Regulators Face Growing Pressure After Oil-by-Rail Accidents

Scorched oil tankers remain on July 10, 2013 at the train derailment site in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Edward Bukhardt, CEO of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railways Inc.,(MMA) told reporters Wednesday that the train was left running while the engineer spent the night sleeping in a hotel in Nantes, adding that the engineer was following standard 'industry practice.' The train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic overnight Friday, causing a massive fire and explosions that killedat least 15 people, with another 45 still missing.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Jan. 9, 2014, 12:29 p.m.

A grow­ing circle of law­makers is put­ting pres­sure on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to boost the safety of rail­way ship­ments of crude oil fol­low­ing a string of ac­ci­dents.

The chair­men of two Sen­ate com­mit­tees wrote to Trans­port­a­tion Sec­ret­ary An­thony Foxx and En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz on Thursday about “alarm­ing” ac­ci­dents that de­mand “in­creased vi­gil­ance.”

“We urge you to work to­geth­er to quickly re­solve is­sues with the trans­port­a­tion of crude oil in or­der to pro­tect our com­munit­ies, and pre­vent any fur­ther dis­asters,” states the let­ter from Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen­ate Com­merce Chair­man Jay Rock­e­feller, D-W.Va.

The let­ter cites the latest ac­ci­dent — a de­rail­ment and fire this week in New Brun­swick, Canada — as well as last week’s in­ferno in North Dakota, and the de­rail­ment and ex­plo­sions that claimed 47 lives in Que­bec in Ju­ly.

Else­where, North Dakota’s sen­at­ors met Thursday with Foxx and Cyn­thia Quarter­man, head of the Pipeline and Haz­ard­ous Ma­ter­i­als Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion (PHMSA).

Law­makers are press­ing for steps in­clud­ing com­ple­tion of a Trans­port­a­tion De­part­ment reg­u­la­tion that would set new re­quire­ments for rail-tanker safety.

“The Sec­ret­ary in­formed the Sen­at­ors that he is call­ing the rail CEOs and the head of the Amer­ic­an Pet­ro­leum In­sti­tute to ask that they work with [Fed­er­al Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion] and PHMSA to identi­fy what they’re do­ing to pro­mote safety when trans­port­ing crude oil, es­pe­cially in the Bakken re­gion, and to see what they can do to work along­side the De­part­ment to main­tain our safety re­cord even as crude oil pro­duc­tion in the Bakken re­gion has in­creased,” the de­part­ment said in a sum­mary of the meet­ing.

Foxx is set­ting up a meet­ing with in­dustry of­fi­cials, and he plans to an­nounce oth­er steps in com­ing weeks, ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment meet­ing sum­mary that also noted on­go­ing work on the rail-tanker reg­u­la­tion.

Use of rail­ways to move crude oil is in­creas­ing along­side the U.S. drilling boom.

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