This is some scary breaking news, from the ABC affiliate in Lynchburg, VA.

Lynchburg emergency officials have confirmed that a train has gone off the tracks in downtown Lynchburg. It happened around 1:45 Wednesday afternoon.

Between 12 and 14 CSX tankers carrying crude oil were involved in the train derailment, according to city officials. A witness on the scene says he saw the rail under the train give way. That is, the dirt and stone beneath the train gave way and according to that witness, the train then toppled over.

Between three and six cars caught fire and the smoke can be seen throughout much of Lynchburg.

According to officials, three railway cars are in the river and the crude oil that was in the tankers is spilling into the river.

Witnesses report seeing flames 80 feet high. Witnesses also reported seeing a very thick, black smoke.

Incredibly, no injuries have been reported so far, though Lord only knows what sort of damage has been wrought to the James River and its ecosystem.

Is it just me, or is this issue of safety and environmental hazards associated with the storage and transportation of fossil fuels and chemicals getting dire enough to call into question metronomic conservative complaints about “over-regulation?”

Truth is, this story caught my attention because I used to live near Lynchburg, and I grew to cherish the slowly decaying old river town with its distinctive architecture and decidedly untrendy (compared to the other city in my vicinity, Charlottesville) ambiance. It helped that I visited Lynchburg a hundred times or so without ever espying the landmarks non-locals usually identify with it, Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church. But I pretty much stuck to the downtown regions befouled by crude oil today.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.