Bomb Trains has been optioned for use in a documentary on East Palestine and the larger problems in the rail industry that I document in the book.


“The AAR suggested to its law enforcement audience that it is not industry corner-cutting that presents the true safety risk but Mikulka’s book itself.”

The Intercept

In 2013 a runaway train loaded with crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec—destroying the downtown area and killing 47 people. This was the first of many oil trains that began derailing and exploding across North America as oil companies ramped up shipping a glut of fracked oil by train. Serving in lieu of pipelines, the trains carrying volatile oil soon gained the nickname “bomb trains” from rail operators.

These trains continue to pass through small towns and major cities every day, putting an estimated 25 million people in North America at risk. The U.S. and Canadian regulatory systems, corrupted by industry influence, enabled a variety of risk factors that led to these “bomb trains.”

While the system was broken then, prospects for government oversight have gotten significantly worse in the Trump administration. Under President Trump, critical regulatory roles have been filled by former rail executives, and federal agencies have rolled back the few meaningful protections meant to avoid another oil spill or fatal disaster. Investigative journalist Justin Mikulka tells the story of how we got here, the communities fighting back, and where we could go next in an attempt to defuse the next “bomb train.”

Bomb Trains Book and Documentary


“A richly researched, well-written, hugely important case study in the peril the public faces when federal agencies are captured by the industries they’re supposed to regulate. Profits and body count go up while public safety and confidence in government go down.” 

Marcus Stern
Pulitzer prize winning journalist

“Justin Mikulka at DeSmog has been the indispensable journalist for all wrestling with the crude oil train crisis in North America in the last five years. His new book Bomb Trains… outlines some needed concrete ways forward on rail safety, as well as valuable ammunition from a significant public safety sector for those who would insist on the need for fundamental political changes.” 
Fred Millar
Rail safety consultant


“[Bomb Trains] is an invaluable resource for understanding how regulations get made; how they get blocked, delayed, diluted, reversed, etc. Its insights are a major contribution to understanding the power of the railroad and the petroleum industries, the acquiescence of the regulators, and the political accomplices. And how invariably profit trumps safety.”

Bruce Campbell
Author of The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied

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