Tag Archives: White House Office of Management and Budget

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.

Share...

    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.”

    Share...

      Rules on oil train, pipeline safety not moving fast enough, lawmakers say

      Repost from The Tri-City Herald

      Rules on oil train, pipeline safety not moving fast enough, lawmakers say

      By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, April 14, 2015

      A chorus of lawmakers expressed frustration Tuesday with the delays in approving and implementing various regulations related to the movement of hazardous materials by rail and pipeline.

      The acting chiefs of two U.S. Department of Transportation agencies heard Republicans and Democrats in the House Transportation Committee complain that rules on railroad tank cars and oil and gas pipelines had been on the table for as long as four years.

      “It’s just unacceptable,” said Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

      Sarah Feinberg of the Federal Railroad Administration and Tim Butters of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration noted that they have little choice but to work within a multi-step process that involves public comment, industry participation and multiple layers of review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

      “It’s not built for speed,” Feinberg testified. “I wish that it was.”

      Butters said that his agency had received 30,000 comments on its proposed rule to improve the safety of oil trains. He said the agency needed to evaluate them as part of its process.

      “We have to go through all of those,” he said. “And that takes time.”

      But a series of train derailments and pipeline failures in recent years has caught the attention of members of Congress, who are hearing concerns from their constituents.

      “That’s just an excuse,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., the panel’s chairman. “Four years is too long.”

      Last week, Feinberg visited Denham’s district in Central California to discuss pending rules on the construction of tank cars used to carry flammable liquids, the way the trains are operated and the way the tracks are inspected and maintained.

      She also visited the Sacramento-area district of Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat who last month introduced legislation to regulate the volatility of crude oil loaded into tank cars. Texas and North Dakota, the nation’s leading oil producers, currently set such limits.

      Garamendi proposed that the committee write the new rules into the larger surface transportation bill Congress needs to pass this year.

      “We could write laws that protect the public,” he said. “Why don’t we do that?”

      Acts of Congress don’t always make things go faster. In 2008, lawmakers mandated that railroads install a GPS-based collision-avoidance system called Positive Train Control by the end of 2015. But the nation’s freight and passenger railroads are likely to miss the Dec. 31 deadline.

      Once the new oil train rules become final, it could take years to retrofit or replace tens of thousands of tank cars used to transport the country’s supply of crude oil and ethanol.

      As a sign of how slowly the process moves, Capuano noted that BNSF, the nation’s biggest hauler of crude oil in trains, has gotten ahead of regulators by voluntarily lowering train speeds, increasing track inspections and encouraging shippers to use better tank cars.

      “Whose butt do we have to kick?” he asked. “Whose budget do we have to cut? Whose budget do we have to enhance to make this work?”

      Share...

        NTSB: Equip oil trains with fire protection within 5 years

        Repost from McClatchyDC
        [Editor:   Bloomberg adds coverage of NTSB comments on the inadequacies of the CPC-1232 tank cars.  – RS]

        NTSB: Equip oil trains with fire protection within 5 years

        By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, April 6, 2015
        US NEWS RAILSAFETY-CA 2 SA
        A tanker truck is filled from railway cars containing crude oil on railroad tracks in McClellan Park in North Highlands on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

        The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday called for the nation’s fleet of railroad tank cars hauling crude oil and ethanol to be equipped with fire protection within five years in an effort to eliminate the large explosions associated with recent accidents.

        The NTSB cited the performance of tank cars in four recent oil train derailments, two in the U.S. and two in Canada, where fire exposure weakened the bare steel tanks and increased the pressure inside the cars beyond what they were designed to sustain.

        The agency called on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to require tank cars carrying oil and ethanol to be equipped with a ceramic blanket and high-capacity pressure-relief devices.

        The NTSB also for the first time endorsed a five-year timeline for retrofitting or replacing the tank cars, including the goal that 20 percent of the fleet be made compliant per year. Industry groups representing oil producers and refiners have pushed for a 10-year timeline.

        “We can’t wait a decade for safer rail cars,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement. “The industry needs to make this issue a priority and expedite the safety enhancements, otherwise, we continue to put our communities at risk.”

        In January, the NTSB added tank cars to its “ Most Wanted” list of safety improvements. But at the time, Hart wouldn’t say what the NTSB considered an appropriate timeline for making the fixes.

        The independent board, which has only advisory power, has been recommending upgrades to the nation’s workhorse tank car, called the DOT-111, for more than 20 years.

        The car’s design became an issue after railroads across North America began hauling exponentially larger volumes of crude oil and ethanol. An oil train derailment that killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013 galvanized a new effort on both sides of the border to improve the cars.

        In February, the Transportation Department sent a package of proposed regulations to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. They include requirements for thermal protection on the tank cars and are similar to a tank car design the Canadian government proposed last month. The final rule is scheduled for publication next month.

        In the meantime, four trains carrying different types of crude oil derailed in the span of four weeks. The derailments, two in Ontario, and one each in West Virginia and Illinois, led to spills, fires and evacuations.

        Oil industry groups have called for more attention to preventing derailments and less emphasis on the cars and what’s in them. But the tank car improvements have widespread support from lawmakers, regulators, mayors and governors, the rail industry and the NTSB.

        In statements Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio, both Oregon Democrats, praised the NTSB’s recommendations.

        “I am very happy to see that they recommended thermal protection for cars carrying hazardous materials, an aggressive retrofit or replacement schedule, and a transparent, publicly available reporting mechanism to report tank car replacement,” DeFazio said.

        “It is my hope that the next step from the administration will be a strong DOT rule that will get these cars upgraded quickly, or get them off the tracks completely,” Wyden said.

        The railroad industry’s leading advocacy group in Washington echoed those calls.

        “The freight rail industry supports an aggressive retrofit or replacement program and believes final regulations on new tank car standards will provide certainty and chart a new course in the safer movement of crude oil by rail,” said Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the Association of American Railroads, in a statement.

        Share...