Friday, March 07, 2014

Um, What's in There?

A train carrying tanker cars filled with crude oil passes through St. Paul, Minn. The crude is loaded at terminals in North Dakota and Canada and taken to refineries in the east.

Recently we were driving along Station St. in Belleville which, as the name suggests, parallels the train tracks and goes past the VIA station. Well it goes past one set of tracks. There is another about two kilometres to the south along the waterfront. I was aware on this drive of what looked to be spankin' new tanker cars -- scores of them. Maybe hundreds. I stopped, waded through the snow, and took photos with my phone because there were so many. I tweeted a photo later and a friend in Bowmanville responded that they had been rolling past her place as well. Alas, I must have deleted the images but they looked a lot like the ones above.

We're told that the number of rail cars carrying crude through Toronto has risen from 500 a year in 2009 to 140,000 in 2013. That's a substantial and rather sobering increase, don't you think?  A lot of that oil is the flammable and explosive Bakken crude coming from the oil field of the same name out West. It is the stuff that transformed sleepy, lovely Lac Megantic Quebec into a living hell. And those tanker cars passed through Toronto and Bowmanville and Belleville and Montreal before eventually creating an inferno which took all those innocent lives.

We live about a kilometre south of one set of tracks and a kilometre south of the other. We have no plan for escape in the event of an emergency, and I'll bet none of our neighbours do either. And I'll wager that none of us know what is produced in the chemical plant near the train station. Maybe we should.

Am I sounding more alarmist by the moment? I don't intend to, but as good stewards of God's earth, perhaps we should ask what moves through our communities and the standards for safety in transporting hazardous goods.

At the same time we might ask what it is about our lifestyles which make it necessary for such volumes of fossil fuels to be transported here, there, and everywhere. Maybe we could all give up denial for Lent! We all like our stuff, and replacing our stuff with new, improved stuff. But there are always consequences to our actions.

Do you know what moves through your community on those trains? Have you attempted to become better informed? Could becoming aware be our Lenten challenge?

4 comments:

Judy Mcknight said...

I live smack dab between two sets of tracks! One pretty close, to the south - the other, to the north, could easily cause a lot of damage to my whole subdivision... I always wonder why we are not investing a lot more money in solar power - why more people are not accepting the free offer of solar panels on their roofs (mine did not qualify, or I would have the panels there right now!) Church roofs could be covered with solar panels and be producing a lot of energy, free, from the sun! We really should be looking seriously at this option.

David Mundy said...

I saw yesterday that the United States set a new record for solar installations last year, so it is a growing energy alternative.

My previous congregation, St. Paul's, installed an array of solar panels under the Ontario Microfit program and will actually make money for being virtuous. Some churches such as Bridge St have rooves that are not conducive (ours is slate.) And the Microfit incentives have now been closed.

You also live close to Line 9, don't you Judy? We'll ramp up the prayers for a buyer for your place!

Judy Mcknight said...

But what kind of situation does that put the new home owner in ???? (BIG guilt trip here now ! )
(That won't stop me from selling, because I need a smaller place ... but I am not selling because of the location...

Judy Mcknight said...

Panels could be added, on an angle to the CE wing roof, could they not???