After ethanol train accident, activists call for an end

Environmental activists are calling for an “end to ethanol deliveries” in Providence after an early morning train accident at the Motiva Enterprises terminal in Providence Wednesday. The Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLRI), Sierra Club, The FANG Collective (Fight Against Natural Gas) and the No LNG in PVD Coalition said the accident shows why highly combustible ethanol shouldn’t be shipped in and out of the Capital City, as is the case in Boston.

All photos courtesy of the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island.

“We are all very lucky that this accident did not result in a spill, which could have been disastrous,” said Cristina Cabrera, executive director of EJLRI. “Ethanol is explosive and extremely flammable, which is why ethanol trains have earned the nickname bomb trains.”

According to an Associated Press story in US News and World Report: “A tanker car went off of the tracks after 1 a.m. Wednesday and entered a busy four-lane road in an industrial area near the city’s port. Officials say the car was carrying 30,000 gallons of ethanol. The train car was still jutting into Allens Avenue late Wednesday morning. It’s expected to take a long time to remove it. No one was injured and no ethanol leaked.”

This post will be updated if a police report is made public. Motiva could not immediately be reached for comment. Motiva, a partnership between Shell Oil and Saudia Arabian Aramco, is breaking up this week, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported on Tuesday: “State-oil giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co. will pay Royal Dutch Shell PLC $2.2 billion to finalize the breakup of their two-decade Motiva Enterprises refining partnership in the U.S.”

Here’s the full press release from the four environmental activist groups.

Following the dangerous derailment of an ethanol train onto Allens Ave, activists with the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLRI), Sierra Club, The FANG Collective (Fight Against Natural Gas) and the No LNG in PVD Coalition call for the immediate end to ethanol deliveries to the Motiva Terminal in Providence. EJLRI Executive Director Cristina Cabrera said, “We are all very lucky that this accident did not result in a spill, which could have been disastrous.  Ethanol is explosive and extremely flammable, which is why ethanol trains have earned the nickname bomb trains.” There have been a number of explosive and fiery disasters involving derailed ethanol trains, including explosions in South Dakota in 2015, Ohio in 2012, and Illinois in 2011.

Ethanol “bomb” trains were been banned from travelling through Boston[1] because of the risk of accidents or disasters in densely populated areas.  The derailed car carried 30,000 gallons of explosive ethanol, part of a weekly 80 car shipment carrying 2.6 million gallons. The Motiva Terminal and other fuel terminals in the Port of Providence supply fuels to all of Southern New England.  These fossil fuels travel through Allens Ave, impact residents, and cause climate change.  Every day on Allens Ave, residents, commuters, school buses and RIPTA buses travel alongside numerous tanker trucks carrying gasoline, jet fuel, propane, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and dangerous hazmat chemicals.

Monica Huertas, a Washington Park resident and activist with the No LNG in PVD Coalition, said “What if this had happened during rush hour?  What if the train had collided with one of the tanker trucks carrying LNG or chemicals? It is not okay that Southside Providence is the sacrifice zone for these toxic and dangerous industries.”  No LNG in PVD is a coalition of residents and organizations working to stop National Grid from building a “liquefaction facility” to manufacture and export LNG.  The existing LNG tank and proposed facility are next to the Motiva fuel term and directly across Allens Ave from where the derailment occurred.

The density of polluting fossil fuel facilities in the Port of Providence along Allens Ave in South Providence and Washington Park is environmental racism.  There needs to be an immediate halt to ethanol deliveries, no new LNG facility, and a rapid and Just Transition away from fossil fuels and towards a renewable energy economy that benefits frontline communities of color.

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