When Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner sees rail cars full of crude oil rumble down the tracks that criss-cross his Chicago-area town, he often thinks about the derailment that killed 47 people almost a year ago in Canada.
The disaster focused attention on the design of the oil tankers, yet two-thirds of the tank cars in use today are still older models that safety experts say are vulnerable to puncture. The July 6 derailment last year in Quebec and seven other major ones in the U.S. and Canada since then have spilled more than 3 million gallons of oil, with some cars catching fire or exploding.
“You can see tanker car after tanker car go by on that rail constantly,” said Weisner, whose city is 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Chicago and second to it in population in Illinois.
“Our regulators have got to figure out whether they’re working in the interest of the American people or the oil industry.” Weisner is co-chairman of the TRAC coalition, a group of communities that are lobbying for rail safety enhancements, including sturdier cars.