Huh. Groups like the Sierra club sure were quiet about the dangers of transporting fuels by rail when they were opposing pipelines.
Canadian Pacific, which in 2014 was hauling 7 to 11 trains per week on its Wisconsin route, reported in 2016 that its weekly traffic was down to 1 to 3 trains.
That translates to a roughly 97 percent reduction in the number of oil trains passing through La Crosse County.
“It’s kind of a good thing, but there are still concerns,” said Alan Stankevitz, a La Crescent-based wildlife photographer and editor of a rail safety watchdog blog.
Those concerns include ethanol, ammonia, benzene and other unknown hazardous materials that are transported by rail every day, about which the public — and some first responders — have little knowledge and that pose potential threats to thousands of people who live and work near railroad tracks as well as to the Mississippi River, flanked by two major rail carriers.
“There’s still plenty of other hazardous materials that if they were to get into the river system would be catastrophic,” said Stankevitz, who was one of nine plaintiffs who took the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to court in 2015 in an unsuccessful attempt to block BNSF Railway from expanding its capacity in Wisconsin.
Bill Davis, director for the Wisconsin chapter of the Sierra Club, shares that concern.
While the Sierra Club didn’t like the idea of putting people at risk to move fossil fuels, the group also warned about the environmental dangers of hazardous materials moving over aging rails and bridges.