North Dakota senators voice safety concerns about shipping oil by rail

Washington – Prompted by multiple train derailment-related explosions in recent years, North Dakota Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and John Hoeven (R) met with federal transportation officials on Jan. 9 to discuss their concerns about the safety of shipping crude oil by rail.

The meeting took place 10 days after a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken Formation derailed and exploded in Casselton, ND, resulting in a fire and mass evacuation. A recently issued safety advisory from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration warns that crude oil from the formation may be able to ignite at lower temperatures than “traditional” crude oil and may be more vulnerable during derailments.

PHMSA Administrator Cynthia L. Quarterman told the senators at the meeting that the agency is testing oil samples from the Bakken Formation and other regions to help determine a new rail tank car standard. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx detailed plans to gather rail industry stakeholders to discuss safety concerns and provide guidance for PHMSA’s new standard.

Heitkamp also has reached out to the Federal Railroad Administration regarding concerns about rail safety in the Casselton area, where four derailments have occurred in nine years.