

“Our staff have certainly not been looking at any significant tax benefits flowing through to us as a result of any improvements they make,” Corrigan said.

“We haven’t been able to substantiate that at this point,” added Coun. Dan Johnston, chair of Burnaby’s finance committee, of the company’s tax revenue claims.

Neither he nor Corrigan believed that the right-of-ways would be the source of much tax revenue due to it being federally regulated.

“Economists and the BC Assessment Authority might have two different perspectives on how the numbers are put together,” Johnston said.

As for the firefighters, Corrigan said, “They keep talking about firefighters because they know that if they put this bigger operation up there it’s likely our firefighters could be very, very busy. So they pick firefighters as saying, ‘we know we’re a fire hazard, we know we’re dangerous to your community, but I tell you what, here’s our solution, we’ll buy more firefighters for you.'”

He estimated that the actual cost to hire one firefighter is $150,000 once you include salaries, benefits, equipment, uniforms and potentially even fire halls to house them.

At that calculation, the $6 million in new tax revenue Kinder Morgan claims it would pay would translate into 40 new firefighters.

“They can pay us for garbage but if there’s one spill or minor incident the city could spend way more than that on cleanup costs,” added Johnston.

While the video notes that the project will create 4,500 jobs “at the peak of construction,” that won’t likely translate to local, ongoing jobs, Corrigan said.

“The amount of additional workers is limited to maybe a dozen,” he said. “In fact they keep taking workers out and running their facilities remotely … And that’s one of the big problems with safety, is they keep withdrawing workers and doing it technologically.”

As for the video itself, Corrigan was impressed by its production value.

“The one thing you won’t see them do is, even though they’re required to do an environmental assessment, is do any kind of glitzy presentation like that on the environmental implications.

“There won’t be any money spent on that side of the equation.”

Watch the video: http://bit.ly/1adoQRH

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

Metro Vancouver to probe oil pipeline twinning risks

Metro Vancouver will embark on its own research into the environmental risks from Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin the Trans Mountain oil pipeline even though some local politicians warn it may be a costly duplication of effort.

Metro’s environment and parks committee voted Thursday to echo Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew’s concerns about the project, particularly the potential for a spill into Burrard Inlet.

Directors also voted to have regional district staff conduct a preliminary review of marine and air quality risks from the expected five-fold increase in the number of tankers carrying oil from the Burnaby terminal.

Kinder Morgan is expected by year end to file its formal project application with the National Energy Board (NEB) to build a second pipeline that would nearly triple oil-moving capacity to 890,000 barrels per day.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters was among the directors who were concerned the review could evolve into a major investment of Metro staff time and money.

“I’m concerned a bit at the scope of this,” she said.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman, who sits on the committee but only has a vote on parks issues, also warned Metro could face “an extremely large bill” for work that might already be done by Environment Canada or the NEB.

“It’s a duplication of other levels of government,” Banman said. “My fear is this is being used as a bit of a political football to make more of a political statement than anything else.”

Air quality and environment planning director Roger Kwan said a detailed risk analysis isn’t possible until Kinder Morgan files more specifics with the NEB.

Kwan said the aim will be to ensure Metro is well armed to influence or advise the NEB on issues that are a concern to the regional district.

Metro will also have to decide whether or not to seek intervenor status at the future Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings.

Bowen Island director Andrew Stone said one “huge” concern in the event of a spill is the “off-gassing” of solvents used to dilute oil sands bitumen that could pose serious health risks and trigger large-scale evacuations of Vancouver and North Shore neighbourhoods.

Drew, meanwhile, has exchanged a flurry of letters with Kinder Morgan officials and says he’s still not satisfied with their answers, particularly regarding the response to the 2007 spill from the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby that released 250,000 litres of oil, some of which reached Burrard Inlet.

He says the cleanup response was slow and containment booms put on the water in the inlet failed to fully contain the escaped oil.

Summer weather, daylight and the proximity of response vessels all made for ideal conditions, Drew said in an Oct. 31 letter to the company, “yet there was still a considerable amount of unrecovered fugitive oil that contaminated the beaches of Burrard Inlet.”

Drew has also raised concern about tanker lights and noise, the size of the proposed new three-berth loading terminal, and the risk of earthquakes that could rupture the pipeline and trigger a hard-to-contain land-to-sea spill, possibly in conjunction with a landslide near Burnaby Mountain.

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson a week earlier told a Vancouver business audience the risk of earthquakes is being studied closely but seismic reviews so far indicate Burnaby Mountain is “one of the most solid, secure rock bases in the Lower Mainland.”

He also told reporters the steady improvements in leak detection, valve shutoff and other technologies that would come with a new $5.4-billion pipeline would actually reduce land-based spill risks.

“It’s safe today, the overall infrastructure will be safer later,” Anderson said.

While much focus is on the risk of tankers sailing through Burrard Inlet to and from the existing Burnaby terminal, Richmond Coun. Harold Steves said he wants Metro to keep a wary eye on the potential for Kinder Morgan to switch to an alternate oil terminal near the mouth of the Fraser River if opposition to more tankers sailing past Vancouver proves too intense.

Pipelines, tankers threaten B.C.’s heritage

I have been fishing around Vancouver Island for 40 years and run a freezer troller/prawner out of Cowichan Bay, fishing commercially for salmon, prawns and octopus. This coast is my home and my livelihood.

Fishing has been the backbone of B.C.’s coastal economy and an important part of the social fabric of this area throughout history. The proposals to run Alberta pipelines through B.C. and increase tanker traffic in our waters threaten our fishing industries and livelihoods of B.C. families and communities.

First, when there is an oil spill, we fishermen will be directly affected. (Raising the odds to 400 or more tankers a year in our treacherous coastal passages makes the likelihood of an oil spill extremely high.) An oil spill could decimate marine ecosystems, contaminating or even exterminating the fish populations on which we rely.

When you look north to Prince William Sound in Alaska, the repercussions of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill are still being felt, with significant amounts of oil still affecting bird and mammal populations and the tourism and fishing industries still struggling to recover.

Damage to the fish populations would not only rob coastal communities of food on their tables, but would also threaten the food security of the whole province.

As any seafarer can attest, accidents happen on the water. From the cotter pin that failed, causing a B.C. Ferry to crash in 2005, to a short period of inattention that caused the sinking of the Queen of the North in 2006, there are many factors that add the possibility of danger to sea travel.

In this area, we contend with powerful tides, strong winds and, increasingly, extreme weather events, all along a rocky, island-choked coast.

On the ocean, we see first-hand the effects of climate change. What happened in the Philippines last week was a dramatic example of the extreme weather we can expect from increasing climate change, but even here in B.C., we are already being affected in ways that fishermen and sailors are aware of.

Within the fishing community, the consensus is that over the past decade, weather patterns have begun changing. In my own experience, it used to be that maybe once each fishing season, a storm would blow so fiercely you would drag your anchor. Now stronger storms can blow through multiple times in a season, or conversely, not at all for an entire summer.

Along with unpredictable weather comes unpredictable fishing. While fisheries science is not exact, there are basic patterns. In the past, an experienced fisherman or scientist could predict run size and where the fish would travel each season. Now, the predictability is gone. Fish are moving to different areas and the feed in their offshore grounds has changed, dramatically affecting run sizes. We have had extreme fluctuations in run sizes, from record runs like 2010 to worryingly small ones.

Whether there is an oil spill now or in 20 years, our oceans will be affected if we build more pipelines and increase oilsands production. Burning even more oil will accelerate the affects of climate change on our oceans, whether through ocean acidification, species dislocation, rising sea levels or extreme weather events.

At the moment, our governments are simply paying lip service to carbon-emissions targets. You cannot build a pipeline and say that you are doing something about global climate change. The two are mutually exclusive. We want our governments to invest in developing alternative energy strategies. We burn oil for our fishing vessels and as individuals we do not have the capacity to design or develop new energy systems. That is the responsibility of government.

Investing in the development of clean energy is the right economic choice. It safeguards vital jobs in the fishing and mariculture industry, while providing high-tech jobs in designing and manufacturing the components of a new energy infrastructure.

I will be attending the No Tankers! No Pipelines! rally in Victoria Saturday to show our politicians that building new pipelines is unacceptable if we want to continue fishing on our coast. I want to see a next generation of fishermen, a future possible only if the government takes action now toward a carbon-free future.

Guy Johnston is a local fisherman and secretary of the South Island Local of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union. The No Tankers! No Pipelines! rally takes place Saturday at 1 p.m. at Clover Point.

© Copyright 2013

BROKE/UNIT-PITT mapping Workshop

BROKE / UNIT-PITT map brainstorming workshop being hosted at Cranberry Commons on Wed. Nov.20, 7-9pm. All BROKE members and supporters are encouraged to attend.
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Is climate change to blame for Typhoon Haiyan?

Just as the world was beginning to take in the almost unimaginable devastation wrought by typhoon Haiyan, a young Filipino diplomat, Naderev Sano, was getting ready to lead his country’s negotiations in the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. Yeb, as he is known, is a scientist and head of his country’s national climate commission and had flown out of Manila just hours before the vastness of Haiyan had become apparent.

By Monday morning, Sano knew that the Philippines had been struck by possibly the strongest storm ever measured, killing many thousands of people and making millions homeless. He took the floor and, in some trepidation in front of the delegates of 190 countries, gave an extraordinary, passionate speech in which he clearly linked super typhoon Haiyan to manmade climate change and urged the world to wake up to the reality of what he said was happening from latin America to south east Asia and the US. He lambasted the rich countries, and dared climate change deniers to go to his country to see for themselves what was happening.

When he sat down, sobbing, he was given a standing ovation.

This was not just diplomatic theatricals or righteous grandstanding by a developing-country diplomat about the snail-like speed of the climate talks, which have dragged on for years and are not likely to conclude until 2015. What few people in Warsaw knew until Sano had nearly finished his speech was that even as he was addressing the UN, his brother was digging people out of the rubble of the ruined city of Tacloban and he and his family still did not know the fate of other relatives.

Normally stone-hearted diplomats broke down, and Sano, who calls himself a “revolutionary” and a “philosopher” on Twitter [@yebsano], said later he would go on hunger strike for the whole of the two-week meeting. In the last 24 hours he has been joined by 30 activists.

Just as significantly, his speech has reopened the growing debate about whether the extreme weather events seen around the world over the past few years, including Hurricane Sandy, the melting of the Arctic sea ice and heatwaves in the US, Russia and Australia, can be attributed to manmade climate change. If they can, the argument goes, then the urgency of addressing the problem becomes incontrovertible; if it doesn’t, then it allows countries to continue delaying action or reducing their commitments.

Logic, at least, suggests a clear link between Haiyan and a warming world. Storms receive their energy from the ocean and the warming oceans that we can expect from global warming should therefore make superstorms such as Haiyan more likely. New research suggests that the Pacific is, indeed, warming – possibly at its fastest rate in 10,000 years. If the extra heat stored in the oceans is released into the atmosphere, then the severity of storms will inevitably increase. In short, a warmer world will probably feature more extreme weather.

This week, atmospheric scientists were clear. “Typhoons, hurricanes and all tropical storms draw their vast energy from the warmth of the sea. We know sea-surface temperatures are warming pretty much around the planet, so that’s a pretty direct influence of climate change on the nature of the storm,” said Will Steffen, director of the Australian National University (ANU) climate change institute.

“The current consensus is that climate change is not making the risk of hurricanes any greater, but there are physical arguments and evidence that there is a risk of more intense hurricanes,” says Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford.

The consensus of climate scientists is increasingly that super storms will become more frequent. According to a recent special report by the Intergovernmental panel on climate change: “The average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely to increase, but the global frequency of tropical cyclones is likely to decrease or remain unchanged.”

In September, the IPCC’s fifth assessment stated, more cautiously: “Time series of cyclone indices such as power dissipation, an aggregate compound of tropical cyclone frequency, duration, and intensity that measures total wind energy by tropical cyclones, show upward trends in the North Atlantic and weaker upward trends in the western North Pacific since the late 1970s, but interpretation of longer-term trends is again constrained by data quality concerns.”

In other words, the best science says there is some evidence that storm intensity has already increased, at least in the North Atlantic, but there’s not enough data to say categorically that any particular weather event can be linked to climate change.

But the science is moving on quickly and it is now possible, with new modelling methods, to quantify and attribute the changed odds of any given event happening. “Because of the random nature of weather, it had been assumed until recently that no single event can be attributed to climate change. However, with new research methods and better quality data, scientists are increasingly able to connect the dots between extreme weather events and climate change,” says James Bradbury, formerly a researcher with the World Resources Institute in Washington and now with the US department of energy.

“For example, one can quantify the odds of a typical heatwave happening and estimate how much a warmer world would load the dice toward the more frequent occurrence of a similar event. Or, to understand the causes of melting sea-ice or severe drought, researchers can use sophisticated climate models to help identify – and potentially isolate – various factors that could individually contribute or dynamically interact to influence climate conditions in a particular region,” he says.

Evidence that climate change makes heatwaves, superstorms and droughts far more likely is growing. Earlier this year, scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the UK’s Met Office, and the research teams from 16 other global institutions tried to calculate how much climate change had possibly influenced 12 extreme weather events that occurred in 2012. By no means all could be linked, they concluded, but they agreed that it had helped raise the temperatures during the run of 100F (37.7C) days in last year’s US heatwave, and was behind the record loss of Arctic sea ice and the storm surge of hurricane Sandy, plus several other extremes. They were less certain about Britain’s wet summer and the drought in Spain.

Russians wear facemasks in Moscow to protect themselves from forest fire smog during the 2010 heatwave. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

“Determining the causes of extreme events remains challenging,” says Thomas R Karl, director of the national climate data centre. Allen, whose work has shown that global warming tripled the odds of the severe 2010 Russian heatwave and tripled the risk of the widespread flooding in England in 2000, says extreme weather can be linked to climate change given enough computer time. He says the influence of climate change on typhoon Haiyan could be calculated in future: “If we used the same tools as are used now to make seasonal weather forecasts, there would be a straightforward answer.”

A 2013 study by MIT’s Prof Kerry Emmanuel found that the most intense cyclones – category 3 to 5 – will increase with climate change and also found that “increases in tropical cyclones are most prominent in the western North Pacific”, ie where typhoon Haiyan struck.

Ordinary people have less trouble untangling climate change from natural events. Talk to farmers in the Philippines, Nepal, south east Asia, Latin America, much of Africa and Latin America, and most will say that they are seeing more extreme storms, unseasonal rains, and more droughts and heatwaves. Their observations are not “peer-reviewed” by scientists, but their memory is usually good, and invariably supports national records.

The Philippines has been particularly hard hit by extreme events, being the first land mass that typhoons encounter on their usual track westwards from the mid Pacific. Haiyan was the third superstorm to strike the archipelago in a year, coming after seven major typhoons in October alone. Typhoon Trami caused massive flooding on the island of Luzon in August, while Bopha killed around 2,000 people in December last year.

Moreover, the Philippine government’s raw statistics suggest the region’s typhoons are getting stronger. From 1947 to 1960, the strongest to hit the country was Amy in December 1951, with a highest wind speed recorded at 240kph in Cebu. From 1961 to 1980, the highest wind speed recorded was 275kph in October 1970. In the past 13 years, the highest wind speed has soared to 320kph, recorded by Reming in November to December 2006. “Menacingly, the Philippine typhoons are getting stronger and stronger. If this is due to climate change, we’d better be prepared for even stronger ones in the future,” says Romulo Virola, head of the government’s national statistics board.

Damage in New Jersey in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy in 2012. Photograph: Reuters

What is certain is that extreme weather events are on the rise globally and that greenhouse gas emissions are rising inexorably. The US alone has experienced 25 extreme weather events since 2011 that each caused more than $1bn in damages. A new report by the Norwegian met office shows that precipitation in Europe has become more severe and more frequent, that winter rainfall has decreased over southern Europe and the Middle East and that there are more and longer heatwaves and fewer extremely cold days and nights.

The evidence is overwhelming that climate change is happening in developing countries, says Oxfam, which works in most of the world’s most vulnerable nations. “In 2012 the drought in Russia cut the grain harvest by nearly 25%, in Pakistan the devastating 2010 flood destroyed over 570,000 hectares of crop land and affected more than 20m people. The 2011 drought in East Africa affected over 13 million people and led to a famine in Somalia,” says a recent Oxfam report.

According to NOAA, July 2013 marked the 341st consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th-century average. Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s climate office said: “We believe there is an important human component explaining these record-breaking temperatures, and that’s the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Extreme weather killed 530,000 people between 1993 and 2012 and caused more than $2.5tn of damage, according to an annual risk report published on Tuesday by Germanwatch, a thinktank partly funded by the German government. The Philippines was rated second most affected country after Haiti, which lost 9.5% of its economy, just above Pakistan, which was hit by immense floods.

Sano, now on hunger strike, called for a redefinition of “disaster”. “We must stop calling events like these as natural disasters,” he told the UN. “It is not natural when science already tells us that global warming will induce more intense storms. It is not natural when the human species has already profoundly changed the climate.”

Metro Vancouver politicians to vote on Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion this week

Metro Vancouver will be deciding their position on Kinder Morgan’s proposal to triple oil shipments through Burrard Inlet. We ask everyone to write to the Board of Directors to voice their opinion on the proposal.

Here is the link to the names and email addresses of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors:
 
http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/BoardMembersPageDocs/Board_Directors_Contact_Information.pdf

Lower Mainland communities will decide this week whether to present a united front challenging Kinder Morgan’s proposed oil pipeline expansion to Burrard Inlet.

The company wants to build a second parallel pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, at the same time increasing oil tanker traffic and enlarging the Westridge Marine Terminal.

But Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew has repeatedly written the company of his community’s concerns about the proposed expansion, and Metro Vancouver politicians will vote on whether to throw their weight behind Belcarra.

“The proposed expansion of the WMT involves tripling the size of the facility’s footprint on Burrard Inlet accompanied by a significant encroachment into Burrard Inlet,” Drew and council wrote Kinder Morgan (KMC).

“The proposed increase in the size of terminal has consequences for both Burrard Inlet itself and the communities surrounding Burrard Inlet, but KMC’s proposal does not mention recompense for tripling its encroachment.

“What does KMC intend to ‘give back’ to Burrard Inlet and its neighbours surrounding the WMT?”

Metro Vancouver staff are advising politicians to side with Belcarra, while Kinder Morgan is presenting itself as a conservation-minded company.

Kinder Morgan executive Margaret Mears replied to Drew: “An environmental protection plan is being developed for the Westridge Marine Terminal as part of the proposed expansion project which will include detailed mitigation plans for the construction phase and ongoing operations. As you suggest and have discussed with our team, expectations today are for best practices to include local enhancements of current environmental conditions.

“As you know we support this view and we will continue to involve local marine expertise and local communities in the identification and design of the program.”

Among the disagreements between the two parties: Drew maintains oil-containment booms were inadequate to contain a 2007 spill in Burnaby, while the company counters that “the booms were effective in containing the majority of the oil.”

Drew told The Province he’s trying to ensure the best result possible if the pipeline plan is approved.

“They’ve got to do it right. They’ve got to walk the talk,” said Drew. “We want to ensure that the best available technologies are used.”

If Metro Vancouver follows staff recommendations, letters will be sent to both Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board endorsing Drew’s concerns “and requesting that these issues be addressed during the National Energy Board review process.”

iaustin@theprovince.com

twitter.com/ianaustin007

© Copyright (c) The Province
 

NEB: Trans Mountain Pipeline Hearing Sessions

TransMountainPipeline.Hearing@neb-one.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-899-1265.

Sessions: Thursday, November 14 – 7:00 PM (8:00 PM MST)

Friday, November 15 – 2:00 PM (3:00 PM MST)

Wednesday, November 20 – 2:00 PM (3:00 PM MST)

Thursday, November 21 – 7:00 PM (8:00 PM MST)

Wednesday, November 27 – 7:00 PM (8:00 PM MST)

Thursday, November 28 – 2:00 PM (3:00 PM MST)

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Train loaded with oil derails, explodes, pollutes Alabama wetlands

Yet another oil-hauling train has derailed and exploded, this one sending flaming cars loaded with North Dakota crude into Alabama wetlands.

The 90-car train derailed early Friday, causing flames to shoot 300 feet into the air. No injuries were reported. One family living in the marshy area was evacuated from their home following the accident. The L.A. Times has the details:

A train that derailed and exploded in rural Alabama was hauling 2.7 million gallons of crude oil, according to officials.

The 90-car train was crossing a timber trestle above a wetland near Aliceville late Thursday night when approximately 25 rail cars and two locomotives derailed, spilling crude oil into the surrounding wetlands and igniting a fire that was still burning Saturday.

Each of the 90 cars was carrying 30,000 gallons of oil, said Bill Jasper, president of the rail company Genesee & Wyoming at a press briefing Friday night. It’s unclear, though, how much oil was spilled because some of the cars have yet to be removed from the marsh.

And here’s more from Reuters:

A local official said the crude oil had originated in North Dakota, home of the booming Bakken shale patch. If so, it may have been carrying the same type of light crude oil that was on a Canadian train that derailed in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic this summer, killing 47 people. …

The accident happened in a wetlands area that eventually feeds into the Tombigbee River, according to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Booms were placed in the wetlands to contain the spilled oil.

In Demopolis, Alabama, some 40 miles south of the site of the accident, where the rail line runs 300 meters away from the U.S. Jones Elementary School, Mayor Michael Grayson said there hadn’t been an accident in the area in a century of train traffic.

But since last summer, when the oil trains first began humming past, officials discussed what might happen if a bridge just outside of town collapsed, dumping crude into the river.

“Sadly, with this thing, the only thing you can do is try to be prepared,” he said by phone.

Thanks to the North American oil boom, more and more crude is being shipped by rail — and more and more crude is being spilled by rail. The Lac-Megantic disaster isn’t the only previous example. There were 88 rail accidents involving crude oil last year, up from one or two per year during much of the previous decade. Other high-profile accidents in North America this year have included a 15,000-gallon spill from a derailed train in Minnesota in April and a fiery accident near Edmonton, Alberta, last month.

These accidents often fuel debate over whether more pipelines should be built to help safely haul oil and natural gas across the continent. But pipeline spills are on the rise too. Has anybody thought of just leaving the filthy stuff in the ground?