Friday’s derailment of a crude-oil train in Alabama is the latest in a series of incidents that have put increasing scrutiny on rail-safety standards and prompted pipeline advocates to call for expansion of that method of oil transportation.
No injuries were reported in the rural derailment, but 11 cars were left burning with flames shooting 300 feet into the air. Several Canadian derailments earlier this year prompted tightened safety standards, but some say that’s not good enough. Greenpeace Canada’s Keith Stewart told National Journal that rail transport of oil has “been unsafe since the 1990s.”¦ [But the cars] continue to be used.”
While Stewart sees that as a reason to invest in renewable energy, others are calling for an increase in pipelines. “Pipelines are safer than rail,” Association of Oil Pipe Lines President Andrew Black said in an interview last month. “There are fewer pipeline incidents per tons of crude oil moved.”
That number is skewed, said Holly Arthur, spokeswoman for the Association of American Railroads, because pipelines are not held to the same stringent reporting standards as railroads. “At the end of the day, pipelines spill more of the material than do railroads,” Arthur said. “Both modes are incredibly safe.”
The safety debate shows no signs of stopping, but it’s unlikely that will stop pipeline advocates from citing the latest derailment as an example of why projects like the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved. And while that argument continues — and more pipelines are stalled — more and more oil will continue moving through the U.S. by rail.
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In a statement Friday, Sen. John McCain wrote, "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won't be available by the end of the month, we won't have reliable answers to any of those questions." His "no" vote makes it much less likely Republicans will repeal and replace Obamacare by Sept. 30.
As anticipated, the Department of Education today withdrew the controversial Obama-era "Dear Colleague" letter on campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim guidance. Most notably, the new guidance permits colleges to use a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence standard that the 2011 letter seemed to mandate. "The new guidance also states that colleges may facilitate informal resolutions, including mediation, if all parties agree to participate in that process."
"The Trump administration will unveil more tailored restrictions on travelers from certain countries as a replacement to the controversial travel ban, according to a senior administration official. The new restrictions will vary by country. They could include a ban on travel to the United States, or new restrictions on obtaining a visa for citizens of particular countries." They are expected to be unveiled by Sunday.
In a live-streamed address from Silicon Valley, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a nine-point plan that the tech giant is rolling out over coming months to respond to "efforts by nation-states and private actors to use the social media platform to influence U.S. elections." Most importantly, the company will force all advertisers to disclose what ads they're running to all audiences. “When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them,” Zuckerberg said. “But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook.”
As "part of a broader Trump administration order for anti-leaks training at all executive branch agencies," Environmental Protection Agency employees "are attending mandatory training sessions this week to reinforce their compliance with laws and rules against leaking classified or sensitive government information ... Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep 'Controlled Unclassified Information' from unauthorized disclosure."