THUMBS DOWN to the derailment and subsequent explosion of an oil train earlier this week in West Virginia, despite the use of newer rail cars meant to prevent such accidents.

About 25 of the train’s 109 rail cars derailed in the accident Monday. One car hit a house and burst into flames. Another went into a nearby river. Others exploded. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported.

The cars were carrying crude oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota, where increased output has led to a 400 percent rise in the shipment of oil in the United States since 2005. That increase, and the rise in derailments and explosions such as the one in Lac Megantic, Quebec, in 2013, have to led to calls for tighter safety regulations.

Foremost among those suggested reforms has been the replacement of old DOT-111 cars, which have thin shells that are prone to puncture. Canada already has barred thousands of the most poorly made rail cars, but changes in the United States are coming slowly. The implementation of new safety rules has stalled, with a phase-out of the old cars likely to take years.

According to the rail company, however, the cars in Monday’s accident were of the newer, safer variety. It appears, too, that before shipment the oil was stabilized, a process that makes it less likely to explode.

Neither improvement made much of a difference. That means any reform is going to have to go beyond simply exchanging the old cars for new ones. With this much oil being shipped by rail, safety standards have to continue to improve, or more fiery accidents, and perhaps more tragedies, are certain to occur.

THUMBS UP to the first two colleges to use the “responsibly harvested” seafood label from the Portland-based Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The label, now used in some supermarkets and restaurants, certifies that the seafood has been harvested sustainably from the Gulf of Maine, which stretches from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia. It is the best indication to consumers that the seafood they enjoy came from local fishermen and was harvested in a way that won’t harm the long-term health of the fishing stock.

The taste for Maine seafood is growing internationally, driven by an increase in demand from the rising middle class in China and other Asian nations. The growth in exporting is important in sustaining the seafood industry here.

But it is also important that New England takes advantage of the healthy, sustainable food found directly off its shore. Local seafood is nutritious and, when done correctly, good for the environment, as it does not have to travel far to market. That’s not to mention all the jobs supported by the seafood industry.

However, people are not exposed to Maine seafood as much as they increasingly are to other locally produced food, including meat and produce. Having the seafood available at colleges — and labeled clearly, in the same way it is at Hannaford or Shaw’s — helps introduce local seafood into the diet and make it a way of life. That’s good for the students, the schools and the New England economy.


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