BNSF Railway Co., the railroad owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), is reconsidering a plan to buy 5,000 oil-tank cars built to new safety standards after some customers voiced concern about the initiative.
“At first everybody applauded us for doing it,” BNSF Chairman Matt Rose said today during a panel discussion in Washington on oil-by-rail safety, without specifying which concerns were raised. “We’re going to go back and talk to our customers and see what they want us to do.”
Three days after an oil train derailed and exploded in 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people, Greg Saxton wandered through the disaster site inspecting tank cars.
For Saxton, the damage was personal. Some of the tank cars were built by Greenbrier, an Oregon-based manufacturer where he’s chief engineer. Almost every car that derailed was punctured, some in multiple places. Crude oil flowed from the gashes, fueling the flames, covering the ground, and running off into nearby waterways.
One of the top executives at the nation’s leading hauler of crude oil in trains said Friday that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline wouldn’t take away any of his company’s business.
Matt Rose, the executive chairman of BNSF Railway, told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that the controversial pipeline project would move primarily heavy crude oil from western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
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.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Minnesota legislator wants Congress to put teeth into requirements for railroads moving hazardous content tank cars. State Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) is chair of the Transportation Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration issued a safety advisory earlier in May urging shippers and railroads to use newer, stronger tank cars to ship cargo like the highly flammable Bakken crude oil from North Dakota.
Nobody would reasonably expect you to put up with a bomb in your backyard.
Yet every day, car after car of oil travels on railroads just steps away from people, homes and businesses, putting them at risk of explosions caused by unsafe oil tanker cars. This is increasingly true in Wyoming, where local and regional oil production means more and more crude is loaded on rail cars at terminals across the eastern half of the state.
New rules on moving hazardous materials like crude oil on U.S. railroads could settle a dispute between the energy industry and rail companies that boils down to a fraction of an inch of steel in the frame of each tank car.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote Thursday in a blog post that his agency would send its proposals to the White House for review next week. The proposal will include “options for enhancing tank car standards,” he said.
A push by Warren Buffett’s railroad to boost oil-shipment safety is meeting resistance from Hess Corp. and other companies that say the plan would mean a surge in costs and force them to scrap thousands of tank cars.
A series of accidents including a Quebec crash that killed 47 spurred Buffett’s BNSF Railway Co. along with Union Pacific Corp. to back new standards requiring older cars to be modified or junked. Shippers and railcar lessors balk at the potential cost of more than $5 billion and say carriers’ operating errors are to blame for fiery derailments like BNSF’s in December.
WASHINGTON – Rail tank cars being used to ship crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region are an “unacceptable public risk,” and even cars voluntarily upgraded by the industry may not be sufficient, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.
The cars, known as DOT-111s, were involved in derailments of oil trains in Casselton, N.D., and Lac-Megantic, Quebec, just across the U.S. border, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt told a House Transportation subcommittee hearing.