For the last year and a half, Americans around the country have voiced growing concern about the higher numbers of trains carrying dozens of oil tankers through various cities. Some fear that this rise in oil rail traffic is a danger to public safety.
However, many Americans don’t realize that in several states, the public also is helping to fund this expansion with their tax dollars.
Both states and the federal government have given out many millions of tax dollars to railroad companies and US government agencies to provide more railroad transportation of crude oil.
Taxpayer assistance of railroads in NY, PA, OK, OR and OK have helped railroad companies to make high profits. This is occurring even as both federal and state governments are pushing for more oil train safety that some railroad companies oppose.
There are currently a total of 10 federal and state grants that have been approved or are pending approval, totaling more than $84 million. This is helping to increase the number of oil tanker cars on trains around the US.
Of course, these funds are tiny compared to what the railroad companies are spending on rail infrastructure each year - $24 billion.
Still, oil train safety is becoming a bigger issue, and these public grants of taxpayer dollars could become more controversial. Some experts say that local communities are footing the bill for the expansion of oil trains in their backyards, but if there is a derailment or oil spill, they will not have the funds to deal with it.
There have been 10 major oil train derailments since 2008 in the US, including one in Virginia in Lynchburg that led to several cars plunging into the James River.
Still it seems likely that oil trains will continue to make up the difference for a lack of pipelines in the US.