More Oil Trains Coming to Pennsylvania

Are safety officials ready for possible accidents?

Despite the alarms raised when an oil train derailed over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in January—and despite broadening federal concern about the safety of such trains—you can expect to see more oil shipping over the rails in Pennsylvania. StateImpact Pennsylvania reports that the former Exelon Generating Plant in Delaware County is being converted to an oil terminal that will accept 80,000 barrels of crude every day.

Most elected officials in river towns like Eddystone are happy to see people going back to work at the old plant, but they worry it comes with some risk.

“We welcome the industrial businesses coming in, we understand the benefits of the economic growth,” says William Stewart, President of the Eddystone Borough Council. “However, we want to make sure we’re educated so in the event something was to happen, our first responders are prepared to do what they need to do.”

At a packed legislative committee hearing this week in Delaware County, former Congressman Curt Weldon – a former mayor and fire chief in Marcus Hook – warned state lawmakers that state and local first responders may not be prepared for accidents.

“Make no mistake, an incident involving rail transport of oil will occur in the Commonwealth and lives, including first responders’ lives, and property will be put at risk,” Weldon testified.

Two railroads shipping the oil say they’ve trained “thousands” of first responders to handle such accidents. Trains will start delivering oil to Delaware County in April.