SEATTLE – City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and all eight of his council colleagues signed a letter calling for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to issue an emergency order prohibiting the shipment of Bakken crude oil in legacy DOT-111 tank train cars. Bakken is highly flammable and easily ignited at normal temperatures by heat, static discharges, sparks or flames, and vapors which may form explosive mixtures with air and spread along confined areas such as sewers. The Seattle City Council is the first in the country to support the petition, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club and ForestEthics.
The corresponding letter highlights the O’Brien-sponsored oil train Resolution 31504, which was signed by Mayor Ed Murray and adopted by Council in February. O’Brien’s resolution urged Secretary Anthony Foxx to aggressively phase out older model tank cars used to move flammable liquids that are not retrofitted to meet new federal requirements. Following the explosion of DOT-111 train cars in Quebec, which killed 47 men, women and children, Canada immediately took action to begin phasing-out of the DOT-111 cars.
“Dozens of people have died in crude-by-rail accidents when DOT-111 tank cars were punctured and spilled flammable crude,” said O’Brien. “The catastrophic explosions can be triggered by a single spark and yet they travel on tracks underneath downtown and flanking both Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. Seattle cannot afford to sit idly by with public safety in our city at risk.”
Earlier today the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed new rules that would phase out the use of the DOT-111 cars in two years. City Council’s letter in support of the EarthJustice petition seeks to protect the public from oil spills and explosions now. According to the letter: “Banning the shipment of highly flammable crude oil in legacy DOT-111 tank cars is necessary to abate the unsafe conditions posing an imminent hazard to human life, communities, and the environment.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, areas up to one-half mile or more from an accident site are considered vulnerable. An incident requiring warning, evacuation or rescue could easily affect the more than 600,000 people living and working in densely populated sections of Seattle.
BNSF Railway reports moving 8-13 oil trains per week through Seattle, all containing 1,000,000 or more gallons of Bakken crude. Many of the City of Seattle’s public safety concerns were highlighted in the April 2014 testimony of Seattle’s Director of Office of Emergency Management before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies in the Committee on Appropriations.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation May 7 issued an emergency order requiring all railroads operating trains containing large amounts of Bakken crude oil to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about the operation of these trains through their states.
Additionally, DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a safety advisory strongly urging those shipping or offering Bakken crude oil to use tank car designs with the highest level of integrity available in their fleets. In addition, PHMSA and FRA advise offerors and carriers to the extent possible to avoid the use of older legacy DOT Specification 111 or CTC 111 tank cars for the shipment of Bakken crude oil.
“The safety of our nation’s railroad system, and the people who live along rail corridors is of paramount concern,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “All options are on the table when it comes to improving the safe transportation of crude oil, and today’s actions, the latest in a series that make up an expansive strategy, will ensure that communities are more informed and that companies are using the strongest possible tank cars.”
Effective immediately, the emergency order (Docket Number DOT-OST-2014-0067), requires that each railroad operating trains containing more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil, or approximately 35 tank cars, in a particular state to provide the SERC notification regarding the expected movement of such trains through the counties in that state.
The notification must include estimated volumes of Bakken crude oil being transported, frequencies of anticipated train traffic and the route through which Bakken crude oil will be transported. The Emergency Order also requires the railroads provide contact information for at least one responsible party at the host railroads to the SERCs. The Emergency Order advises railroads to assist the SERCs as necessary to share the information with the appropriate emergency responders in affected communities.
FRA and PHMSA also issued a joint Safety Advisory 2014-01 to the rail industry strongly recommending the use of tank cars with the highest level of integrity in their fleet when transporting Bakken crude oil.
The Department of Transportation continues to pursue a comprehensive, all-of-the-above approach in minimizing risk and ensuring the safe transport of crude oil. FRA and PHMSA have undertaken more than a dozen actions to enhance the safe transport of crude oil over the last ten months. This comprehensive approach includes immediate and long-term steps such as: launching “Operation Classification” in the Bakken region to verify that crude oil is being properly classified; issuing safety advisories, alerts, emergency orders and regulatory updates; conducting special inspections; moving forward with a rulemaking to enhance tank car standards; and reaching agreement with railroad companies on a series of immediate voluntary actions they can take by reducing speeds, increasing inspections, using new brake technology and investing in first responder training.
The Association of American Railroads issued the following statement in response to the emergency order: “Freight railroads have for years worked with emergency responders and personnel to educate and inform them about the hazardous materials moving through their communities. These open and transparent communications will continue as railroads do all they can to comply with the Department of Transportation’s Emergency Order.”
Click here to view the emergency order.
Click here to view the safety advisory.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) August 2 issued an emergency order and safety advisory to help prevent trains operating on mainline tracks or sidings from moving unintentionally. The FRA’s announcement was made in response to the July 6, 2013, derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, as it awaits additional data once the investigation into the crash is complete.
The actions announced today build on the success of FRA’s rigorous safety program, which has helped reduce train accidents by 43 percent over the last decade, and made 2012 the safest year in American rail history.
The emergency order is a mandatory directive to the rail industry, and failure to comply will result in enforcement actions against violating railroads.
“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While we wait for the full investigation to conclude, the department is taking steps today to help prevent a similar incident from occurring in the United States.”
The emergency order outlines measures that all railroads must undertake within the next 30 days:
•No train or vehicles transporting specified hazardous materials can be left unattended on a mainline track or side track outside a yard or terminal, unless specifically authorized.
•In order to receive authorization to leave a train unattended, railroads must develop and submit to FRA a process for securing unattended trains transporting hazardous materials, including locking the locomotive or otherwise disabling it, and reporting among employees to ensure the correct number of hand brakes are applied.
•Employees who are responsible for securing trains and vehicles transporting such specified hazardous material must communicate with the train dispatchers the number of hand brakes applied, the tonnage and length of the train or vehicle, the grade and terrain features of the track, any relevant weather conditions, and the type of equipment being secured.
•Train dispatchers must record the information provided. The dispatcher or other qualified railroad employee must verify that the securement meets the railroad’s requirements.
•Railroads must implement rules ensuring that any employee involved in securing a train participate in daily job briefings prior to the work being performed.
•Railroads must develop procedures to ensure a qualified railroad employee inspects all equipment that an emergency responder has been on, under or between before the train can be left unattended.
•Railroads must provide this emergency order to all affected employees.
View the complete emergency order here.
For guidance on Emergency Order 28 implementation, click here.
“Today’s action builds upon a comprehensive regulatory framework we have had in place for some time,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “The safe shipment of all cargo is paramount and protecting the safety of the American public is fundamental to our enforcement strategy and we are encouraged by the industry’s willingness to cooperate with this approach going forward.”
“This is an important step being taken by the FRA as the issue of the consists of crews is now in the public debate,” said SMART Transportation Division President Mike Futhey. “As a result of the actions taken by the FRA, coupled with the legislation entered by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), this provides our organization with the opportunity to ensure that train operation, as it pertains to the consists of crews, is performed in correlation with public safety.
In addition to the emergency order, the FRA, together with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), issued a safety advisory detailing a list of recommendations railroads are expected to follow.
U.S. DOT believes that railroad safety is enhanced through the use of multiple crew members, and the safety advisory recommends railroads review their crew staffing requirements for transporting hazardous material and ensure that they are adequate. Other recommendations in the safety advisory include: conducting system-wide evaluations to identify particular hazards that may make it more difficult to secure a train or pose other safety risks and to develop procedures to mitigate those risks. A copy of the safety advisory can be viewed here.
“When PHMSA talks about the transportation of hazardous materials, safety is a prerequisite to movement,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “We are taking this action today and we will be looking hard at the current rail operating practices for hazardous materials to ensure the public’s safety.”?
As FRA continues to evaluate safety procedures following the recent crash, it will convene an emergency meeting of its Railroad Safety Advisory Committee to consider what additional safety measures may be required. FRA plans to develop a website that will allow the public to track industry compliance with the emergency order and safety advisory issued today. FRA has developed a plan that outlines six major actions that have occurred or will occur to further ensure that our regulatory response to the Canadian rail accident remains transparent.
Under current DOT regulations, all freight railroads are required to develop and implement risk assessments and security plans in order to transport any hazardous material, including a plan to prevent unauthorized access in rail yards, facilities and trains carrying hazardous materials. Railroads that carry hazardous materials are required to develop and follow a security protocol while en route; railroad employees are subject to background checks and must complete training. Training programs and protocols are reviewed and audited by the FRA routinely and generally designed to be progressive so as the level of risk increases so does the level of security required. A description of past, present, and proposed FRA actions on this issue can be found here.