Report: Millions Live in Pa. Oil Train Evacuation Zones

Growing concern about safety of oil transport.

Amid growing concern about the transportation of oil by train through Pennsylvania — and through Philadelphia, to the city’s refineries — environmental groups have released a report (below) suggesting that “millions” of residents live in “evacuation zones” likely to be affected if an accident happens.


According to a report by the environmental advocacy groups PennEnvironment and FracTracker, more than 3.9 million state residents live within the federally recommended half-mile evacuation zone of rail routes. Their data was based on all active freight lines in the state.

“Considering the burgeoning volume of oil train traffic and the rate of accidents, this is a very serious issue warranting heightened transparency, communications, and safety enhancements,” said Brook Lenker, FracTracker’s executive director.

PublicSource, a nonprofit news agency, released its own report Monday. Their analysis was based on data provided by railroads to federal regulators found that 1.5 million state residents are at risk.

The safety of oil-carrying trains — known pejoratively by activists as “bomb trains” — has been of increasing concern in Philadelphia after two incidents over the last year: In the first, oil tankers on a train crossing the Schuylkill River derailed on the bridge; in the second incident — just a few weeks ago — 11 cars from an 111-car train derailed in South Philly.

There were no injuries in either derailment, but oil-carrying trains have proven dangerous. A 2013 explosion killed 47 people in Quebec. And earlier this month, oil tankers in West Virginia derailed and exploded. 

Gov. Tom Wolf last week called on President Obama to tighten regulations on oil-carrying trains to improve safety along the routes.