Tag Archives: Illinois

Feds warn railroads to comply with oil train notification requirement

Repost from McClatchyDC
[Editor:  Significant quote: “Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania told McClatchy last month that they had received no updated oil train reports from CSX since June 2014.”  See also the Federal Railroad Administration press release AND letter.  – RS]

Feds warn railroads to comply with oil train notification requirement

By Curtis Tate, July 22,2015
This Feb. 17, 2015, photo made available by the Office of the Governor of West Virginia shows a derailed train in Mount Carbon, W.Va. U.S. transportation officials predict many more catastrophic wrecks involving flammable fuels in coming years absent new regulations.
This Feb. 17, 2015, photo made available by the Office of the Governor of West Virginia shows a derailed train in Mount Carbon, W.Va. U.S. transportation officials predict many more catastrophic wrecks involving flammable fuels in coming years absent new regulations. | Steven Wayne Rotsch AP

The U.S. Department of Transportation warned railroads that they must continue to notify states of large crude oil shipments after several states reported not getting updated information for as long as a year.

The department imposed the requirement in May 2014 following a series of fiery oil train derailments, and it was designed to help state and local emergency officials assess their risk and training needs.

In spite of increased public concern about the derailments, railroads have opposed the public release of the oil train information by numerous states, and two companies sued Maryland last July to prevent the state from releasing the oil train data to McClatchy.

The rail industry fought to have the requirement dropped, and it appeared that they got their wish three months ago in the department’s new oil train rule.

We strongly support transparency and public notification to the fullest extent possible. Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator, Federal Railroad Administration

But facing backlash from lawmakers, firefighters and some states, the department announced it would continue to enforce the notification requirement indefinitely and take new steps make it permanent.

There have been six major oil train derailments in North America this year, the most recent last week near Culbertson, Mont. While that derailment only resulted in a spill, others in Ontario, West Virginia, Illinois and North Dakota involved fires, explosions and evacuations.

In a letter to the companies Wednesday, Sarah Feinberg, the acting chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, told them that the notifications were “crucial” to first responders and state and local officials in developing emergency plans.

“We strongly support transparency and public notification to the fullest extent possible,” she wrote. “And we understand the public’s interest in knowing what is traveling through their communities.”

The letter was written after lawyers for Norfolk Southern and CSX used the new federal oil train rules to support their position in the Maryland court case that public release of the information creates security risks and exposes the companies to competitive harm.

Feinberg added that the notifications must be updated “in a timely manner.”

States such as California, Washington and Illinois have received updated reports regularly from BNSF Railway, the nation’s leading hauler of crude oil in trains. Most of it is light, sweet crude from North Dakota’s Bakken region and is produced by hydraulic fracturing of shale rock.

But to get to refineries on the east coast, BNSF must hand off the trains to connecting railroads in Chicago or other points. Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania told McClatchy last month that they had received no updated oil train reports from CSX since June 2014.

The emergency order requires the railroads to report the weekly frequency of shipments of 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude, the routes they use and the counties through which they pass. The railroads must update the reports when the volume increases or decreases by 25 percent.

Railroads found to be in violation of the requirement face a maximum penalty of $175,000 a day for each incident. The Federal Railroad Administration periodically audits railroads for compliance.

6 – Number of major oil train derailments in North America in 2015.

Though publicly available data on the exact volume of crude oil moved by railroads is difficult to come by, in an April earnings call, Norfolk Southern, the principal rival of CSX, reported that its crude oil volumes increased 34 percent from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015.

That’s not a reliable indicator of the increase in Bakken crude oil on any one route, but Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania did say they received updated oil train reports from Norfolk Southern in the past year.

Of the states on the CSX crude oil network McClatchy asked, only Virginia reported receiving an update in the year between June 2014 and June 2015, and that was a week after a CSX oil train derailed and caught fire in February near Mount Carbon, W.Va.

Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX, said the railroad continues to be “in full compliance” with the emergency order. He added that the railroad “recently” sent new notifications to the affected states, “regardless of whether there was any material change in the number of trains transported.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article28078114.html#storylink=cp

 

    Lower Speed Limits Part of U.S. Safety Proposal for Oil Trains

    Repost from Bloomberg
    [Editor:  See also:  OregonLive, Minnesota Public Radio, U.S. News & World Report, others….  – RS]

    Lower Speed Limits Part of U.S. Safety Proposal for Oil Trains

    by Jim Snyder, April 17, 2015 10:00 AM PDT

    Trains carrying crude oil will be restricted to a 40 mile-per-hour speed limit in populated areas such as New York under an order by the U.S. Department of Transportation in response to a series of derailments. Railroads voluntarily agreed to that speed limit in so-called High Threat Urban Areas, a designation that covers more than three dozen cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington. The emergency order issued Friday makes that agreement mandatory for all railroads hauling 20 or more tank cars linked together or 35 cars in total that are filled with oil or other flammable liquids. It applies to both older model DOT-111 tank cars and CPC-1232s the industry has been voluntarily building since 2011. “This order is necessary due to the recent occurrence of railroad accidents involving trains transporting petroleum crude oil and ethanol and the increasing reliance on railroads to transport voluminous amounts of those hazardous material in recent years,” the notice states. The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a proposal from the Transportation Department that would require a more durable type of tank car be used to transport oil and other flammable liquids. That rule may be released next month. A draft of that rule calls for tank cars with a thicker steel shell, more robust top fittings and better brakes.

    Quebec Disaster

    Questions about the safety of the growing fleet of trains carrying oil arose after an unattended train broke from its moorings in 2013 and rolled into Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. This year, oil trains have derailed in Ontario and in West Virginia and Illinois, creating dramatic images of fireballs billowing from rumpled tank cars. The Transportation Department also issued a notice Friday to ensure railroads provide information to investigators after an accident within 90 minutes, including about the volatility of the oil being hauled and the type of rail car in the train. Investigators suspect an accident last month in Galena, Illinois, was related to a broken wheel, and in another step announced today, the Transportation Department recommended tighter standards for replacing wheels than the industry currently observes. Railroads should “provide special attention” to the condition of the tank cars they haul, the order states.

      House bill seeks ban on DOT-111 tank cars for oil trains

      Repost from McClatchyDC News
      [Editor:   Read the bill on Rep. McDermott’s website.  Track the bill on GovTrac.us.   Authenticated version of the bill is here.    Co-sponsors of the bill include Representatives Jim McDermott (WA-7), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Ron Kind (WI-3), Nita Lowey (NY-17) and Mike Thompson (CA-5).  A similar version of this legislation was filed in the Senate by Senators Cantwell, Baldwin and Feinstein in March 2015.  – RS]

      Matsui bill seeks ban on DOT-111 tank cars for oil trains

      By Curtis Tate, April 15, 2015

      Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, on Wednesday introduced a bill to address safety issues with crude oil trains following a series of recent derailments, including an immediate ban on tank cars that are vulnerable to punctures and fire damage.

      Matsui cited the multitude of railroad tracks passing through Sacramento, some of which have been used to transport crude oil. The oil shipments have declined recently, but could rise again once new terminals are approved and constructed.

      Since the beginning of the year, four oil trains have derailed and caught fire in North America, including derailments in West Virginia and Illinois, and two in Canada.

      “Too many of our communities have been devastated by the derailment of a train carrying crude oil,” Matsui said in a statement. “Enough is enough.”

      Matsui’s bill would prohibit DOT-111 tank cars from transporting crude oil, set tougher construction standards for new cars than the federal government currently requires, set a minimum volatility standard for oil transported by rail, increase fines and penalties for safety violations, and require that railroads share more information about hazardous shipments with local emergency responders.

      The bill, also sponsored by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash., is similar to Senate legislation unveiled a few weeks ago by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

      The Senate bill is also co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, is a co-sponsor of Matsui’s bill.

      The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to issue new regulations on oil trains in the next few weeks, once the White House Office of Management and Budget has completed a review. It could be months, however, before those rules take effect.

      “With multiple sets of tracks going through our neighborhoods and downtown area,” Matsui said, “the risk of a derailment in Sacramento is too great to ignore.”