Posts Tagged ‘crude oil by rail’

Senators propose new crude-by-rail regulations

oil-train-railWASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation March 25 that would set strong new safety standards for trains hauling volatile crude oil, to better protect American communities along the tracks.

The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015 requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt the use of older-model tank cars that have been shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments.

“Every new derailment increases the urgency with which we need to act,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Communities in Washington state and across the nation see hundreds of these oil tank cars pass through each week. This legislation will help reduce the risk of explosion in accidents, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and ensure first responders have the equipment they need. We can’t afford to wait for ten accidents per year, as estimated by the Department of Transportation.”

“Families and communities in Washington state and across the country should be able to feel safe knowing that every precaution is being taken to protect them from oil train disasters,” Sen. Murray said. “This legislation will help make sure the most dangerous tank cars are kept off the tracks and is a strong step forward in reducing the risks of oil train accidents and making sure our communities have the resources they need to be prepared for emergencies if they happen.”

“As more and more volatile crude oil moves through Wisconsin and through our country via rail it is critical that appropriate safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of deadly accidents,” Sen. Baldwin said. “I’m proud to join Sens. Cantwell, Feinstein and Murray in introducing legislation that takes immediate action to phase out the most dangerous tank cars carrying crude oil through our communities and I am hopeful our colleagues in the Senate will join us to prevent future oil train tragedies from occurring as we work to increase safety and efficiency along America’s railways.”

“As more crude oil is moved by train, we’re seeing a surge in derailments and explosions. Until we deploy safer tank cars and stronger safety rules, countless communities across the country face the risk of a devastating accident,” Sen. Feinstein said. “That’s why I’m supporting Senator Cantwell’s bill, which will save lives and property and ensure that railcar investments now underway will lead to significant safety improvements. We can’t wait for the next deadly accident to take the necessary steps to improve rail safety.”

The legislation would:

  • Require PHMSA standards for volatility of gases in crude oil hauled by rail.
  • Immediately ban the use of tank cars shown to be unsafe for shipping crude oil. Those models include DOT-111s and unjacketed CPC-1232s.
  • Require new tank car design standards that include 9/16th inch shells, thermal protection, pressure relief valves and electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.
  • Increase fines on railroads that violate hazardous materials laws and establish new fines for railroads and energy companies that don’t comply with safety laws.
  • Authorize funding for first responder training, equipment and emergency preparedness. Also would authorize funding for increased rail inspections and energy product testing.
  • Require comprehensive oil spill response plans for trains carrying oil, petroleum and other hazardous products.
  • Mandate railroads establish a confidential “close-call” reporting system for employees to anonymously report problems.
  • Require railroads to disclose crude-by-rail movements to State Emergency Response Commissions and Local Emergency Planning Committees along hazmat rail routes.

The legislation follows four fiery derailments involving oil trains since the start of February. No injuries were reported, but a July 2013 derailment in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, resulted in 47 deaths. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates an average of 10 derailments annually over the next 20 years as crude-by-rail shipments grow, costing $4 billion.

Five years ago, railroads hauled almost no crude oil. Now, more than 1.1 million barrels per day – with more expected – move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest. But safety regulations have not kept pace, and thousands of tank cars now in use to haul hazardous materials were not designed to carry the more flammable crude that comes from regions such as the Bakken shale.

W. Va. oil-train fireball adding pressure for safety rule

oil-train-railVideo images of a fireball billowing from the wreckage of a derailed train hauling Bakken crude are adding to pressure on federal regulators to act on new safety standards for oil shipments.

While there were no fatalities in the CSX Corp. accident in rural West Virginia on Feb. 16, the footage of flames and smoke rekindles public alarm over the prospect of tank cars rumbling through urban areas, according to a former U.S. Transportation Department official and a railroad consultant.

Read the complete story at www.philly.com.

America needs to invest in railroad tracks

Two major train derailments, one in West Virginia and one in Northern Ontario, have once again put oil transport by rail in the national spotlight in the United States.

The derailment of the train hauling crude oil in West Virginia resulted in at least 14 cars bursting into flames. As a result, two towns near the site of the accident, Adena Village and Boomer Bottom, have been evacuated. Oil from the train also spilled into the Kanawha River, contaminating the drinking water for two counties. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has declared a state of emergency. The incident came two days after another oil train derailment in Ontario, in which 29 cars were derailed and seven caught fire.

Read the complete story at www.vocativ.com.

Railroads Support Retrofitting Flammable Liquid Cars

oil-train-railWASHINGTON – The Association of American Railroads Nov. 14 urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to press for improved federal tank car regulations by requiring all tank cars used to transport flammable liquids to be retrofitted or phased out, and new cars built to more stringent standards. AAR said in comments filed with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) that the safety upgrades it is recommending will substantially decrease the likelihood of a release if a tank car is involved in an accident.

The AAR estimates that roughly 92,000 tank cars are currently moving flammable liquids, with approximately 78,000 of those requiring retrofit or phase out based on its proposal. Another 14,000 newer tank cars that today comply with the latest industry safety standards will also require certain retrofit modifications under AAR’s proposal. The tank cars affected by the AAR’s recommended safety enhancements include those used to transport crude oil and ethanol.

“We believe it’s time for a thorough review of the U.S. tank car fleet that moves flammable liquids, particularly considering the recent increase in crude oil traffic,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Our goal is to ensure that what we move, and how we move it, is done as safely as possible.”

The AAR is recommending that PHMSA consider the following when determining what federal safety standard improvements should be required for tank cars moving flammable liquids:

  • increase federal tank car design standards for new cars to include an outer steel jacket around the tank car and thermal protection, full-height head shields and high-flow capacity pressure relief valves;
  • require additional safety upgrades to those tank cars built since October 2011, when the rail industry instituted its latest design standards that today exceed federal requirements, including installation of high-flow-capacity relief valves and design modifications to prevent bottom outlets from opening in the case of an accident;
  • aggressively phase out older-model tank cars used to move flammable liquids that are not retrofitted to meet new federal requirements, and
  • eliminate the current option for rail shippers to classify a flammable liquid with a flash point between 100 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit as a combustible liquid.

“Freight railroads understand the rail supply marketplace is seeing an increased demand for tank cars needed to move more flammable liquids, such as crude and ethanol,” Hamberger said. “We believe our suggested approach to improving tank car safety allows railroads to continue to serve their customers, while taking rail tank car safety to the next level. We look forward to working with PHMSA, rail customers and the rail supply community as this rulemaking process moves ahead.”

To learn more about how railroads ensure that approximately 99.998 percent of all hazardous materials moving by rail reach their destination without a release caused by an accident, visit www.aar.org/safety.