Canada Announces Rules for Transporting Dangerous Goods by Rail

Repost from The Wall Street Journal

New Measures Mandate Tank Cars That Carry Crude Oil to Be Built with Thicker Steel Walls

By David George-Cosh, June 27, 2014

TORONTO—Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced new rules Friday aimed at bolstering safety measures for transporting dangerous goods, such as crude oil, over the country’s railway networks.

The new measures include updating safety-reporting requirements for rail companies operating in Canada, mandating tank cars that carry volatile crude be built with thicker steel walls, and improving data-reporting requirements for railways.

Canadian and U.S. regulators have urged the rail industry to improve safety measures after several recent accidents involving trains carrying crude, including last year’s derailment of a crude-carrying train in rural Quebec in July, which killed 47 people.

“Our government is committed to railway safety and the safe movement of dangerous goods,” Ms. Raitt said in a statement. “The upcoming regulations will further strengthen safety in Canada’s already robust transportation system.”

A spokesman for Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.  said the company was reviewing the announcement and that it has a “strong” set of existing safety measures it discloses to the federal government.

Jim Feeny, a spokesman from Canadian National Railway Co. said that its position on safety disclosure “largely aligns” with the federal government’s proposals, but it was also reviewing the announced measures.

The new rules announced Friday will include amendments to legislation to require DOT-111 tank cars to abide by new standards such as thicker steel walls and better top protection to reduce spills in a derailment.

The ministry will also require the country’s short-line railroads to upgrade their safety-management disclosure by providing Transport Canada with the same reports on safety risks that the country’s major rails provide. The proposal affects 35 railways in Canada, Transport Canada said.

Transport Canada is also requesting that Canada-based railroads provide measurable data such as maintenance and repair records to the federal government that could better address safety risks before they occur.

Friday’s measures follow a series of steps Ms. Raitt announced in April to improve rail transport in response to recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada after its investigation of last year’s Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

The federal government also ordered older DOT-111 tank cars to be phased out or retrofitted in three years, and added a requirement that all crude oil shipments include emergency response plans.

It is unclear how many DOT-111 cars operate in Canada, but the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association says that there are 228,000 general-purpose tank cars in service in the U.S. known as DOT-111s.

The U.S. has adopted tougher classification standards for shipping crude-by-rail that but hasn’t curbed the use of older DOT-111 tank cars on the country’s tracks despite last year’s deadly accident in Quebec and more recently, a fiery derailment in Lynchberg, Va.

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    Federal rail safety legislation proposed by NY Sen. Schumer

    Repost from The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

    Schumer pushing new rail safety bill

    June 28, 2014

    Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, announced Thursday he has co-sponsored a bill aimed at better coordinating federal resources to improve responses to railroad derailments, including those involving oil cars.

    The bill, called the Railroad Emergency Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act of 2014, would establish a subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council to address the issue of railroad derailments and the resulting hazmat incidents, with a specific focus on crude oil transported down New York state railroads.

    Schumer said the committee would be tasked with bringing together all of the relevant federal agencies, emergency responders, technical experts and the private sector for a review of training, resources, best practices and unmet needs related to emergency responders to railroad hazmat incidents. Schumer said if the bill is approved all flammable, hazardous materials that travel railways would be subject to review by subcommittee members, with a particular focus on train oil transport, as evidenced by the increased risk associated with derailments of cars that carry this crude oil.

    … MORE

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      Safety board chairman says oil train dangers extend beyond crude from the Bakken

      Repost from The Associated Press

      APNewsBreak: Oil train dangers extend past Bakken

      By Matthew Brown, Associated Press, Jun 26, 2014
      AP Photo
      AP Photo/Matt Brown

      BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The dangers posed by a spike in oil shipments by rail extend beyond crude from the booming Bakken region of the Northern Plains and include oil produced elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada, U.S. safety officials and lawmakers said.

      Acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said all crude shipments are flammable and can damage the environment – not just the Bakken shipments involved in a series of fiery accidents.

      Hart cited recent derailments in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Brunswick and Pennsylvania of oil shipments from Canada. He said those cases exemplify “the risks to communities and for the environment for accidents involving non-Bakken crude oil.”

      Hart’s comments were contained in a letter to U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley obtained by The Associated Press. They add to growing pressure on federal regulators to improve oil train safety in the wake of repeated derailments, including in Lac-Magentic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed in a massive conflagration last July.

      Citing the highly volatile nature of Bakken oil, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last month ordered railroads to notify states of shipments from the region so firefighters and first responders can better prepare for accidents.

      But Wyden and Merkley told Foxx on Thursday that the order leaves emergency personnel in the dark on oil shipped from outside the Bakken region.

      The Oregon Democrats urged Foxx to expand his order to cover crude from all parts of the U.S. and Canada. They also pressed for the 1 million-gallon minimum threshold in Foxx’s order to be lowered to include smaller shipments.

      “With the exception of the Lac-Megantic accident, every accident involving crude oil, ethanol and other flammable materials since 2006 has resulted in a hazardous materials release of less than 1,000,000 gallons,” Wyden and Merkley wrote to Foxx in a letter.

      They said the derailments cited by the transportation safety board show that trains carrying non-Bakken crude or less than 1 million gallons pose the same “imminent hazard” that Foxx has asserted for Bakken oil.

      Bakken oil on average travels more than 1,600 miles to reach its destination, transportation officials said. That’s much further than oil from some other parts of the country.

      U.S. transportation officials said the lengthier journey increases the overall risk exposure for Bakken oil – and is one reason it’s being treated differently than other hazardous cargos.

      Representatives of the oil industry and officials in North Dakota also have complained about Bakken oil being singled out by regulators – although for opposite reasons. The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers have argued Bakken oil is no more volatile than other light, sweet crudes.

      The concerns aired Thursday by the NTSB and Oregon senators essentially flip that argument on its head, to say different types of crude and other hazardous liquids such as ethanol also pose a significant safety risk.

      “Accidents involving crude oil or flammable liquids of any kind, especially when these liquids are transported in large volumes, such as in unit trains or blocks of tank cars, can have disastrous consequences,” Hart said.

      Association of American Railroads spokeswoman Holly Arthur said the rail industry is complying with Foxx’s original order. She said the group would have to see the specifics of any proposed changes before commenting further.

      About 700,000 barrels of oil a day – enough to fill 10 “unit trains” of 100 tank cars each – is coming out of the Bakken by rail, according to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. That’s about 70 percent of crude-by-rail shipments nationwide, according to federal officials.

      Yet the same hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – technology that has helped drive the boom in the Bakken region during the past decade is being employed on shale oil fields elsewhere. Crude from the tar sands of western Canada is also fueling the surge in North American production.

      Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, said he supports getting more information on oil trains to first responders so they’re ready for potential accidents.

      According to an analysis done for the U.S. State Department, more than half the loading capacity of oil train facilities built in recent years is in parts of the U.S. and Canada outside the Bakken region. That includes loading terminals in Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and parts of western Canada.

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        Farm Bureau posts Wenatchee Washington opinion: No Oil Trains Here

        Repost from The Farm Bureau’s FBACT Insider (The Unified National Voice of Agriculture)
        [Editor: I was heartened to learn that the Farm Bureau has a progressive agenda on energy.  See http://www.fbactinsider.org/issues/energy.  – RS]

        OPINION: Move along, no oil trains here

        June 27, 2014 – The Wenatchee World

        June 26–Peak oil? Not yet. Like it or not, the United States now is among the world’s leading oil producers, pumping around 9 million barrels a day and rising. That’s not far behind Saudi Arabia, and makes a lot of sheikdoms look puny. And like it or not, this compressed energy will be burned to turn the economic wheels of the world. To get from producer to customer, however, it has to go somewhere.

        Just not here.

        The information reluctantly released Tuesday shows that in the absence of pipelines the railways of the northern tier have become, not exactly pipelines on wheels, but getting closer. Information on oil shipments by rail was provided to states and emergency responders by order of the Department of Transportation earlier this month, with the expectation that it be kept confidential for security reasons. Then DOT ruled there really weren’t any security reasons, and so the train data hit the wires on Tuesday.

        The report from BNSF detailed one week of shipments late in May of light crude from the Bakken field of North Dakota. It showed not what rail lines were used, but where trains traveled by county. These are loaded trains of at least 1 million gallons of crude, but often around 3 million gallons. Around 18 such trains a week enter Washington, mostly through Spokane, and apparently traveling south through the Tri-Cities and down the Columbia Gorge. Some then make their way north.

        Spokane County saw 16 trains for the week; Lincoln, 17; Adams, Benton, Franklin, Skamania and Clark, 18; Pierce, 15; King, 11; Snohomish, 10; Skagit, 9; Whatcom, 5. Kittitas, Grant, Douglas and Chelan — 0.

        So as expected, no heavy oil trains make the heights of Stevens Pass, although we have seen empties headed east.

        The mounting news makes it look likely that we will see more and more tank cars passing through. Just this week is was announced that the Commerce Department had agreed to allow two Texas companies to export small amounts of lightly refined oil, possibly creating a tiny fracture in the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports. The Obama administration and experts were quick to downplay this, saying it didn’t constitute an end to the embargo, which would require congressional approval. But it was a big enough crack in the door to raise Texas crude prices and drop oil stocks.

        No one still alive can recall exactly why the United States forbid its oil to be exported, except that the people in government are always excessively paranoid about gasoline prices rising for reasons other than increased taxation. Also, at its peak the United States imported 60 percent of its oil needs. Now that’s down near 40 percent. The experts say a full-fledged end to the export embargo would raise crude prices at home, and make world markets less volatile. All that just increases the incentive to hunt, drill, frack and pump.

        Exports are, almost always, good for a nation’s economy, and so oil transport will have a future on the West Coast. We will see. Remember that rail shipments of oil in Washington were zero as recently as 2011. The state estimates they hit 17 million barrels in 2013, and some say that could triple.

        Remember, it will be burned. Some 25 years ago, the International Energy Agency estimated that fossil fuels provided 82 percent of the world’s energy consumption. After decades and billions invested in renewable energy, the IEA announced in February, that of all the world’s energy consumption, fossil fuels provide … 82 percent.

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