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Friday, November 20, 2015

Oil train blast danger in Plainfield?

Map shows a portion of the Plainfield County Club
lies in the 'yellow' oil train blast zone.

A city employee once told me that oil trains run through Plainfield overnight on the Raritan Valley Line.

I disputed the story, but was never able to confirm it one way or the other.

Oil trains are much in the news these days (Teaneck held a vigil last night, see here) because the Bakken crude that is shipped by rail is highly flammable and the pressurized tank cars in which it is shipped can rupture, setting off tremendous and deadly explosions (see more here).

So I listened closely when the Hudson Riverkeeper came on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show Thursday to discuss oil trains and the dangers they pose.

In the course of the discussion,  it was said that a website exists to show how close any community is to a so-called "blast zone" by simply typing in the ZIP code.

Since Gov. Christie keeps the routes of these oil trains throughout New Jersey a state secret (unlike other states), I wondered what I could learn about Plainfield and oil trains from the website.

The website (see here) does NOT show oil trains running on the Raritan Valley Line. Whew!

But, the rail line that runs through South Plainfield and Edison does carry oil trains. The map shows a red blast zone and a yellow one-mile zone that passes just south of West 7th and Clinton and also includes a portion of the Plainfield Country Club.

I suspect the real reason the Christie administration refuses to share the information on oil train routes is the pressure it would face from residential communities if they knew what was rolling through their backyards.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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