Tag Archives: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

CANADA: DOT-111 tank cars can’t transport crude oil as of Nov. 1

Repost from Sudbury.com

Garneau confirms DOT-111 cars will not be able to transport crude oil as of November 1

By Canadian Press, Jul 26, 2016 8:26 AM
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Candian Transport Minister Marc Garneau

MONTREAL — Canada will put a stop to the transport of crude oil by older and less crash-resistant tanker rail cars earlier than scheduled, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Monday, however, the timeline for ending similar transportation of all other flammable liquids remains the same.

As of Nov. 1, crude oil in Canada will no longer be transported in DOT-111 tankers — the same kind of rail car that was involved in the Lac-Megantic tragedy in which 47 people died three years ago.

The DOT-111 cars without thermal layers of protection were scheduled to be phased out for the use of crude oil by the previous Conservative government by May 2017.

DOT-111s with thermal protection were to be taken off for oil transport by March 2018.

The new directives are for crude oil only, Garneau said, adding the phase-out deadline for DOT-111s carrying other flammable liquids is 2025.

Garneau said while he was able to accelerate the phase-out of DOT-111s for crude, the government needs to be “realistic” about other materials.

“The reality is that in this country we transport a huge amount by rail — hundreds of billions of dollars worth a year — and you can’t do everything in one shot,” he told a news conference.

“Here we have the opportunity to do something very concrete on the crude oil side — which is extremely important — and I am very proud of it.”

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in its report on the Lac-Megantic crash that until older and less crash-resistant tanker cars “are no longer used to transport flammable liquids and a more robust tank car standard with enhanced protection is set for North America, the risk will remain.”

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre saluted Garneau’s announcement, saying “when we talk about (rail) safety we have to show it, we have to walk the talk.”

Vicki Balance with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the oil industry knew the Liberals were considering making changes but didn’t know what they were going to be.

“(The announcement) brings some certainty and predictability for us, which is positive,” she said.

On July 6, 2013, a runaway freight train pulling 72 crude-oil laden DOT-111s derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying part of downtown Lac-Megantic.

In response, the U.S. and Canada created a series of new regulations to make rail transport of hazardous materials safer.

Former Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and her U.S. counterpart Anthony Foxx in May 2015 announced new regulations for tanker cars made after Oct. 1 of that year, for transporting liquid dangerous goods across the continent.

The new cars, known as TC-177s in Canada, are made of thicker steel than the DOT-111s and have other added safety measures.

Raitt and Fox also announced that all DOT-111s would have to retrofitted or phased out for the use of crude oil by 2018 and all other rail cars transporting any dangerous, flammable liquid would have to meet new safety requirements by 2025.

Garneau said Monday the new rules will only apply to Canada.

He said no DOT-111 train originating from the U.S. and carrying crude oil will be able to cross into Canada after Nov. 1, and violators will face financial penalties, but he didn’t say how much they would be.

Garneau said there are about 30,000 DOT-111s without a thermal layer transporting crude oil on railways in North America. He didn’t have a precise number for the cars with the protective layer.

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House bill could shield oil train spill response plans from disclosure

Repost from McClatchyDC

House bill could shield oil train spill response plans from disclosure

By Curtis Tate, October 16, 2015
Oil burns at the site of a March 5, 2015, train derailment near Galena, Ill. A bill in Congress would require railroads to have comprehensive oil spill response plans, but would also give the Secretary of Transportation the ability to exempt the details from disclosure. Oil burns at the site of a March 5, 2015, train derailment near Galena, Ill. A bill in Congress would require railroads to have comprehensive oil spill response plans, but would also give the Secretary of Transportation the ability to exempt the details from disclosure. EPA

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Six-year transportation bill includes section on oil trains
  • Obama administration supports public notifications of oil spills, etc.
  • Future transportation secretary could be empowered to protect data

WASHINGTON – A House of Representatives bill unveiled Friday could make it more difficult for the public to know how prepared railroads are for responding to oil spills from trains, their worst-case scenarios and how much oil is being transported by rail through communities.

The language appears in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s six-year transportation legislation, which primarily addresses federal programs that support state road, bridge and transit projects. But the legislation also includes a section on oil trains.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is working on a rule to require railroads shipping oil to develop comprehensive spill response plans along the lines of those required for pipelines and waterborne vessels. It would also require them to assess their worst-case scenarios for oil spills, including quantity and location.

The House bill would give the secretary of transportation the power to decide what information would not be disclosed to the public.

The secretary would have discretion to withhold anything proprietary or security sensitive, as well as “specific response resources and tactical resource deployment plans” and “the specific amount and location of worst-case discharges, including the process by which a railroad carrier determines the worst-case discharge.”

The House bill defines “worst-case discharge” as the largest foreseeable release of oil in an accident or incident, as determined by the rail carrier.

Four major oil train derailments have occurred in the U.S. since the beginning of the year, resulting in the release of more than 600,000 gallons, according to federal spill data.

Numerous states have released information on crude by rail shipments to McClatchy and other news organizations. DOT began requiring railroads to notify state officials of such shipments last year after a train derailed and caught fire in Lynchburg, Va.

The disclosures were opposed by railroads and their trade associations, which asked the department to drop the requirement. The department tried to accommodate the industry’s concerns in its May final rule on oil train safety by making the reports exempt from disclosure. But facing backlash from lawmakers and emergency response groups, the department reversed itself.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Sarah Feinberg, the acting chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, said the department would continue the disclosure requirement and make it permanent. But a new administration could take a different approach.

“We strongly support transparency and public notification to the fullest extent possible,” Feinberg said in July.

In May, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that would require railroads operating in the state to plan for their worst-case spills.

In April, BNSF Railway told state emergency responders that the company currently considers 150,000 gallons of crude oil, enough to fill five rail tank cars, its worst-case scenario when planning for spills into waterways. A typical 100-car oil train carries about 3 million gallons.

Washington state requires marine ships that transport oil to plan for a spill of the entire cargo.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted a mock derailment in New Jersey in March in which 450,000 gallons of oil was released.

California passed a similar bill last year, but two railroads and a major trade association challenged it in court, claiming the federal laws regulating railroads preempted state laws. A judge sided with the state in June, but without addressing the preemption question.

The House Transportation Committee will consider the six-year bill when lawmakers return from recess next week. The current legislation expires on Oct. 29, and the timing makes a short-term extension likely.

After the committee and the full House vote on the bill, House and Senate leaders will have to work out their differences before the bill goes to the president’s desk.

Samantha Wohlfeil of the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald contributed.
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Railroads use new oil shipment rule to fight transparency

Repost from McClatchy DC 

Railroads use new oil shipment rule to fight transparency

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, 6/25/15
A CSX oil train moves east through Selkirk Yard near Albany, N.Y., on May 26, 2015. The Albany area has become a hub for crude by rail shipments as East Coast refineries have replaced imported oil with mid-continent sources. CSX and other railroads continue their push to keep routing and volume information about the shipments from the public. CURTIS TATE — McClatchy

— Railroads may have found a new weapon in their fight to keep information about oil train shipments from the public: a federal rule that was supposed to increase transparency.

The U.S. Department of Transportation insists that its May 1 final rule on oil trains, which mostly addresses an outdated tank car design, does not support the railroads’ position, nor was it intended to leave anyone in the dark.

But in recent court filings in Maryland, two major oil haulers have cited the department’s new rule to justify their argument that no one except emergency responders should know what routes the trains use or how many travel through each state during a given week.

Those details have been publicly available in most states for a year, though some sided with the railroads and refused to release them. The periodic reports have helped state and local officials with risk assessments, emergency planning and firefighter training.

The department’s rule was expected to expand the existing disclosure requirements. In its 395-page rule, the department acknowledged an overwhelming volume of public comments supporting more transparency. But ultimately, it offered the opposite.

The final rule ends the existing disclosure requirements next March. Railroads no longer would be required to provide information to the states, leaving emergency responders to request details about oil train shipments on their own, and the public would be shut out entirely.

The switch floored those who submitted comments in favor of increased transparency.

“The justification was not consistent with the comments given,” said Denise Rucker Krepp, a former senior counsel for the House Homeland Security Committee and chief counsel for the U.S. Maritime administration. “They’re supposed to be the same.”

Facing push-back from Capitol Hill, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx assured lawmakers in a May 28 letter that “we fully support the public disclosure of this information to the extent allowed by applicable state, local and tribal laws.”

Foxx added that the department was not attempting to undermine transparency.

“That was certainly not the intent of the rule,” he wrote eight Senate Democrats.

But Foxx’s assurances differ sharply from the assertions of Norfolk Southern and CSX in court documents filed last month in Maryland. The documents are related to a case last summer when the railroads sued the state to block the release of oil train reports to McClatchy.

The final rule provides “clear and unequivocal guidance” that information about oil train routes and volumes are security- and commercially-sensitive, attorneys for the railroads wrote on May 5 to Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

That classification would trigger an exemption from the state’s Public Information Act.

A trial is scheduled for August, though Fletcher-Hill could decide before then whether to dismiss the case in favor of the railroads or the state.

Both companies declined to comment on the case.

Last May, the Transportation Department issued an emergency order requiring railroads to notify states of large shipments of Bakken crude oil after a series of fiery derailments involving the light crude from shale formations in North Dakota. The worst of those derailments killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013.

Railroads have insisted that the oil train details are sensitive from a security and business perspective and should be exempt from state open records laws. They attempted to shield the data from public view last year by asking states to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Some states initially agreed, but most declined. McClatchy sought oil train reports from 30 states through open records laws. All but half a dozen states released at least part of what McClatchy requested.

Last fall, two rail industry trade groups lobbied the Transportation Department to end the reporting requirement. In a notice published in the Federal Register in October, the department rebuffed the request.

“DOT finds no basis to conclude that the public disclosure of the information is detrimental to transportation safety,” the Federal Railroad Administration wrote, adding that the trade associations “do not document any actual harm that has occurred by the public release of the information.”

But when the department unveiled its final rule in May, the requirements more closely aligned with what the railroads sought.

“Under this approach,” the regulation states, “the transportation of crude oil by rail can . . . avoid the negative security and business implications of widespread public disclosure of routing and volume data.”

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has cited the department’s October Federal Register notice to support its position that the state can release the oil train information.

But the final rule is the last word, attorneys for the railroads say. They wrote Fletcher-Hill on May 29 that the state “relies on non-final comments published by the Federal Railroad Administration” and “fails to acknowledge the highly persuasive guidance articulated in the final rule.”

Unlike other arguments put forth by the railroads and their trade groups that have swayed few state or federal officials – including speculative claims of terrorism, competitive harm and even insider trading – the final rule may prove more persuasive to a judge.

The eight Senate Democrats wrote to Foxx on May 6, the same day another oil train derailed and caught fire in North Dakota. It was the fifth such incident in North America this year. They asked the department to reconsider the rule.

“The onus for obtaining detailed crude-by-rail information should not be on the local jurisdiction,” they wrote, and they called on the department “to clarify that broader crude-by-rail information will remain accessible to the public.”

Apparently backing away from the final rule’s expiration date for the emergency order, Foxx replied that it would remain “in full force and effect until further notice” and that the department would be looking for ways to codify the disclosure requirement.

But Krepp said that’s exactly what everyone was expecting in the rule.

“If they wanted that,” she said, “they would have put that in the rule-making.”

Krepp said the department made its intentions clear in the final rule.

“They have the final rule now,” she said. “They have to live with it.”

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