Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cantwell, Murray, Baldwin, and Feinstein Introduce Oil Train Safety Legislation

United States Senate
For Immediate Release                                       CONTACT:   Cantwell Press Office: (202) 224-8277
Wednesday, March 25, 2015                                                                Baldwin Press Office: (202) 224-6225
  Feinstein Press Office: (202) 224-9629
Murray Press Office: (202) 224-2834
           
Cantwell, Murray, Baldwin, and Feinstein Introduce Oil Train Safety Legislation
Bill would set new standards for crude volatility, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and increase fines for violations

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation that would set strong new safety standards for trains hauling volatile crude oil, to better protect American communities along the tracks.
 
The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015 requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt the use of older-model tank cars that have been shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments.
 
“Every new derailment increases the urgency with which we need to act,” said Senator Cantwell, ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Communities in Washington state and across the nation see hundreds of these oil tank cars pass through each week.  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.  We can’t afford to wait for ten accidents per year, as estimated by the Department of Transportation.”
 
“Families and communities in Washington state and across the country should be able to feel safe knowing that every precaution is being taken to protect them from oil train disasters,” Senator Murray said. “This legislation will help make sure the most dangerous tank cars are kept off the tracks and is a strong step forward in reducing the risks of oil train accidents and making sure our communities have the resources they need to be prepared for emergencies if they happen.”
“As more and more volatile crude oil moves through Wisconsin and through our country via rail it is critical that appropriate safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of deadly accidents,” Senator Baldwin said. “I’m proud to join Senators Cantwell, Feinstein and Murray in introducing legislation that takes immediate action to phase out the most dangerous tank cars carrying crude oil through our communities and I am hopeful our colleagues in the Senate will join us to prevent future oil train tragedies from occurring as we work to increase safety and efficiency along America’s railways.”  
 
“As more crude oil is moved by train, we’re seeing a surge in derailments and explosions. Until we deploy safer tank cars and stronger safety rules, countless communities across the country face the risk of a devastating accident,” Senator Feinstein said. “That’s why I’m supporting Senator Cantwell’s bill, which will save lives and property and ensure that railcar investments now underway will lead to significant safety improvements. We can’t wait for the next deadly accident to take the necessary steps to improve rail safety.”
 
The legislation would:
 
  • Require PHMSA standards for volatility of gases in crude oil hauled by rail.
 
  • Immediately ban the use of tank cars shown to be unsafe for shipping crude oil. Those models include DOT-111s and unjacketed CPC-1232s.
 
  • Require new tank car design standards that include 9/16th inch shells, thermal protection, pressure relief valves and electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.
 
  • Increase fines on railroads that violate hazardous materials laws and establish new fines for railroads and energy companies that don’t comply with safety laws.
 
  • Authorize funding for first responder training, equipment and emergency preparedness. Also would authorize funding for increased rail inspections and energy product testing.
 
  • Require comprehensive oil spill response plans for trains carrying oil, petroleum and other hazardous products.
 
  • Mandate railroads establish a confidential “close-call” reporting system for employees to anonymously report problems.
 
  • Require railroads to disclose crude-by-rail movements to State Emergency Response Commissions and Local Emergency Planning Committees along hazmat rail routes.
 
The legislation follows four fiery derailments involving oil trains since the start of February. No injuries were reported, but a July 2013 derailment in downtown Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec, resulted in 47 deaths. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates an average of 10 derailments annually over the next 20 years as crude-by-rail shipments grow, costing $4 billion.
 
Five years ago, railroads hauled almost no crude oil. Now, more than 1.1 million barrels per day – with more expected – move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest. But safety regulations have not kept pace, and thousands of tank cars now in use to haul hazardous materials were not designed to carry the more flammable crude that comes from regions such as the Bakken shale.
 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another fiery oil train derailment

Another fiery oil train derailment

As seen from near Bellevue, Iowa, smoke rises from train derailment March 5, 2015, near Galena, Illinois AP


GALENA, Ill. -- A freight train loaded with crude oil derailed in northern Illinois, bursting into flames and prompting officials to suggest that everyone with 1 mile evacuate, authorities said.
The BNSF Railway train derailed Thursday afternoon in a rural area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand. A cause for the derailment hadn't yet been determined. No injuries were reported.
Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said at a news conference late Thursday, adding that the suggestion to evacuate was prompted by the presence of a propane tank near the derailment.
The derailment occurred 3 miles south of Galena in a wooded and hilly area that is a major tourist attraction and the home of former President Ulysses S. Grant. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department confirmed the train was transporting oil from the Northern Plains' Bakken region.
Earlier in the day, Moran said 8 tankers had left the track. But Williams said at the news conference that only six cars derailed, two of which burst into flames and continued to burn into the night.
Firefighters could only access the derailment site by a bike path, said Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley. They attempted to fight a small fire at the scene but were unable to stop the flames.
Firefighters had to pull back for safety reasons and were allowing the fire to burn itself out, Conley said. In addition to Galena firefighters, emergency and hazardous material responders from Iowa and Wisconsin were at the scene.
The derailment comes amid increased public concern about the safety of shipping crude by train.
According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana, where pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by train.
Since 2008, derailments of oil trains in the U.S. and Canada have seen 70,000-gallon tank cars break open and ignite on multiple occasions, resulting in huge fires.
A train carrying Bakken crude crashed in a Quebec town in 2013, killing 47 people. That same year, another crash sent flames shooting into the sky in North Dakota. Last year, it happened in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Last month, a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude derailed in a West Virginia snowstorm, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a river tributary and forcing hundreds of families to evacuate.
That blaze and the one sparked Thursday in Illinois involved CPC 1232 model tank cars, railroad officials said.
That model "is the newer, supposedly tougher version of the DOT-111 car manufactured before 2011, which was faulted by regulators and operators for a number of years," the Reuters news agency explains.
Older rail cars have been prone to punctures, and the industry is moving toward tank cars with thicker shells.
The ruptures and fires have prompted the Obama administration to consider requiring upgrades such as thicker tanks, shields to prevent tankers from crumpling, rollover protections and electronic brakes that could make cars stop simultaneously, rather than slam into each other.
Improving railroad tank car safety was one of the National Transportation Safety Board's "most wanted" items on their 2015 safety list.
In a statement, the Federal Railroad Administration said it was sending investigators to the Illinois derailment site and that the agency will conduct a "thorough investigation," to determine the cause.
BNSF spokesman Michael Trevino said railroad employees were on the scene and additional personnel were headed there.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner also put state personnel and equipment at the ready for deployment.
In a statement Thursday night, the railroad also said it was establishing a claims center at the site of the incident to help and assist local residents who may have incurred damage to their property or are in need of temporary relocation.
"BNSF is also taking precautionary measures to protect the waterways in the area and will conduct air quality monitoring," the railroad added.