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Warner: Lynchburg Oil Tanker Derailment Could Have Been Worse

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Survey crews in boats look over tanker cars as workers remove damaged tanker cars along the tracks where several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire along the James River near downtown Lynchburg, Va., Thursday, May 1, 2014. Virginia state officials were still trying Thursday to determine the environmental impact of the train derailment.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Survey crews in boats look over tanker cars as workers remove damaged tanker cars along the tracks where several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire along the James River near downtown Lynchburg, Va., Thursday, May 1, 2014. Virginia state officials were still trying Thursday to determine the environmental impact of the train derailment.

The derailment of a CSX train carrying Bakken crude oil in Lynchburg, Virginia, earlier this year could have been much worse. That's the conclusion of a hearing led by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in Richmond.

Emergency responders, government officials and corporate representatives met to discuss ways of improving crude oil transportation.

Warner said 46 times more oil is shipped on U.S. rail cars than in 2008, and that volume creates a challenge. In Lynchburg, 17 cars derailed and three fell into the James River, but the spectacular fire was caused by the rupture of only one car as its crude oil burned.

“The car that actually ruptured in Lynchburg was actually one of the safer, newer cars," Warner said. "So the question is: even are the newer cars going to be safe enough with the volatility of this Bakken crude — and are there other things that can be done both with the new cars and retrofitting older cars that can increase safety?"

Warner said companies must find out exactly how much more volatile Bakken crude is and whether the mixture can be modified to make it less so. He also said localities should be warned in real time what’s passing through, and smaller localities may not have the personnel or equipment to respond to such crises.

Warner added that new laws or regulations may be needed, but it’s in the economic self-interest of producers and distributors to tackle those vulnerabilities and ensure the safety of transporting oil.

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