Repost from The Columbus Dispatch
Using bad tank cars? Then pay a fee, Brown proposesBy Rick Rouan, June 30, 2015 11:36 PM
Sen. Sherrod Brown wants shippers using tank cars that have been linked to fiery train derailments to pay fees that would be used to reroute train tracks, train first responders and clean up spills.
Brown has proposed fees that start at $175 per car for those using the DOT-11 [sic], a tank car that federal regulators have warned hazardous-material shippers against using.
The fees would pay to clean up hazardous-material spills, to move tracks that handle large volumes of hazardous material and to hire more railroad inspectors. Brown’s bill earmarks about $45 million over three years to train first responders near rail lines that carry large quantities of hazardous material.
Earlier this year, federal regulators tightened rules on newly manufactured tank cars but did not require shippers to immediately remove the old cars.
“(The rule) probably didn’t go far enough,” Brown said on Tuesday at the site of a 2012 derailment and explosion near the state fairgrounds. “If it’s a threat to public safety, they probably need to be off the rails.”
The federal rule will phase out or require retrofitting of thousands of the oldest tank cars that carry crude oil by 2018. Another wave of the oil-carrying tankers would have to change by 2020.
Some of the tank cars that aren’t carrying crude oil would not be replaced or retrofitted until 2025.
Brown’s proposal calls for a tax credit for companies that upgrade their tank cars to the new federal standard in the next three years.
Chet Thompson, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association, said his organization would oppose the fee structure Brown proposed.
“We think the federal focus should be on the rail carriers and their efforts to improve track integrity,” he said. “We want to see legislation that beefs up track integrity to keep the trains on the track.”
A spokesman for the American Association of Railroads declined to comment on Brown’s proposal. The organization is appealing the new federal standard, arguing that it doesn’t do enough to require shippers to stop using the DOT-111 tank cars and should require more heat protection on the cars, spokesman Ed Greenberg said.
The cars have been involved in several fiery derailments while carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota to East Coast refineries. In July 2013, a runaway train killed 47 people and destroyed the business district in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
And in February, a train carrying volatile Bakken crude derailed in Mount Carbon, W.Va., after it likely traveled through Columbus. The train was run by CSX, which has three tracks that carry crude oil converging in Columbus before they head toward West Virginia.
On July 11, 2012, a Norfolk Southern train slipped the rails just north of Downtown. One of the cars punctured, spilling ethanol and causing an explosion and fire. Two people were injured and about 100 people were evacuated.
The National Transportation Safety Board said a broken track caused the derailment.
“Unfortunately, that was not an isolated incident,” Brown said.
A recent analysis for Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security found that crude oil represents the largest share of hazardous material transported by rail through the region, Director Mike Pannell said.
Earlier this year, the state released reports showing that 45 million to 137 million gallons of Bakken crude travel through the state each week.
Local first responders have procedures in place to handle derailments but not specific plans for every piece of track, including lines that run through residential areas, said Karry Ellis, an assistant chief in the Columbus Fire Division.
Brown’s proposal calls for the U.S. Department of Transportation to study whether first responders are prepared for flammable-liquid spills and whether longer freight trains pose a greater risk.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.