Since 2000, crude oil has been extracted from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota through a process called hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). Bakken crude oil, which is shipped by rail to port cities around the country for transport, is highly explosive. Communities along rail lines around the country are facing an increased risk of dangerous explosions. In the past two years, there have been two explosions of Bakken crude oil as it was being transported by rail – one in Quebec that killed 47 people, and one in Lynchburg, Virginia that spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the James River.
In addition to the safety risk associated with the transport of crude oil by rail, the extraction of fossil fuels – particularly through the fracking process – intensifies the threat to human health, safety and the environment that is posed by climate change. Well-known climate activist Bill McKibben noted in 2012 that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change (greater than a 2-degree Celsius increase in global temperature), 80 percent of known reserves of fossil fuel must be kept in the ground. Enabling further shipment of crude oil encourages further extraction and exacerbates the climate threat.
In 2014, Targa Terminals, an export company located on the Fairfield Peninsula in South Baltimore, submitted permit applications to the Maryland Department of the Environment to convert its pier to one that would enable the shipment of crude oil. The granting of these permits would lead to the shipment of more than 9 million barrels of crude oil per year by rail to oil refineries along the East Coast. An undisclosed but significant quantity of this oil would be shipped through Baltimore City and could present a threat to the City’s residents and environment.
Given the safety and climate risks associated with the shipment of crude oil by rail, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is advocating for a moratorium on the granting of city and state permits related to crude oil transport – such as that sought by Targa Terminals -- until the safety, health and environmental risks are more fully understood. The Abell Foundation is supporting this campaign.