Amid controversy, oil trains quietly rerouted through Virginia towns

Daily News Article - February 23, 2015


1. Why is CSX Transportation Corp. rerouting oil trains through Virginia?

2. Why did Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management inform 16 counties and cities in Virginia of CSX’s plan?

3. How long will the trains run along the Norfolk Southern line that normally transports coal and freight, not oil?

4. List the oil train accidents described in the article.

5. The Wall Street Journal reported in September 2014:

Approximately 939,000 barrels of oil a day are transported by train to refineries on the coasts and along the Gulf of Mexico, about 11% of the total pumped in the U.S.”

Pipelines still carry most of the 8.5 million barrels of oil pumped every day in the U.S. And safety experts say pipelines have the best record of transporting crude without accident, despite a few big leaks like the one that left Mayflower, Ark., awash in heavy crude last year.

Activists opposed to the use of fossil fuels have focused on blocking pipelines in hopes of keeping oil in the ground (not extracting it all; not using oil for any reason)

a) What do you think: should the Obama administration and various state governments allow oil pipelines to be constructed to transport oil, or is it better to ship it by rail despite some accidents?
b) If you lived in one of the towns through which the crude oil trains will now travel, would you be concerned about possible accidents?  Explain your answer.
c) Ask a parent the same questions.

CHALLENGE  Read the entire Wall Street Journal article  “Railways Reshape the Crude Oil Market” at: and answer the following:

a) Why are oil companies shipping their crude on trains instead of through pipelines if it is a little more expensive to transport this way?

b) Which two industries benefit from shipping crude oil by rail?

c) Which groups of people are not happy that crude oil has begun to be transported by rail, and the amount of it grows each year?

d) How is the government addressing the danger associated with shipping crude oil by rail?

e) If pipelines are much safer, why did oil companies start transporting crude by rail?

f) How did the idea for transporting crude by rail come about in 2006?