Rail Legislation

Lawmakers push for oil-by-rail safety

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Photo: iStock/Thinkstock

Washington – A group of senators has introduced legislation intended to strengthen safety standards for rail cars that haul volatile crude oil across the country.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the bill March 25 along with Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The legislation calls for several changes, including:

  • Requiring standards from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on the volatility of gases in crude oil moved by rail
  • Banning tank car models such as DOT-111s and CPC-1232s for shipping crude oil
  • Issuing new tank car design standards for shell thickness, thermal protection, pressure relief valves and other features
  • Increasing fines for railroads that violate laws regarding hazardous materials
  • Authorizing funding to improve training for first responders
  • Requiring railroads to set up a confidential “close call” reporting system for employees to call attention to problems

In 2014, PHMSA advised rail carriers to avoid using DOT-111 cars to ship crude oil from the Bakken Formation in the Northern Plains.

“Every new derailment increases the urgency with which we need to act,” Cantwell said in a press release. “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.”