North Dakota Senator Weighs Bill to Fast-Track Rail-Car Safety Standards

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26: U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) speaks during a news conference July 26, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans held a news conference to discuss the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act 2012. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
Jan. 15, 2014, 7:30 a.m.

North Dakota Re­pub­lic­an Sen. John Ho­even signaled Wed­nes­day that he is weigh­ing le­gis­la­tion to fast-track fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions tight­en­ing safety stand­ards for rail-car con­struc­tion.

“The fed­er­al agen­cies work­ing on this is­sue need to de­vote the ne­ces­sary re­sources to get it done in a timely way,” Ho­even said in a state­ment, adding, “We are eval­u­at­ing le­gis­la­tion to fur­ther ad­vance the timeline, as well.”

The oil-patch sen­at­or’s com­ments came on the heels of an an­nounce­ment by the Trans­port­a­tion De­part­ment Tues­day that it is does not plan to fi­nal­ize the rule­mak­ing un­til 2015.

Ho­even in­dic­ated, however, that he plans to keep push­ing for an earli­er re­lease date.

“This week, we will meet with DOT Sec­ret­ary An­thony Foxx and in­dustry lead­ers to try to de­term­ine what and when suf­fi­cient guid­ance will be avail­able pri­or to the fi­nal­ized rule so that in­dustry can be­gin to trans­ition as soon as pos­sible,” he said.

The sen­at­or also said he plans to meet with Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Budget Dir­ect­or Sylvia Bur­well to dis­cuss wheth­er in­form­a­tion about the reg­u­la­tion can be made pub­licly avail­able be­fore its form­al re­lease.

A series of re­cent oil-by-rail ac­ci­dents, in­clud­ing the de­rail­ment and sub­sequent ex­plo­sion of a crude ship­ment earli­er this month in Cas­selton, N.D., have led a num­ber of law­makers, in­clud­ing Sens. Ho­even and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to call for an ex­ped­ited rule­mak­ing pro­cess to head off fu­ture dis­asters.

An an­nounce­ment is­sued by DOT’s Pipeline and Haz­ard­ous Ma­ter­i­als Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion that crude from North Dakota’s Bakken form­a­tion may be more volat­ile than oth­er types of crude oil has fur­ther ad­ded to the ur­gency of the ap­peals.

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