During the interview, Professor Brady provided commentary about potential environmental and health impacts, and compared the relative safety of moving oil by rail (99.99% safe) with both the undetected, and at times open and obvious, spillage from recent releases of oil from pipelines, as has occurred recently in Arkansas, Michigan and Texas.
He pointed out that both processes, while not without risk, are heavily regulated and provide a relatively safe method of transport for the oil industry. Given increased production from fracking and subsequent transport fate, however, the number of spill incidents may be expected to increase marginally, perhaps necessitating rerouting of trains away from densely populated areas and greater emphasis on railroad safety measures, also heavily regulated by DOT.
Overall, both rail and pipelines have good safety records. Spills from rail cars occur more frequently than from pipelines but tend to be smaller. Pipelines can also be built to avoid population centers and fragile ecosystems, while crude-carrying trains frequently travel through large cities. Most of the crude currently being moved by rail is light crude from the Bakken region, not tar-sands oil from Canada.
Tar-sands oil is heavier and more expensive to move by rail, but energy companies in the Bakken region embrace rail since it is more flexible than pipelines. North Dakota produces nearly a million barrels of oil a day, a majority of it shipped by rail. Recent meetings with government regulators and railroad representatives on proposed rail safety measures have resulted in agreement in principle to impose further regulations, such as rerouting of train shipments, as well as speed reduction, through less populous areas.
To watch the video of Professor Brady's interview, follow this link. (Coming Soon)
For more information about this topic, read this Wall Street Journal article.