Latest update: 3/8/16.
Smoldering rail cars in and beside the James River after the April 30, 2014, derailment in Lynchburg, Va. Photo from National Transportation Safety Board Report, 3/2/16, accessed online at http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/RAB1601.pdf on 3/8/16.
On April 30, 2014, 13 cars in a 105-car, CSX oil-transport train derailed along the James River in Lynchburg, Va. The derailment resulted in three tanker cars falling partially into the river, explosions followed by fire along the tracks and on the river, evacuations of about six blocks of Lynchburg’s downtown that afternoon, and an estimated 30,000 gallons of oil from one breached tanker car reaching the river (some of that oil caught fire). The train was carrying oil from the Bakken shale area of North Dakota to Yorktown, Va. Lynchburg’s public-water supply was unaffected as the city draws water from a reservoir north of the city, in Amherst County, but Richmond (downstream on the James) had to switch temporarily to an alternative water supply. As of May 1, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had begun investigating the incident and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality was beginning its investigation of environmental impacts of the oil spill. One of the three rail cars that had fallen into the James was removed by the evening of May 1, and the other two on May 3.
On May 9, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the formation of the Commonwealth’s Railroad Safety and Security Taskforce to make recommendations and lead actions to enhance the safety of the public, property, and the environment along rail lines. That group’s May 1, 2015, recommendations are available online (as a PDF) at https://pshs.virginia.gov/media/3807/rail-task-force-final-version_initial_report_1may2015_akt_v1.pdf; and the latest on the work of the task force is available online at https://pshs.virginia.gov/initiatives/commissions-task-forces-working-groups/, as of 3/8/16.
On May 1, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the final version of a new regulation on transport of oil and other flammable liquids by rail. For a related News Grouper item, please see Federal Rule on Rail Transport of Oil and Other Flammable Liquids Released May 1, 2015, posted 5/6/15.
On March 2, 2016, the NTSB issued its report on the accident, concluding that the probable cause of this accident was a broken rail that had been discovered on April 29, 2014—the day before the accident—and was scheduled to be repaired on May 1, 2014. That report is available online at http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Pages/RAB1601.aspx.
Main sources for 3/8/16 update:
Railroad Accident Brief: CSXT Petroleum Crude Oil Train Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release, National Transportation Safety Board Accident Report, 3/2/16.
Report says Lynchburg oil train derailment could have been prevented, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/2/16.
News accounts and news releases since 4/30/14 (from most recent to oldest):
Report says Lynchburg oil train derailment could have been prevented, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/2/16.
DOT Announces Final Rule to Strengthen Safe Transportation of Flammable Liquids by Rail, U.S. Department of Transportation News Release, 5/1/15. [On May 1, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the final version of a new regulation on transport of oil and other flammable liquids by rail.]
Va. senators, feds announce new measures against oil-by-rail disasters, Daily Press, 5/1/15.
One year after Lynchburg train wreck, booming Bakken still fuels concerns, Lynchburg News & Advance, 4/30/15.
State official: CSX was planning to replace track before Lynchburg derailment, Lynchburg News & Advance, 4/30/15.
Lynchburg Derailment: 1-Year Anniversary Permanent damage unlikely but river still at risk, Lynchburg News & Advance, 4/30/15.
Fuel-hauling trains could derail at 10 a year, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/22/15 [on a U.S. Department of Transportation study completed in July 2014 estimating 10 derailments per year over the next 20 years of trains transporting oil or ethanol.]
The trouble with trains, Daily Press, 2/23/15 [an editorial in response to the Dept. of Transportation study; although this is an opinion piece, it contains substantial useful information on the role of fuel-transporting trains, including those moving through Virginia to a terminal in Yorktown].
Several accounts of proposed consent order, agreed to by CSX and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in February 2015, for CSX to pay a $361,000 civil penalty, cover DEQ investigative costs of about $18,500, and complete restoration work. The consent order underwent a public-comment period until the March 25, 2015, meeting of State Water Control Board (SWCB), which approved the agreement at that meeting. CSX hit with $361,000 penalty for oil train spill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/31/15. Proposed consent order imposes $361,000 penalty on CSX in response to James River tanker fire, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 2/23/15. Virginia fines CSX $361,000 for Lynchburg derailment in 2014, Associated Press, as published by Washington Post, 2/23/15. State proposes fining CSX for Lynchburg oil spill, Daily Press, 2/23/15. State: CSX agrees to pay $379k in Lynchburg train derailment, Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/23/15. Va. proposes $361,000 fine against CSX over Lynchburg derailment, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/23/15.
Advocacy group launches River at Risk following fiery train crash, Lynchburg News & Advance, 11/10/14 [James River Association “River at Risk” initiative to increase awareness and advocate for action about toxins along the James River.]
CSX to continue testing after Lynchburg derailment, Associated Press, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 10/30/14 [the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said that the CSX Corporation will do monthly observations and quarterly water testing through Summer 2015].
CSX reports ‘no adverse effects’ to date on James River water quality, Lynchburg News & Advance, 10/30/14.
Bakken crude oil production relies on rail shipments; From 2006 to 2013, North Dakota’s barrels rose tenfold, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/30/14.
Behind the scenes of reshaping railroad safety, Associated Press, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 7/13/14.
Oil train details not security sensitive, Ravalli Republic [Hamilton, Mont.], 6/18/14.
CSX found defect in track a day before Lynchburg derailment, Richmond Times-Dispatch, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 6/4/14.
Fears in Sharp Rise of West Coast Oil Trains [sub-headline: “Increasing train numbers, each carrying tens of thousands of barrels of potentially volatile crude oil, have raised concerns around the country after nine accidents in the past year”), Epoch Times, 5/27/14.
Bill Cochran Field Reports: No evidence of a fish kill in James River, Roanoke Times, 5/21/14.
Oil Out Of The James, Officials Still Caution River Use This [Memorial Day] Weekend, WSET TV-Lynchburg, Va., 5/21/14.
Governor McAuliffe Announces Leadership and First Meeting of Railroad Safety and Security Task Force, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 5/15/14.
Lynchburg response to oil spill was ‘textbook’, Lynchburg News & Advance, as published by Roanoke Times, 5/14/14.
River association reflects on train derailment [James River Association forum held 5/14/14], Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/14/14.
Editorial: Lynchburg train disaster could have been worse, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/13/14.
Riverkeepers’ jobs on the James outlast spectacle of train crash, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/12/14.
Governor McAuliffe Announces Railroad Safety and Security Taskforce, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 5/9/14.
Feds announce emergency measures for crude-oil rail shipments, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/7/14.
James River Association joins call for action on oil-transport safety, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/7/14.
Crude oil spilled from train may be in James River mud, Richmond Times-Dispatch, as published by Roanoke Times, 5/7/14.
Update: Oil from train wreck apparently has passed Richmond, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/7/14.
Derailment recovery efforts continue; patches of oil found by river, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/6/14.
Va. [U.S.] senators seek stricter regulation of crude oil trains, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/6/14.
Lynchburg, Va., oil train derailment illustrates threat to rivers, McClatchy DC, 5/5/14.
Cleanup continues, [Virginia’s U.S.] senators call for better safety for trains hauling hazardous materials, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/5/14.
Sens. Warner & Kaine Call for Improved Rail Safety, Better Communication Following Lynchburg Derailment, Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner News Release, 5/5/14 [includes link to May 5, 2014, letter by Sens. Warner and Tim Kaine].
Last two derailed tankers pulled from James River [on Saturday, May 3], Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/4/14.
Crew, equipment likely didn’t cause Va. derailment, Associated Press, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/2/14. [New York Gov.]
Cuomo’s call for rail safety underscored by fiery Va. derailment, Poughkeepsie [N.Y.] Journal, 5/1/14.
Virginia derailment the latest in string of oil tanker crashes, Associated Press, as published by CTV News [Canada], 5/1/14.
Lynchburg Train Derailment, WVTF-FM Public Radio (Blacksburg-Roanoke), as of 5/2/14.
Spill’s effect on James River seen as minimal, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/2/14.
Lynchburg Train Derailment Cleanup Continues; Impacts to the James River expected to be minimal, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 5/2/14.
Tankers carrying oil derail, catch fire in Virginia, Associated Press, as published by Fort Wayne [Ind.] News Sentinel, 5/1/14 (AP story carried by many news outlets nationwide).
Oil estimates reduced, but lengthy cleanup, probe ahead, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/2/14.
NTSB official: Train derailment investigation could take more than a year, Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/1/14.
Lynchburg train derailment site was under go-slow order, [Newport News] Daily Press, 5/1/14 (includes 1 min./54 sec. video of Gov. McCauliffe briefing on May 1).
DEQ Testing for Environmental Impacts after Derailment, ABC 13-TV (Lynchburg), 5/1/14.
NTSB investigating derailment, oil spill in Lynchburg, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/30/14.
Governor McAuliffe Statement on Lynchburg Train Derailment, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 4/30/14.
Oil train derails in downtown Lynchburg; spill raises fears of damage to river, Lynchburg News & Advance, 4/30/14.