Tag Archives: Civil penalties

Tests showed rail defect 2 months before W.Va. oil train derailed

Repost from McClatchyDC News

Tests showed rail defect 2 months before W.Va. oil train derailed

By Curtis Tate, October 9, 2015

HIGHLIGHTS:
• Feds identify broken rail as primary cause
• Flaw detected in two prior track inspections
• CSX, contractor will pay $25,000 in fines

Scorched and deformed tank cars await examination by federal investigators at Handley, W.Va., on Feb. 24, 2015. A CSX train carrying crude oil had derailed a week earlier, spilling nearly 400,000 gallons and igniting a fire that kept 100 people from their homes for four days.
Scorched and deformed tank cars await examination by federal investigators at Handley, W.Va., on Feb. 24, 2015. A CSX train carrying crude oil had derailed a week earlier, spilling nearly 400,000 gallons and igniting a fire that kept 100 people from their homes for four days. Curtis Tate – McClatchy

WASHINGTON – Two separate tests in the two months prior to a fiery oil train derailment in West Virginia earlier this year showed the presence of a rail defect, according to a report on the incident.

But neither the railroad nor the contractor who did the tests followed up on the results in December 2014 and January 2015, and the rail broke under a 107-car CSX train loaded with Bakken crude oil. The Feb. 16 derailment near Mount Carbon, W.Va., led to explosions, fires and the evacuation of 1,100 nearby residents.

On Friday, the Federal Railroad Administration said it had issued $25,000 civil penalties against both CSX and Sperry Rail Service, the contractor that performed the rail tests.

The railroad agency recommended that both companies enhance employee training and use improved technology. It also asked CSX to establish a plan to identify and correct track defects on routes used to ship crude oil.

Noting that track flaws are a leading cause of derailments, Sarah Feinberg, the agency’s acting administrator, said railroads hauling hazardous materials need to pay closer attention to track conditions.

“All railroads, not just CSX, must be more diligent when inspecting for internal rail flaws or when contracting out inspection work,” she said in a statement.

In a statement, CSX said it would develop additional inspection processes in collaboration with federal regulators.

“CSX intends to pursue these efforts to their maximum potential as part of our commitment to the safety of the communities where we operate, our employees and our customers,” said Kaitlyn Barrett, a spokeswoman.

According to the agency’s report, 24 of the 27 derailed tank cars sustained significant damage that released oil, fueling fires and explosions even in single-digit temperatures. One resident’s home was destroyed by fire, but no one was seriously injured or killed.

The Mount Carbon wreck was among six oil train derailments in North America this year and one of four in the U.S. All revealed vulnerabilities in the kinds of tank cars used to transport oil, as well as shortcomings in the inspection and maintenance of track and rail car wheels.

In April, the Federal Railroad Administration recommended improved wheel inspections. A broken wheel was suspected in the March 6 oil train derailment near Galena, Ill., though the agency has yet to announce an official cause.

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its final rule requiring more crash and fire resistance for tank cars used to transport flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol.

The recent push for improved track and tank cars in North America followed the July 2013 oil train disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people died. On Friday, a U.S. bankruptcy judge approved a $343 million settlement with the families of the victims.

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    Rail safety bill sent to CA Governor – requires minimum 2-person crews

    Press Release from California State Senator Lois Wolk
    [Editor:  Significant quote: “According to the CPUC, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation — rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year”  See also coverage in The Reporter, Vacaville, CA.  – RS]

    Wolk rail safety bill sent to Governor

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    August 21, 2015, Contact: Melissa Jones, (916) 651-4003 
    Bill requires minimum two–person train crews

    SACRAMENTO—The State Assembly voted 51-28 yesterday to approve legislation by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to protect communities along rail lines and railroad workers by requiring trains and light engines carrying freight within California to be operated with an adequate crew size. The bill now goes to the Governor.

    “Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas, and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said Wolk.

    “With more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger. I urge the Governor to sign this bill into law, providing greater protection to communities located along rail lines in California, and to railroad workers.”

    SB 730 prohibits a freight train or light engine in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals.   It also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess civil penalties, at its discretion, against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.

    The CPUC supports SB 730, stating that requiring two-person crews is a straightforward way of ensuring two qualified crew members continue to operate freight trains in California.  According to the CPUC, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation –rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year.

    “Senator Wolk’s legislation helps keep us at the forefront of rail safety,” said Paul King, Deputy Director of the Office of Rail Safety for the CPUC. “Senator Wolk’s bill would ensure that freight trains continue to have the safety redundancy that a second person provides. Such redundancy is a fundamental safety principle that is evidenced in certain industries, such as using two pilots in an airplane cockpit, or requiring back-up cooling systems for nuclear reactors.”

    The bill is also supported by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; California Teamsters Public Affairs Council; and United Transportation Union.

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