Congress approves funding for oil tank rail car safety
UPDATE: This article was updated on Dec. 17 to indicate when President Barack Obama signed the budget bill.
Washington – Congress has assigned the Department of Transportation a tight deadline to issue new oil tank car design standards.
A final rule from DOT will be due by Jan. 15, according to language included in a $1.1 trillion spending bill approved by Congress on Dec. 13. President Barack Obama signed the spending bill Dec. 16, making the deadline official.
Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) led the bipartisan effort to improve safety for oil trains. Measures in the funding bill include:
- Requiring comprehensive oil spill response plans for rail carriers
- Funding a Short Line Railroad Safety Institute
- Providing $10 million in grants to improve safety at grade crossings that involve crude oil or other hazardous flammable liquids
- Providing $3 million to increase automated track inspections on crude oil routes
- Adding 15 hazardous materials and rail safety inspectors
Several recent disasters have highlighted the need for oil-by-rail safety. In 2013, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.