What's Going on at a Railroad Siding Near You?

There may be secret oil and gas transfer points in your community.

Storage tanks and loading racks for products like heating oil, gasoline and propane cost big money. The siting process can be complicated and time consuming. The construction itself is subject to state and local regulations and national standards. The facilities require extensive security, fire protection features and emergency response plans.

But it seems that some clever operators have found a way around all this by storing products and loading trucks on rural rail sidings - possibly near you. Hazmat teams have begun to catch on to the scheme.

Here’s how it works:  Let’s say you can buy a lot of propane at a very good price during the summer months. If you can hold on to it until winter when prices rise you can make a tidy profit. But costs for storage and trans-loading can cut into the profit. So why not just leave it in the tank car and park it on a quiet siding. When it comes time to bring the product to market, just roll up some pumping equipment and you are ready to load trucks.

No more permits. No inspections. No expensive fencing. No fire protection equipment. No emergency response plans. And the terrorists will never find it. It’s a pretty sweet deal - unless something goes wrong.

And in many states and communities it may well be illegal.

So the takeaway here is to check out the rail sidings in your response area. What’s parked there? How long does it stay there? Do trans-shipment operations take place there? Do you have a response plan for a spill or a fire there? And finally, are the regulatory authorities in your state aware of this activity? If you are not sure who the authority is, start with your state fire marshal.

A railroad siding is a low-speed track section distinct from a running line. A railroad siding is a low-speed track section distinct from a running line.

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