Rail shipments of toxic and explosive Bakken oil threaten the Middle Fork Flathead River in Montana. A decade ago, barely 4,000 railroad tank cars moved crude oil nationwide. Now, 12 to 18 trains, each with 100 tank cars, pass through the Middle Fork corridor each week - increasing the risk of derailments and spills. One tank car can carry 30,000 gallons of crude oil, and each train can haul up to three million gallons. Although there has not yet been an oil train disaster along the Middle Fork, 37 derailments occurred in this corridor between 2000 and 2012. A derailment that spills Bakken oil or other hazardous materials, such as benzene or chlorine, could permanently degrade the river and downstream waters, harming communities and the area’s thriving tourism-based economy. The Middle Fork Flathead serves as the southern border of Glacier National Park, the nation’s third most visited park, welcoming 2.36 million visitors and generating $198 million in revenue in 2015. The vibrant tourism economy of the Flathead Valley, which includes the communities of Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Bigfork and Polson, is heavily dependent on a pristine Middle Fork Flathead River.
Urge the Federal Railroad Administration to protect the Middle Fork Flathead by developing a safety agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe that helps prevent train derailments.
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