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Department of Transportation to Establish New Rules to Ensure Safety of Oil Rail TankersSalem-News.com Staff
The proposed new regulations would extend those precautions to all trains carrying 20 or more tank carloads of either crude or ethanol.
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - After months of pressure by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, other legislators, and advocates around the country, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced Wednesday that the Department of Transportation will take steps to establish new regulations to improve the safe transportation of crude oil by rail.
Since the release of an emergency order by DOT in May setting transportation safety standards of Bakken crude by rail, Senator Merkley has called for better notification to state and local first responders of not only Bakken crude, but all flammable substances being transported by rail.
Much of the crude oil currently traveling through Oregon by rail is coming from regions outside the Bakken and is therefore currently not covered by the emergency order.
The proposed new regulations would extend those precautions to all trains carrying 20 or more tank carloads of either crude or ethanol. It would potentially mandate safer tank cars and set restrictions on train speed.
“Oil trains pose significant risks, and Wednesday’s announcement is a step in the right direction toward preventing potential future disasters and keeping our rails and communities safe,” Merkley said. “I am concerned, however, that the proposed rules fail to provide adequate information to emergency responders and local governments. More work needs to be done. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Foxx to ensure that oil is shipped using the best methods available. Oregonians and other Americans shouldn’t have to worry that trains coming through their towns are rolling explosion hazards.”
Last year, more than 11 million barrels of oil were transported by rail through Oregon, compared to almost 3 million barrels in 2012 – an increase of about 250 percent. Crude-by-rail shipments have risen rapidly, and North American rail networks are now crowded with oil trains crisscrossing the continent, passing through communities like Lac Megantic, near Quebec, where 47 people died from an oil train explosion last year. In just the past year there have been four oil train accidents involving a total of 126 individual tank cars.
Secretary Foxx announced that DOT will open up a 60-day public comment period to allow input on its proposed rules.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued the following statement on the Department of Transportation’s proposed oil train safety rules.
“This package includes some good elements, but I urge DOT to strengthen notification of first responders for oil trains moving through their communities and move this proposal quickly to the next stage,” Wyden said. “The failure to broaden notification requirements is especially baffling since the DOT’s proposal would classify all oil and ethanol shipments as ‘high-hazard flammable trains,’ yet would only require railroads to provide advance notification to first responders when that oil originates in the Bakken.”
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