Oil Trains And California schools



A 2015 analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity found that more than 1 million California children attend school within one mile of railroads used by oil trains, which have experienced a dramatic increase in explosions and derailments across the country in recent years.

The investigation identified more than 2,300 elementary, middle and high schools in 29 counties located within a mile of confirmed oil train routes in California.

The analysis used oil train routes identified through government documents and media reports and the latest data available from U.S. Department of Education (2009-2010 and 2011-2012) to map public and private elementary, middle and high schools along the routes and calculate the number of students.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends an initial evacuation zone of a half-mile in all directions for a single tanker car on fire. However, a one-mile-or-more evacuation zone can result when there are explosions and fires involving multiple tanker cars, which can produce extensive plumes of toxic fumes, smoke, particulate matter and heat at significant distances from burning oil tankers.

For a full explanation of our mapping methodology, click here.

Among the findings in the mapping analysis:

  • More than 1 million (approximately 1,178,000) California students attend school within a mile of confirmed oil train routes;
  • Of those, roughly 521,000 go to school within a half-mile of oil train routes, the area that federal officials say should be initially evacuated in all directions in case of a single tanker on fire;
  • Another 226,000 attend school within a mile of proposed oil train routes.

Learn more about the Center's work on oil trains.

Oil train photo courtesy Flickr/Pembina Insitute