North Dakota Senator to Meet With Top Regulator on Oil-by-Rail Safety

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
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Ben Geman
Jan. 7, 2014, 11:10 a.m.

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.

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