Oil train derails, explodes in West Virginia

A train carrying more than 100 tanker cars full of crude oil derailed in rural West Virginia on Monday, causing multiple explosions and sending some train cars into the nearby Kanawha River.

The CSX Corp. train was hauling crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation to a Virginia refinery.

Similar crashes involving trains carrying crude from North Dakota caused a 2013 explosion that killed 47 in Quebec, Canada, as well as a 2014 derailment in Virginia, the Charleston Daily Mail reported.

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The White House is conducting its final review of a suite of regulations aimed at increasing the safety of oil trains. The rules could mandate a phaseout of old rail cars for crude service, new speed restrictions and new braking standards for the trains.

Witnesses reported at least four explosions and a fire that burned late into Monday evening. Officials do not know how much oil spilled into the river, the Daily Mail said.

One person was treated for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries or deaths were reported. One house burned as a result of the explosions and residents in two villages were evacuated.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) declared a state of emergency Monday for Fayette and Kanawha counties.

U.S. railroads shipped 415,000 carloads last year, a sharp increase over the 10,000 shipped in 2008, according to the Transportation Department.

The increase can be attributed mostly to the increase in oil production due to unconventional drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, which has made the United States the top producer of oil in the world.

The rise in oil shipments by rail have caught the attention of regulators in both the United States and Canada.

The Transportation Department has proposed giving railroads and oil companies two years to get rid of the oldest cars or retrofit them, a similar timeline that Canadian officials are seeking. But the industry is pushing back, saying the rules would be too expensive. 

“More crude oil is being shipped by rail than ever before,” Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE said last year when proposing the new rules. “If America is going to be a world leader in producing energy, our job at this department is to ensure that we’re also a world leader in safely transporting it.”