Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is pressing senior Obama administration officials to boost rail-safety standards following the recent explosion of tankers carrying crude oil produced in his state’s booming Bakken region.
He’s among multiple lawmakers who are increasingly urging regulators to boost crude-by-rail safety in the wake of recent accidents.
Hoeven will meet Thursday with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Cynthia L. Quarterman, head of the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an aide said.
Hoeven said the oil industry has been transitioning to use of double-hulled cars but that federal standards need updating to speed up manufacturers’ production of the safer cars.
“One-third of the fleet has already transitioned, but [manufacturers] still don’t know what the requirements are from PHMSA. PHMSA has got to get those requirements out there so we can make that transition as aggressively as possible,” Hoeven told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday.
“Industry … needs certainty. Get the new requirements out there so they know what they are. That’s going to help us transition the fleet faster,” said Hoeven, who also spoke recently with the head of the National Transportation Safety Board about rail safety.
PHMSA is working on a regulation to update standards for rail cars carrying hazardous materials.
The agency also warned a week ago that oil from the Bakken region may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil.
Hoeven’s upcoming meeting comes after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in his state on Dec. 30. It was the latest of several accidents in recent months involving crude oil shipped by rail, including a disaster last July in Quebec that took 47 lives.
Hoeven’s meeting with PHMSA is part of broader inquiries by North Dakota lawmakers following the recent accident.
He met Saturday with the executive chairman of BNSF Railway Co., the company involved in the Dec. 30 accident near Casselton, North Dakota.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., met with the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday and also met Sunday with BNSF Executive Chairman Matthew Rose, her office said.
“We talked about the need to increase pressure on federal regulators to issue new standards for transporting oil so that it’s done safely and responsibly,” Heitkamp said in a statement.
What We're Following See More »
The Signal app is fast becoming the new favorite among those who are obsessed with the security and untraceabilty of their messaging. Just ask the Democratic National Committee. Or Edward Snowden. As Vanity Fair reports, before news ever broke that the DNC's servers had been hacked, word went out among the organization that the word "Trump" should never be used in their emails, lest it attract hackers' attention. Not long after, all Trump-related messages, especially disparaging ones, would need to be encrypted via the Snowden-approved Signal.
The Republican Study Committee may lose several members of the House Freedom Caucus next year, "potentially creating a split between two influential groups of House conservatives." The Freedom Caucus was founded at the inception of the current Congress by members who felt that the conservative RSC had gotten too cozy with leadership, "and its roughly 40 members have long clashed with the RSC over what tactics to use when pushing for conservative legislation." As many as 20 members may not join the RSC for the new Congress next year.
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, skirting normal approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease's spread." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study in Nature identifies "about a dozen substances" that could "suppress the pathogen's replication." Some of them are already in clinical trials.
According to 37 newly released audits, "some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated." A number of Medicare Advantage plans overstated "the severity of medical conditions like diabetes and depression." The money has since been paid back, though some plans are appealing the federal audits.
"GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution" on the budget this fall "that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays." As usual, however, the House Freedom Caucus may throw a wrench in Speaker Paul Ryan's gears. The conservative bloc doesn't appear willing to accept any CR that doesn't fund the government into 2017.