Many news headlines these days are not very happy: turmoil in Afghanistan, the expansion of ISIS, protests in Ferguson and Oakland over the indictment of Officer Wilson, and then more “pressing” news such as what to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner, what is the best stuffing recipe EVER, and how to get along with family members during the upcoming holidays. If within the last day you watched or read the news from KCR Sacramento or News 10 ABC (see link), you will have heard about the Union Pacific train that derailed yesterday and plunged into the Feather River Canyon, just east of Belden and 50 mi. northeast of Lake Oroville, an important reservoir that supplies many Californians with water. Fortunately, the train was carrying only corn, but these are the same rail tracks that each week transport 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil from Montana and North Dakota to refineries in California. Now if that isn’t scary enough to give you nightmares, here is some more fuel for your nighttime dreams: these rail cars that carry Bakken crude are also not very safe and need major retrofitting or replacement.
So why does this all matter? As citizens, it should matter a lot, for the safety of all the people whose lives are at risk when rail cars with highly explosive crude passes by our towns. It should also matter, especially to the OWCN community, because since June of this year, the OWCN’s mandate has expanded to include wildlife response for inland spills. This means that if a train derails or explodes, resulting in a petroleum product being released into a waterway and impacting wildlife, we will most likely be responding.
So, yes, we have dodged the bullet for now, but this news story should be a powerful reminder that we should constantly stay on our toes and be ready for more of these events happening that might call on the OWCN to respond.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And remember to steer clear of discussing religion or politics at the Thanksgiving table. Just saying.