Monday, January 5, 2015

How Reagan and Clinton Made Oil Trains Less Safe

How Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton Made Oil Trains Less Safe

Are lives worth more than oil-by-rail industry costs?

Eric de Place    January 5, 2015   Sightline Institute

Oil trains are not safe—a string of cinematic explosions has made that clear—and they’re not nearly as tightly regulated as they should be. This regulatory lapse isn’t just a one-off failure of the federal agencies charged with oversight; we’re in a jam that’s been decades in the making. Since Ronald Reagan, in fact.

When the feds released draft rules for oil trains this past July, they also published a draft Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA). Though it’s technical and often-overlooked, the RIA is a hugely important document that weighs the benefits to the public against the costs to the private sector....

.... nowadays agencies must quantify the anticipated present and future benefits and costs as accurately as possible—and then proceed with a new rule only if the benefits justify the costs. All of which may sound sensible enough, but consider this: that means the benefit of you being alive is evaluated in the same equation that measures the oil industry’s profit margin. And with exploding trains, that’s not just hyperbole.

You may think it is essential to avoid an American city repeat of the Lac-M├ęgantic disaster that killed 47 innocent people. But in the federal regulatory world, the merits of preventing this sort of “high-consequence event” are reduced to an accounting question. Safer oil trains have costs (to the private sector) that must be entered in the ledger opposite the benefits of saving people, property, and the environment......   

..... (By the way, the overseeing federal agency estimates that the US could experience one mega derailment and nine “high consequence events” over 20 years.)....   more here


Crude oil moved by rail drawing scrutiny

Aurora and Barrington [Illinois] leaders are among local officials who have pushed U.S. regulators to restrict use of older tank cars.

BY CURTIS TATE  01/05/15

...."Between the two, the number of trains on a daily basis that are carrying something flammable is probably more in the 15-20 range, at least," [Aurora Mayor Tom] Weisner said....

.... Weisner and Karen Darch, the village president of Barrington, about 35 miles north, formed a coalition five years ago to push the rail industry's federal regulators to pay attention to the effects of increased train traffic on their communities....

... Albany County [NY] Executive Daniel McCoy was alarmed at the rapid increase and its implications for public safety and the environment.... so he issued an executive order imposing a moratorium on the expansion of the rail-to-barge operations sought by Global Partners, an oil industry transportation logistics and marketing company....

...Some of the most vocal opponents of expanded oil-train terminals are in the San Francisco Bay Area and northwest Washington state, regions well-known for their environmental activism. Both have recently become major destinations for crude-oil trains.

But the most unlikely success for opponents of crude by rail came in the heart of the Louisiana Gulf Coast petrochemical complex.

In October, the St. James Parish Council voted to deny a permit to Wolverine Terminals, which sought to build a $30 million crude-by-rail facility about 45 miles west of New Orleans that would be able to receive and store oil from U.S. and Canadian sources.....     more here

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