Friday, February 27, 2015

Oil train wrecks increase pressure for tougher safety rules

FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2015 file photo, crew members walk near the scene of a train derailment near Mount Carbon, W.Va. A CSX train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm, sending a fireball into the sky. Fiery wrecks this month of trains hauling crude oil have intensified pressure on the Obama administration to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2015 file photo, crew members walk near the scene of a train derailment near Mount Carbon, W.Va. A CSX train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm, sending a fireball into the sky. 
 
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fiery wrecks of trains hauling crude oil have intensified pressure on the Obama administration to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries.

On Feb. 5, the Transportation Department sent the White House draft rules that would require oil trains to use stronger tank cars and make other safety improvements.

Nine days later a 100-car train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed and caught fire in a remote part of Ontario, Canada. Less than 48 hours later, a 109-car oil train derailed and caught fire in West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation. As the fire spread across 19 of the cars, a nearby resident said the explosions sounded like an "atomic bomb." Both fires burned for nearly a week.

The two accidents follow a spate of other fiery oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada over the past few years. The most serious killed 47 people and destroyed the town center of Lac Megantic in Quebec, Canada, just across the border from Maine, in 2013.

The government hasn't yet unveiled its proposed regulations. But among them are a stronger tank car design that includes thicker tank walls and electronically controlled brakes that stop rail cars at the same time rather than sequentially, said Brigham McCown, a Washington-based consultant who was head of the federal agency responsible for safe transportation of hazardous materials during President George W. Bush's administration.

Typically, safety regulators propose tough regulations and the Office of Management and Budget, which looks at economic and other implications of the rules, demands they be scaled back. This time, however, there may be less resistance.....   more here

Links:

7 things you need to know about oil-by-rail safety

Going off the rails -     Given its quick growth, many Americans don't get how big the oil-by-rail industry is or why they should worry about its risks.